So there I was, minding my own business, trying to take a selfie because that’s what all the cool kids are doing.
And this mountain just comes up out of nowhere and photobombs my shot. My vacation was literally ruined.
Yeah, yeah, someone said Mount Everest is a big deal and I should be honored it chose to photobomb me. But I tell you, mountains just don’t learn any manners these days. I blame their parents.
Actually, our visit to the foot of Everest was a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime experience seeing one of the most awe-inspiring sights our world has to offer.
The tourist ‘base camp’
It was cold. It was hard to breathe. It was stinky, when you stood downwind from the “bathroom.” I use the term in quotes because the only thing it has in common with a real bathroom is that it is a room and people relieve themselves in it. And these are people with really bad aim.
If you are considering a visit to this place, here are my tips:
Tourist Base Camp: The Tibet-side tent camp you as a tourist will visit is not the actual “Everest Base Camp” that is the starting point for climbers.
That’s another couple of kilometers further along the road and unless you have a climbing permit you will not be allowed to go there. This also is not like the Nepal-side base camp that trekkers hike to. Ours was a camp solely for visitors who drive to the spot … strictly tourists.
Seeing is Believing: The views of the mountain are spectacular and photos simply can’t capture what you see with your own eyes.
But we heard that overcast weather can really affect the view because you are still some distance away from the peak. We were really lucky and had beautiful views the entire time.
Awesome Stargazing: Witnessing the star-drenched night sky at the camp is a humbling experience. I think only astronauts in orbit can see more stars and such colors.
Yak Dung Delights: The tent you will stay in if you spend the night is heated by burning yak dung and gets really cold in the early morning.
We paid extra for a semi-private tent (we shared with our driver and guide) and it took about five quilts for us to get warm that night. The drinking water bottles by our heads froze, so be sure to keep one under the blankets with you if you want to actually drink it.
The food served in the tent was a simple meal of noodles and meat but was quite tasty.
The “bathroom” for the tent camp is a shack with two holes cut into the wooden floor.
There’s a guy with the guts to actually charge you a fee for using the bathroom, similar to a night club where the guy hands you a towel at the sink and lets you spritz on some cologne. Except there are no towels and no cologne and the guy actually doesn’t seem to go near the bathroom, just intercepts you on the way to ask for money.
Altitude Sickness is a Thing: We had been to the high country in Peru and similar mountainous elevations but nothing came close to crushing us like this … headache, dizziness, gasping like a fish on a dock most of the sleepless night.
One last thought for those considering a visit here. The mountain is a holy place for the local populace and it’s frankly a shame that we use it as a tourist attraction.
There’s a lot of controversy around the expeditions of unqualified climbers being dragged up the mountain by guides for crazy amounts of money. The severe garbage problem on Everest is well documented too.
Yes, our tourism makes the local economy. But if I was going to be one of the tourists trespassing in this place, at least I would do it with some respect and make sure I took nothing away and left nothing behind.
As cool as it might have been to show a rock from Everest to friends back home, I did not take anything more than a little mud on my boots.
And I was disgusted to see piles of human feces and toilet paper dotting the stream ravine that runs alongside the camp. Yes, the latrine was disgusting and the fee to use it was silly, but why further defile this place for your convenience?
These issues aside, if you prepare yourself for the discomforts, this will be an unforgettable trip that exceeds expectations.