Everest North Base Camp - Tibet
Located at 16,404 feet above sea level, the Everest North Base Camp is in the Qomolangma National Nature Reserve in Tibet. This "tourist base camp" is the last point which visitors may travel without a hiking permit obtained by the government. Past this point is the campsite used by expeditions climbing the north (China-side) of Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world 29,035 feet above sea level. Unlike the South Base Camp in Nepal it can be reached by road.
The road to the base camp, the Zhufeng is mostly paved up to the tourist camp and offers a winding mountain drive with sharp and blind curves and hairpin switchbacks. This road, paved and including guardrails, used to take hours and hours to climb when it was a gravel lane less than a year and a half ago. Visitors can stay at the Rongbuk Monastery and we enjoyed the simple restaurant, heated by yak dung and equipped with wi-fi. The sleeping accommodations were simple but the heated blankets were a treat. There was also a tent camp option for very rustic accommodations about a half mile before the tourist base camp, these tents are set up by local Tibetans and provide shelter for travelers and some local crafts to purchase.
From the Rongbuk Monastery the hike to the tourist base camp is about 3 miles. The hike, although at high altitude, is relatively easy and mostly on a paved road. This base camp is simple, basically a gravel pull-off with no bathroom facilities. Facing the mountain it offers on a clear day an amazing view of Mt. Everest while to the right is a glacier river, created as the water runs off the mountain. The base camp is a magical rock field with many cairns "simple pyramid like rock piles" created by visitors to record their time at the foot of the mountain. The camp is clean and without liter with the exception of some prayer flags that have broken free from a line on the surrounding mountains. While our group was at the camp the mountain was hidden completely in thick clouds. However, to our delight, on the walk back to the Monastery, the summit began to break through the clouds and we watched for hours from the road at first, than from the Rongbuk Restaurant and finally the Monastery hill as the top of the mountain came into view as the clouds continued to move. This was a magical time for me and it brought me to tears as I have always wanted to view this mountain that I have admired and obsessed over through literature and tales of those who have climbed it for years. This experience was a highlight of our trip and fulfilled my expectations.
In closing, I feel fortunate to have traveled to the camp now as there may be changes in the future as access to the view becomes more accessible because of the road improvements and the new and seemingly luxurious hotel that the Chinese government is building a few miles from the site. Mt. Evereste is known as "Qomolangma" meaning mother goddess of the universe, by the Tibetan people and it certainly lives up to that name.