Mount Everest On a Budget
In such a remote location, the main hub of activity at the foot of Qomolangma is the Everest Base Camp. Tent hostels are available here April through November. Each tent hostel has ten beds with quilts, with access to hot water (no showers), Chinese food and stoves for warmth, limited medical supplies, and low voltage electric lights that shut off at midnight. This is the main starting and end point for trekkers embarking on the climb up the mountain. The nearest guest house is as Rongbuk Monastery, 3.6 km (2.2 miles) north of Everest Basecamp. It is also common for visitors to stay in private houses of the welcoming locals.
SightsThe mountain itself is a sight to behold, the undeniable centerpiece of the region. Its snowcapped peaks glisten in the sun, beckoning to those below who wish to reach the summit. A wisp of cloud often touches its peak like a flag signaling the final destination for climberscommonly called the Flag Cloud. Weather amidst the mountains, however, is often unpredictable with storms and squalls rolling in at a moment's notice. The best season to visit is May to October, though the peak is often covered in clouds from July to August. November to February is usually unfavorable due to the extreme cold.
Other features of the mountain include its bright glaciers, diverse plant life, and a variety of wild animals like the rare snow leopard. Rongbuk Monastery is also a popular destination, located at the base of the mountain with magnificent views of its peak.
ActivitiesThe climb up Qomolangma, Mount Everest, of course is the activity that draws adventurers from all over the globe. It takes about 5 days round trip to the summit and back. Day 1 is the trek from Everest Base Camp to Base 1 (at 5460 m), Day 2 is the climb to Interim Camp (at 5760m), Day 3 is the trek to Camp 2 (at 5970 m), Day 4 is the hike to the top (6340 m) and return to Camp 2, and Day 5 the return ending at the Rongpuk Monastery.
This monastery is the highest in the world, making it a very spiritual destination for many and an enlightening way to end the treacherous climb of the mountain. In addition to the panoramic views from the monastery, it is also home to impressive murals of Tibetan religion and culture as well as beautiful statues of Buddhist deities.
Food and DiningTraditional Tibetan cuisine is largely limited to barley, meat (usually mutton or yak), and dairy products. Very few spices and vegetables are used in the cooking, though most dishes are served with a very hot chili sauce on the side. Tibetan restaurants also usually serve westernized food options, and there are an abundance of good Chinese restaurants as well. Tea houses, too, can be found just about everywhere, being a place where many locals come to sit down with friends. While larger towns and cities serve both sweet and salted teas, smaller villages only serve salted. Due to its remote location, the main food available around the mountain is fine dried or instant noodles. Nearby, food is also available at Benba Guesthouse in Tashidzom and the Snowman Hotel in Pasum. It is usually good to be stocked up with your own small supply of food and water.
As far as food and drink go throughout Tibet, some staples include:
Momos: dumplings filled with meat or vegetables, steamed or fried
Tingmo: bland, nearly tasteless steamed bread
Thukpa: a hearty noodle soup with vegetables or meat
Thenthuk: thukpa with handmade noodles
Yak butter tea: salty tea churned with butter, a Tibetan staple and usually an acquired taste for most Westerners
Chang: a Tibetan beer made of barley, light in flavor
TransportationClimbing the mountain, or simply reaching Everest Base Camp for a great view, depends on your ability to get there. As Everest Base Camp is a final destination for many visitors, the journey to that location is an adventure in of itself. The trek begins in Lukla, which can be reached by air from Kathmandu, or by bus. From Lukla the hike to Everest base camp takes around 7 days, depending on one's desire to hike fast or slow. Along the way are many small villages, monasteries, and "tea houses" which provide food and hotel-like accommodation to hikers. Although conditions are rustic, camping is not necessary before Everest Base Camp for those willing to spend a bit of money.
Hiring guides and/or baggage porters is common and generally recommended.
On the Chinese side, visitors can fly to Lhasa (to Gonggar Airport) from major cities in China, or take a train via Xining. Many people hire a 4-wheel-drive from Lhasa to Rongbuk Monastery, which is located at the foot of the mountain. The road conditions are good from Lhasa to Tingri, but when you drive off the national road, it turns to an all dirt and gravel road. The closer you get to the mountain, the more rugged the travel becomes.
There are also two trekking routes into Qomolangma as well as an access road for Land Cruisers (which can be arranged in Lhasa or Shigatse). The two trekking routes are the Peruche Route which begins in Shelkar and the Tingri Route which begins in Tingri. Both end at the Everest Base Camp.