Thursday, 24 April 2014

... Crouch With Tigers, Hide With Dragons: The Day I Fell In Love With A Mountain

We go about our daily lives understanding almost nothing of the world.
We give little thought of the machinery that generates the sunlight and makes life possible.
To the gravity that glues us to the earth that would otherwise send us spinning off into space.
Or to the atoms that which we are made and on who’s stability we fundamentally depend.
Few of us spend much time wondering why nature is the way it is.
Where the cosmos came from.
Whether it was always there.
If time will one day flow backward.
Or whether there are ultimate limits to what humans can know.
What is the smallest piece of matter.
Why we remember the past and not the future.
And why there is a universe.
- Carl Sagan

The official Tibetan name for Mount Everest is Qomolangma (Tibetan: ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ), often spelled Chomolungma, and literally means "Holy Mother".

She is the Earth's highest mountain located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. Her impressive peak is 29,029 ft (8,848 m) above sea level. The international border between China and Nepal runs across the precise summit point hence why Everest has two main climbing routes, the southeast ridge from Nepal (known as the standard route) and the north ridge from Tibet. Neighboring peaks include Lhotse, 27,940 ft (8516 m) ; Nuptse, 25,771 ft (7855 m) and Changtse, 24,870 ft (7580 m).

The Great Trigonometric Survey of India, in 1856, established the first published height of Everest, known then as Peak XV, at 29,002 ft (8,840 m). The current official height of 29,029 ft (8,848 m) as recognized by Nepal and China was established by a 1955 Indian survey and subsequently confirmed by a Chinese survey in 1975. In 1865, Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geographical Society upon a recommendation by Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India. Waugh named the mountain after Sir George Everest, his predecessor, even though Tibetans had called Everest "Chomolungma" for centuries. Waugh was unaware of this because Tibet and Nepal were closed to foreign nationals at the time.

She is one of the ultimate adrenaline rushes and attracts many highly experienced mountaineers as well as capable climbers willing to hire professional guides for a very costly sum. Everest is so high, the jet stream can hit it. Climbers can be faced with winds beyond 200 mph when the weather shifts. The first recorded efforts to reach Everest's summit were made by British mountaineers. With Nepal not allowing foreigners into the country at the time, the British made several attempts on the north ridge route from the Tibetan side. After the first reconnaissance expedition by the British in 1921 reached 22,970 ft (7000 m) on the North Col, a 1922 expedition marked the first time a human had climbed above 26,247 ft (8,000 m) by reaching 27,300 ft (8320 m) on the North ridge route. An expedition by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine in 1924 resulted in the greatest mystery on Everest to this day. They made a final summit attempt on June 8 but never returned, sparking debate as to whether they were the first to reach the top. They had been spotted high on the mountain that day but disappeared in the clouds, never to be seen again until Mallory's body was found in 1999 at 26,755 ft (8155 m) on the North face. Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary made the first official ascent of Everest in 1953 using the southeast ridge route. Tenzing had reached 8,595 m (28,199 ft) the previous year as a member of the 1952 Swiss expedition.

If you're looking for comfort during your quest to the north Base Camp of Everest then this trip is likely not for you. I suspect the only thing worse than the bone-shaking roads would be to be in the company of someone who complained for 3+ hour of dirt track-gravel road. Fortunately I did not endure this nor did I complain. It was all part of the awesome adventure and you couldn't help but feel the anticipation build. When find yourself staring at her mesmerizing beauty you will know then why you came and it will have all been oh so worth it. Right down to attempting to pee behind a rock that barely covers your arse or the sight of several men lined up along the road peeing, what appeared to be, in unison. There were clear blue skies upon arrival to Rongbuk Guest House, situated across from the monastery, so it was decided that after layering up, we would head straight out to hike to Base Camp.

The hike, whilst not that far, is by no means easy. It's about 2.5 miles (4km) each way but feels more like 10. Remember, you're above 16,000 ft (5000 m) so any form of exercise you perform will make you feel like that pseudo vice you've had around your ribcage since Lhasa is being tightened.

However, the reward is incredible; from the top of a small hill at 17,060 ft (5200 m) you can see the tent city at the base camp and right in front you, Everest!!! The weather changes very quickly however, and her top was soon covered with cloud. Can you imagine being at the top during that?!? On the left is Mt. Lhotse and on the far right, the impressive looking Mt. Cho Oyu at 26,906 ft (8201 m).

Posing for pictures was a lot more comfortable than when I was at the top of Kilimanjaro in 2011. I even assisted in hanging a group prayer flag! Otherwise you just stand awe-struck as you look at what is likely one of the most majestic places on the planet that I will ever see!! I think perhaps everyone needs a dose of this view when they've forgotten what true peace and serenity is.

On 18 April 2014, an avalanche hit the area just below the Nepalese Base Camp 2 at around 0100 UTC (0630 local time) and at an elevation of about 19,357 ft (5,900 m). Sixteen Sherpa climbers were killed in the avalanche and nine more were injured. RIP.

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