Well Everest is really, really cold. Even at Base Camp. It wasn’t the temperature so much as it was the wind. Before arriving at 17,500 feet I spent three days in the Tibetan countryside with two Dutch brothers, Junior and Geert Brinker. Both of them were great travel companions. They were hilarious to travel with. Junior, the younger brother at 21, refused to pay the offering price of anything. We paid 300 for a 486 Yuan hotel room, 10 for 20 Yuan water, and 150 for 200 Yuan dinners. At one point, he owed me 100 and offered to settle at 80. I declined. Geert, whose name I had an enormously hard time not only remembering but pronouncing (Think of hocking a loogie at the beginning of saying Hertz), cracked me up as well. His sense of humor reminded me a lot of the Vandy guys. He made fun of me for eating Fancy Biscuits, buying ugly flip flops, and in general just reminded me when I was being a moron. The story of how I met them is too long for this page, but it was pretty ridiculous. We hired a Landcruiser to drive us from Lhasa, out to the countryside, then to Mt Everest, and finally drop us off at the Nepal border where we would walk across the Friendship Bridge.
Myself, Geert, and Junior
We spent most of the first day in the car getting to know each other. None of us could remember our guides name so Geert started calling her Pot-tat-tow because when you sat it fast, it sounds Tibetan (in addition it’s an obscure reference to Wedding Crashers). By the end of the first day she was answering to it like it her mother called her that growing up. The drive was pretty surreal, we went through several towns that didn’t have electricity and running water. The local entertainment looked to be the chickens, cows, and goats wandering down what I assume was Main Street.
View from the top of one of the outer Hilamayas
Sanddunes back in the valley
Guess how many horsepower this sports car has
Amongst the prayer flags after hiking to the top of one of the lookout hills
At one point all three of us were convinced the driver (who spoke on Tibetan) was taking us to some remote region to rob us blind. I guess he decided he was outmatched because nothing happened. The fact that the car kept breaking down didn’t do anything to allay our fears. We only went to one temple and basically ran through it. The three of us had had enough culture in Tibet. They offered to stop at a couple more and we emphatically declined, I like travelling with the Dutch.
Geert's commentary on the car's performance
The last temple we toured
The night before Everest, we stayed in a town called New Tingri. It wasn’t the nicest of towns, but it was close to Base Camp. We headed to a restaurant for dinner. I decided it was time to order something off the wall so my appetizer was a pig ear salad. To my surprise, there was nothing but sliced, spiced pig ears on my plate. Geert decided to try it with me. Junior took pictures and negotiated about what it would cost us.
By lunch the next day we were at Base Camp on the North side of the mountain. Thirty guesthouses were dispersed around the area. From the guesthouses it was a 5k hike to EBC. I couldn’t believe how much the altitude affected me. I don’t know what the guys who summit feel like. We got a little off course and ended up on top of a hill to the East of EBC. It made the hike more difficult, but I’m glad we went astray. All hikers are stopped about 200meters short of the tents as to not disturb the real climbers. We descended towards the tents, ignorant we were doing anything wrong.
The road leading into EBC
Wildlife on the way in
Our first glimpse of Everest
It's not so big
The view from the guesthouses
Geert and I taking a breather about 1/3 of the way up
One of the Nepali Sherpas invited us into his tent and served us pineapple slices and Nepali tea. I found out he had been there for 71 days (no wonder he invited us in) and was leaving for a summit bid the next morning with five other Sherpas and twenty paying customers (mostly American, Australian, and New Zealanders). I chatted with him for about an hour, picking his brain about the logistics of what it takes to get to the top. He suggested after an Ironman, I’d be a great candidate to make it to the summit. I was less convinced considering how I’d felt after the hike to Base Camp. He did however, peak my interest about doing it in the future. Lauren is going to kill me for even considering it. Guess we should see how Kilimanjaro goes first. The summit was almost another 3 vertical miles away. It started snowing on the way back down, it was the end of May.
Mt Qomolangma is the Tibetan name for the mountain
Me, Junior, and Geert resting in the sherpa's tent
The summit at sunset
Going to bed that evening was hilarious. Junior, Geert, and I had hot tea and noodles for dinner. The guesthouses served food at the coffee tables in front of us while we sat on long benches. At night the benches were used for beds. The Mom of the house prepared the beds while we finished our tea. She laid out some yak blankets and somehow made them into a cocoon. It took us a good 10 minutes to figure out how to get into them. When I finally did, she put another blanket on top of me. Then another. Then she tucked the three of us in. Remember the Seinfeld episode of the “hotel tuck”. Imagine that with three sleeping back thickness yak wool blankets. I could barely move. That night I slept in heavy socks, the zero degree running tights I’d run Antarctica in, blue jeans, a short sleeve shirt, a long sleeve shirt, my North Face jacket, a ski hat, and ski gloves, all tucked neatly into three yak blankets. I woke up the next morning cold.
Trying to stay warm after dinner, the two on the left are the guesthouse owners
Geert getting tucked in for the evening
Me, post tuck
We took some horses up to EBC the next morning and got some summit pictures before the afternoon clouds rolled in.
Kevin, a snowshoeing guide from Whistler, and I heading back up the next morning
One last picture of the summit
We came back down and loaded up the car and headed out for the 7 hour drive to the border. The drive wasn’t too much different than the rest until the last hour. We got to the point where the clouds drop their rain before the mountains drag them too high. It looked like a tropical forest. After enduring road blocks, a couple more breakdowns, and a couple of mountain turns that made me wince, we pulled into the little town on the border. We would cross to Nepal the next morning.