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Team member Chris shares his adventure as he travelled from the Tibetan capital Lhasa to the Mount Everest Base Camp in Southern Tibet, via famous monasteries, snow-capped mountain scenery and herds of grazing yaks.

A Distant Dream

To a young boy growing up in rural England, Mount Everest was so alien, so other-worldly, so out of the ordinary that it might as well have been a distant peak on a far away planet. Mere mortals are never supposed to even glimpse the world's highest mountain from its remote base camp, buried away in the mysterious Himalayas, somewhere out East, let alone ever think about scaling it. Its a view I was to hold for some time, until one day not too long ago I discovered that there is a place where the very first thing you do in the morning is poke your head out the window to see if Mount Everest has come out from behind its cloak of cloud cover. Could it be so easy? Suddenly the impossible seemed very possible, the world seemed that little bit smaller and the flights were booked to China.

Before I could wake up to Everest there was the small matter of a crash course in China's Dynastic history, 21st century modern day life and that uncomfortable Mao era in-between in the nation's capital Beijing. Then a hike along the fabled Great Wall of China (achieving my Grandad's long-held but never realised dream) and an epic 22 hour train journey to the 'Roof of the World'. But through it all, the world's most notorious peak was lurking in the distance, the clouds ready to part...

Except they weren't just yet, not when we arrived anyway. It felt rather anti-climatic at first; we had journeyed so far precisely to see just about the only thing that what was hidden out of view behind a thick blanket of immovable white cloud. This cannot do, there's been a mistake. I had an appointment with Everest but Everest had gone home for the night, leaving its infinitely less-famous assistants to handle all remaining business. There were glimpses here and there - could that be it? Was that the peak? Is that blue sky that I spy over there? I reassured myself that it's all part of the plan, building the tension and raising the jeopardy; I wouldn't really be denied my one chance to see nature's biggest giant would I? I went to bed full of hope and full of fear. And I wasn't even climbing it.

Everest Base Camp monastery and tentRongbuk Monastery Guesthouse & Everest Tents

Waking up to Everest

The Rongbuk Monastery Guest House is not a luxury hotel experience. The rooms are small and basic, there's no WIFI and the toilets can be charitably described as 'an experience'. But the hot food and ginger tea are a welcome surprise, as are the electric blankets that keep you warm at night. But frankly none of that matters, because to me our humble abode will always be the place from which I sprung out of bed at 6:57am on Monday 26th June 2017, pulled back the curtains and saw Mount Everest standing proud in all its glory in the nascent morning light. I chucked on the nearest clothes, scrambled for my camera and dashed outside. I needed a closer look.

I wasn't alone it seems. A tripod was already set up and a group of Chinese tourists were busy taking the obligatory selfies in the shadow of our visitor. In between shutter clicks I could do nothing more than breathe in the cold high altitude air and repeat to myself that's Mount Everest... I'm looking at Mount Everest... Mount Everest! There are worse ways to start a Monday morning.

I left the selfie-snappers and crossed the road, huffing and puffing my way slowly up the steps of the Rongbuk Monastery, the highest monastery in the world. It certainly felt like it. Having regained my breath I tried my best to line up the stupa with the mountain behind and capture the scene for prosperity. It is a humble view in many respects, compared to the many large and more polished monasteries we had already toured in Lhasa, Shigatse and Gyantse, but its a view that would have been enjoyed by many of the early explorers and mountaineers who stayed here to gather their strengths for the most arduous of journeys ahead. For some it was a one-way ticket.

As I made my way back towards the guest house my eyes widened further as the first warm rays of the morning sun struck the peak, softly bathing the summit in a seductive orange glow.

How to visit Mount Everest Base Camp

As if the scene couldn't get any more surreal, a large yak (are there any other kind?) stood grazing on the scant nutrition on the ground, aligned perfectly with Everest. I looked around trying to locate the herder to whom I should make a donation in exchange for taking a photo (standard practice at the Yamdrok Lake for example) but none were to be seen and my fellow travellers seemed just as perplexed. The yak was to linger for some time, outlasting me in fact, because I had to drink my coffee, eat my hot pancake and head the short distance down to the tent campsite to take the 15 minute shuttle bus ride to Mount Everest Base Camp... Mount Everest!

Visiting Everest Base CampsMount Everest Base Camp, Rongbuk Monastery, the road to Everest and grazing yaks

Qomolangma

In a country where just about everywhere, no matter how seemingly mundane, is a golden selfie opportunity, the large stone welcoming you to the mount Qomolangma Base Camp (to use its Chinese name), with the Himalayan peaks and colourful prayer flags filling the background, might just be the ultimate. Well that or a 6 foot 4" Englishman eating an ice cream in a Sichuan theatre or waiting at the entrance to the Giant Leshan Buddha, but that's another story and a strange one at that. Such was the queue (a rarity in China) of people awaiting their moment of glory, I had to ask my guide to politely request they give me just a millisecond to snap a picture free of grinning tourists. They gave about enough time for one and did so begrudgingly.

5,200 metres above sea levels reads the sign, a fact my lungs would not dispute. I ambled slowly up the small hill, caught my breath and felt a little pathetic for having exerted such effort mounting a mere bump in the road, compared to the colossal across the way. We can go no further, but instead gaze across the large void, an area of nothing but stones and dust across which intrepid explorers must walk, before climbing over a crest and disappearing out of view. It is nigh on impossible to imagine the mixture of emotions they must be processing as they take their first steps towards a journey which will largely define their lives.

Visiting Mount Everest Base Camp

For me and my comparatively humble jaunt through China, this was both literally and figuratively my Everest. I had, in a very small way, conquered the world's tallest mountain just by witnessing its majestic presence, against the odds for the time of year too. Now I could go on and look forward to a Giant Buddha, baby pandas, some very naughty monkeys and the towering skyscrapers and local markets of Hong Kong. If you have a bucket list, either written or mental, I urge you now to put Mount Everest Base Camp on it - somewhere near the top.

Or better yet, come and see it now with us.