Back in 2002 I traveled extensively in Tibet and China. I did a few extreme and amazing hikes in the Tibet area. On one of them, to the Everest foot, I was lucky to return from it alive. Here is the account of that vicious “hike”.
Sunday, Oct 13 2002
I’ve planned to walk to the Everest Base Camp (2h each way from the Rongpu Monastery), wander around for a while and come back. I took 2 litters of water, 2 small mooncakes and camera. I was told the day before that those who want to walk past the Base Camp have to pay a huge amount of money something like US$500 or even more.
As I was taking shortcuts to avoid the road switchbacks, I have happened to come to the Base Camp’s location at the ridge above it. I saw it from the top of the mountain and was very disappointed. The E.B.C. was far, far away from the Everest itself. At this point something happened to me and I decided to get to the real mountain base, at least as close as possible.
Since I bypassed the EBC from a side, nobody asked me for any fee, so I’ve descended from the ridge, fording on the way a beautiful semi-frozen mountain river and started walking parallel to the Rongpu Glacier, on its left side, close to the ridge, where I’ve found a prominent foot path. After about an hour of walking the path went up to the mountain, and then turning left, I suppose that it was heading to the Advanced Base Camp. But I didn’t have any notes with me since I wasn’t planning past the EBC. After following the path to the top of the mountain I broke off the path, crossed another icy downstream and continued in parallel with the Rongpu Glacier valley. From now on I had to walk in the snow and navigate huge boulders. There was no trek but sometimes I saw footprints in the snow. Needless to say I wasn’t prepared to walk in the (wet) snow and my shoes got wet after a while.
Far ahead I saw the Everest and beautiful glacier hills. I decided to walk forward as long as I’ll have enough time to come back before the darkness will fall down (8pm). That meant 5.5 hours one way from the monastery. So I had to turn back at 3pm. But at 3pm I was still far away from the Everest, so I decided to “walk” some more, fighting the stones and going up and down all the time. The final goal was seemingly so close, but I just couldn’t reach it.
At around 4pm I’ve reached the next ridge at which I’ve forced myself to turn around. Which I almost did, but then I saw that if I get off the ridge and walk back through the glacier valley, I will walk much faster as it looked flat, so I thought that I can still go forward for a while. How wrong I was. I got down and walked forward for one more hour. Only at 5pm I’ve turned back, after I’ve reached the glacier hills. That was after 7.5 hours of non-stop walking, meaning that if I walk back at the same speed I’d reach my bed after the midnight. Now I faced the risk of getting stranded in the glacier for the night, without any equipment and food. I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast other than two small mooncakes. But thoughts of how to cover 7.5 hours distance in 3 hours were taking over the hunger. Especially it was really hard to leave from the point I’ve reached. Since I was surrounded by magnificent glacier hills, and very close to the foot of the Everest.
I had no choice but to leave the place, taking quick snapshots on the way. At the beginning I was indeed moving very quickly and I thought that everything will be just great. But half an hour later I’ve started to face hills that I had to cross, and the problem was that it was a hard task to do, as everything under my feet was on the move. I was constantly fighting the rock-slides. This has slowed my pace to a crawl. An hour later things got worse, I was getting constantly trapped by glacier walls. I’d climb the hill trying to cross it and would find vertical ice walls on the other side. So I had to back trace (again facing the rock slides) and try the nearby hill, but many times I’d face the same problem. This almost halted my movement forward. I thought of getting back to the ridge but it was too high and steep from the point I was, so I kept on fighting the rocks and ice. At some point I’ve got desperate. It was after 8pm the sun set down and it was getting dark and I was still stranded in a glacier with no solid path out but wild guessing and constant back tracing. Being desperate the next time I faced the vertical wall I’ve decided to slide down it (about 5-10 m) and got my body down holding on the rock. The wisdom took over and at the last moment I decided to stop this insane attempt and I brought myself back to top and went for a long back trekking. I’d surely break my legs if I’d let go of my hand.
After struggling for another half an hour in the moonlight, which luckily gave enough light to see the silhouettes of stones I’ve finally heard the river I’ve forded in the morning, after some struggle I’ve found the path and guessing the path in the darkness speeding up as fast as I could (I was on my feet for more than 10 hours already, mostly struggling the rocks) but still tried to semi-run. To my relief at 8:30pm I’ve reached the open valley that lead to the E.B.C. At 9:30pm I’ve reached it and walked into one of the Tibetan tents to get some tea, I didn’t drink any water for a long time, as the water that I’ve got left has turned ice. After a few cups of tea I’ve rushed to the monastery, which I’ve reached at 11pm. I was on my feet for 13 hours that day and hardly any breaks. The moon was my best friend that day (night?) as it safely took me out of the mountains. My friends know that I’m insane, so no surprise here. Just the usual me.
When I came back to the Rongpu Monastery everybody were asleep so I’ve engulfed a box of instant noodles with a great appetite and was off to sleep too. The next day I could hardly walk in the morning.