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29 November 2010

Everest Base Camp in Tibet

By Muhammadnaim

The good thing about AirAsia X service to Chengdu (CTU), China, is that one can use CTU as a springboard to explore other parts of China not directly serviced by AirAsia X. This is what I did early this month when I flew KUL-CTU, then off on a 2-hr flight to Lhasa (LXA) with a Chinese airlines. From Lhasa I made a 4-day, 1,400km roundtrip to Everest Base Camp (EBC) in southern Tibet, where I came as close as 20km to the awesome Mt Everest!
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LXA is a modern airport, and at 3,700m (12,100ft), it is one of the highest airports in the world. In perspective, the top of our Mt Kinabalu is 4,095m.

After 3 days of acclimatisation in Lhasa for the body to adapt to high altitude, where the oxygen is only 60% of what we have here in KL, we depart for Everest Base Camp via the Lhasa-Kathmandu Friendship Highway which runs just north of the Himalayas. Along the way, we skirt a glacial turquoise blue (very holy) Yamdrok Lake, at 4,700m above sea level. Imagine a huge lake, half a kilometer higher than Mt Kinabalu.

This pass is so high, even a glacier hangs just above it.

After overnighting in the town of Shigatse, 300km west of Lhasa, we resume the journey southwards, where the vehicle gets off the paved Lhasa-Kathmandu Highway and enters a 102-km dirt track which ends at the Everest Base Camp (EBC) in the Himalayas. This harrowing mountainous stretch takes us 4hrs to traverse.

Ten hours after leaving Shigatse, we finally arrive at EBC, just before midnight in freezing temperature. We are now at 5,200m (17,060ft), and I’m suffering from altitude sickness: incessant headache, insomnia, high pulse rate. The temperature plunges to -12C, but our tent is heated to a warmish -1C by a stove fueled by dried yak poo.
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Daybreak greets me with my first ever sight of Mt Everest, just 25km away, but alas the top is shrouded with clouds. We trek 4km up the glacial valley, but Everest remains partially obscured.

Returning to Base Camp, we wait for a better view of Everest, and it is late morning before the clouds disappear and the mountain shows itself in full glory. I’m truly exhilarated! Our Tibetan guide Lotse is also relieved that the trip’s main mission is accomplished, as we pose for this priceless pic.

Indeed being so close to Mt Everest, an object of major interest since I was a small kid, was a milestone in my life. Thanks to AirAsia X for making that a reality. :)

For complete stories on my Tibet trip, please visit my site: http://naim.my. Thanks!