It is the sort of cold that gets right into your bones and nags at you. It is the sort of cold never felt in Australia, EVER. We put on just about all our clothes (and look like the "Michellen Man" !) then pile both the heavy yak fur quilts onto one of our single beds and snuggle in together on the one single bed.
We are at the Rongphu Monastery, a mere five kilometres from Everest Base camp. When we arrived, after two long days of travel over mountain switchbacks and 100 km of dirt, we were shown to our spartan room and there, right out the window was Mt. Everest (local name Chomolungma or Oomolangma Peak).
What a view! The sun was just setting and some cloud obscured the peak, but we were excited and took lots of photographs before the cold forced us into a sort of common room, which had a small central cooking fire. The fire (stoked with Yak pats) did not really help thaw us out, so after an evening meal we went to our very cold sleeping quarters and piled on the yak quilts. The only facility for toileting was an extremely basic latrine, a long walk outside from our room and of course, just because we didn't want to have to go, nature called us often in the night!
Today we have woken to a clear blue sky and there right out our window is a cloudless Everest! The cold night forgotten, we have a simple breakfast of some hot coffee and it is off to base camp. From our vantage point we can see the expedition tents of those about to climb and the back up base crew of those already climbing. We stop to chat to an Icelander, who is part of a climbing team and we coerce him to taking a group photo of us. We think about how cold those mountaineers must be, but also how lucky for them there is no bad weather. Somehow Everest does not seem all that daunting, as we are already at 5,200 metres of its 8,848.
What an absolute thrill to stand at the base camp of Everest. It is something to be long remembered. We think of our friends Graham and Rachel who became engaged here in 2004.. We thought then that we would be here one day.
The time has come finally, to get back in the 4WD for the trip back to Lhasa, with sightseeing of the Tibetan countryside on the way. With one long last look we are off and away, now warm in the 4WD.
Footnote: Mt Everest is listed as one of The Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Mt Makalu features in the book Unforgettable Places to See before you die.
Fact File: Information seems a little sketchy but the latest stats are from end of 2009 which state 2700 individuals have climbed to the summit (combined a total of 4102 ascents) for 216 lives lost. It is estimated 120 corpses remain on the mountain. Many climbers die on the descent (about half). A permit to climb costs $25000.