Making my way to the North Face Everest Base Camp has been the hardest challenge I have ever under taken. Ill prepared and advised I brought a Specialized cyclo-cross bike. While I speed on along the highway; smooth endless straight roads that remind you of an American road trip, I was grinning. When it came to the to turn off to Base Camp and a change to rough road meant my bike was back in the truck and I was back in the 4×4.
One of the worst snow storms has been following us and is set to stay for eight days. We woke to a crunchy snow cover and climbing the Gyatso La (5,220 metres) was not going to go ahead until a truck came down the pass; indicating is was open at the top.
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As soon as the truck came everyone was off, it was -2 degrees Celsius. The sun shone for the start and then a blizzard took the skies over. Summiting was a white out for many. A guest house was on offer and taken by all. Hot water was not on the menu, it took 15 water jug boils to have a hand basin ‘shower’. The pipes froze overnight leaving no water for a morning freshen up either. Tibetans have a harsh life.
Climbing the Pang La (5,200 metres) was an off road version of Alpe d’Huez with over 50 hairpins laid out in front of the rider. Lunch was served half way up, the wind biting and all below freezing temperatures. The ice-cream shop at the top was the first view of the Himalayas and the mighty Everest herself. The Redspokes group released prayer flags at the top of the pass for good luck and caught a glimpse of the mighty white peak in the distance, all be it shrouded by cloud. The mountain range was impressive as was the descent, all newly carved in to the mountain to carry the 2008 Olympic flame to the summit of Everest.
Camping again was going to bed in sunshine and waking to a thick blanket of snow. The dark sky rolling down through the valley hinting more snow was on the way. We were on the last leg to stay the closest we could to Base Camp.
On arrival in Rongbuk the ground was too frozen for the tents to be erected so it was back in to a guest house. This time there was no running water at all and the en-suite a communal open hole for a toilet. The guest house owners’ son just pooed on the step through ripped trousers. We are all sipping yak butter tea peering out the window, hoping for cloud to lift to see the mighty North Face.