Everest. It’s a household name and an icon of the belief that all things are possible. Are you looking to join the exclusive group of people who have beheld the highest point on planet earth? We’ve compiled our top ten tips gained from introducing over 1,000 travelers to Tibet's most iconic destinations.
Late April and May are the best times to view Everest’s peak in the spring. October to early November are the peak viewing months in the fall. You'll want to avoid making travel plans for February and March as Tibet is closed to foreigners at this time. While it’s possible to travel in winter (November-January), which typically has crystal clear skies, the weather is very COLD. The bonus of visiting Tibet in winter is you will encounter very little tourism traffic.
Most people experience minor symptoms of high altitude (headaches, shortness of breath, and trouble sleeping). To mitigate these symptoms, we recommend spending a couple of days in Lhasa to acclimatize before beginning your journey to higher elevations at Everest. Consult your doctor if you have heart-related issues, high blood pressure, or are pregnant.
Lhasa is the main port of entry for foreign tourists visiting Everest Base Camp on the Tibetan side. The journey along the Old Friendship Highway is around 800 km and takes roughy two days to drive. It's well worth it! You will pass many photo-worthy sights before standing face to face with this unparalleled mountain. Enjoy sweeping views of quintessential scenic Tibet like the turquoise waters of mystical Yamdrok Lake and Karola Glacier. You can also visit Tashilhungpo Monastery and the ancient Tibetan fortress in New Tingri.
Regardless of season, it’s always chilly at Everest Base Camp. Remember, it’s 5,200 meters (17,000+feet) above sea level. Temperatures range between highs around 5 degrees Celsius and average lows of negative 10 degrees Celsius for most of the travel season (not taking into account wind chill factor). Everest’s northern Base Camp experiences year-round winds, so windproof outer layers are also highly recommended. At the warmest time of year, you’ll need a thick, winter coat at Base Camp and could be wearing t-shirts in Lhasa (but only in the sunshine).
Some of the most spectacular views happen in the early morning hours. You will have a hard time putting your camera down as Everest awakens to the changing shades of sunlight. Some of the best views of the North Face can be captured from Rongbuk Monastery before taking a park bus to get up close past Base Camp. You may also want to pack a tripod to capture the Milky Way on a clear, star-filled night. Keep in mind that lower temperatures can affect battery life, so bring extras and make sure they’re charged and ready to go. Don’t forget to pack additional memory cards, too.
Ready. Aim. Shoot.
Options for snacks around Everest Base Camp are very limited. Think simple Chinese dishes, instant noodles, and Tibetan tea. We recommend you pack snacks from home or stock up in Lhasa before you hit the road.
Don’t expect to be able to use your international credit card in China or Tibet. ATMs are available in Lhasa and most people can easily withdraw cash with their debit card, although cards from smaller banks are sometimes rejected. Bring USD cash as a back-up measure. Converting currency is always possible, though it can take time. Don’t count on ATMs beyond Lhasa, make sure you have cash before you hit the road to Base Camp.
Refrain from engaging in political discussions. Remove your hat when entering monasteries. Avoid revealing clothing and displays of affection with the opposite sex, as both are considered inappropriate. On all topics, be respectful and sensitive in sharing your views, and enjoy the seat of a learner on a cultural journey.
Half the fun of planning a trip is the anticipation of your upcoming adventure. Get your adrenaline pumping from home by reading High Adventure by Sir Edmund Hillary, High Exposure by David Breashears (head of Everest IMAX project), and by watching the IMAX film Everest.
Create your own trip or join one of our upcoming Lhasa and Everest adventures:
At Extravagant Yak, we also specialize in creating custom tours and are always happy to discuss making your dream adventure a reality.
by Maureen Scott
I only had three things to remember: breathe deeply; drink a lot of water; and put the toilet paper in the wastebasket, not the hole. That was my mantra for fourteen days. The first two were essential for surviving a mountain bike expedition above 4,000 metres. The third was necessary for avoiding the awkwardness of a clogged Tibetan toilet...