The Journey to Everest

Mount Qomolangma Base Camp
At Everest Base Camp

The jeep moved on slowly just feet from the sheer drop. There was absolute silence on the mountain road. I felt tense and kept my eyes closed until we went round the bend past the overturned truck.

I was part of a group crossing mainland China and Tibet in search of mountains and monasteries. We were learning about Buddhism, Chinese and Tibetan cultures, history and seeing some amazing scenery along the way. Our mountainous exploration would end at the foot of the world’s most famous mountain; Mount Qomolangma. Everest in the English language.

This was my first big trip and I was on my own without friends or family. I would soon become close to quite a few of the group, not just in great, happy moments but in terrifying times like this mountain pass. There had been landslides, this stretch of road had no barriers and the fall would be fatal. A truck had crashed and there was barely enough space to get past.

The journey to Everest would be a massive test for me. I look back to being 21 years old on that first trip and can’t believe how much I’ve grown and learnt. As tough as some of the days felt with long drives, no toilets and occasionally a dodgy tummy, I did get to experience places like the Yangtze River.

Yangtze River in mainland China

On the Yangtze River in China

Pilgrims and Tibetan traders could be found along the roads. Prayer flags and piles of stones were regular sights as an offering to the mountain gods.

We met people who rarely see anyone from outside of China. One day I quickly put on sunscreen before jumping out of the car to take some photos and soon had a crowd surrounding me. They spoke to each other and stared at my skin. I realised after someone reached out to touch me that some of the sunscreen hadn’t fully rubbed in and they thought my skin was melting. Our guide explained that they didn’t have anything like sunscreen but covered themselves instead.

There was such a difference in the rural villages to the over saturated advertising of the big cities. It was like another world. We met few people who could speak any English and needed to have conversations translated. We also heard the difficulties between China and Tibet from local people. It was an incredible eye-opener.

Prayer flags and Tibetan people

Tibetan pilgrims and traders on the road

The capital of Tibet, Lhasa was a place I couldn’t wait to explore. I’d read about the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people so Potala Palace was high on the list. I found this place busy and there were more tourists but it was still quite peaceful. Walking into the few, simple rooms where the Dalai Lama lived I noticed that there were very few physical possessions. It was a life of enlightenment that he aspired to and worship was the key element. The colours were so vivid and decorations throughout were bright and elaborate.

Temples and statues adorned each part we explored. The chapels were at the centre of everything here. Religious and spiritual teaching went on all over Tibet as we had witnessed. Monks in bright orange robes could be seen in meditation and colourful prayer wheels engraved with Sanskrit were never far away.

Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet

Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet

I had imagined that the end goal of being at Everest Base Camp would be the highlight of the tour but each day I learned more and experienced a huge amount. It was a real emersion. Some places were slums and had no sanitation.  I remember getting to a place that had hot water and going to the shower block for a good wash. I heard a scream and one of the other members of the group ran out. There was a rat that had died on the other side of the tarpaulin. I was so dirty from days of travel and no shower that I decided to go in anyway. I’ve never washed so quickly! It was rough and very basic at times but we had a great adventure.

Our group went out hiking several times during the trip. We climb pretty steep hills on the mountain ranges that local people seemed to be able to do in sandals on their lunch breaks! It was great getting out and high up in this landscape. Everything looks amazing from above. The temple complex Gyantse Dzong was one of the hikes I loved.

Gyantse Dzong

At Gyantse Dzong on the Tibetan Plateau

Staying in small communities allowed us to learn about Tibetan people’s lives and watch people go about their everyday tasks. Things like hearing the language everywhere and eating the same food gives you such a deeper travel experience.

We finally entered Everest National Park after a couple of weeks of being on the road together. One of our tour group got quite bad altitude sickness and had to rest at a lower level each night as well as seeing a doctor. We all felt light headed at different points and noticed we could get out of breath easily the further up we travelled.

We stayed in huts that night made from stone with flat roofs. It was freezing cold and we had piles of blankets on top of our sleeping bags. I slept well with only starlight visible outside. Tomorrow, I thought, we would be at Everest Base camp.

Near Everest Base Camp

The Final Push near Everest Base Camp

My breathing was laboured after about 100 feet. This was a strange sensation and felt frustrating but after a quick stop, I could set off again. I was slowly getting closer. The dirt road could allow horses and wooden carriages for people who were not walking. No cars were allowed past this point. It was quiet when we got past the tents and started out on the track.

Finally seeing the end and being at Everest Base Camp felt great but the whole journey had been important. I definitely wouldn’t have felt the same if I was just dropped at base camp. It was an incredible sight but it was much more than that to local people. It was sacred and part of their lives as Buddhists. I had changed from the scared young girl in Beijing to the confident traveller across Tibet standing at one of the world’s most famous natural wonders.

Hiking our way to Everest Base Camp

Hiking our way to Everest Base Camp

I sat looking out at the mountain towering above. The freshness of the air and the feeling of achievement, I knew travel was for me. I wanted to experience journeys like this for as long as possible throughout my life.

Mount Everest, Mount Qomolangma

Seeing Mount Everest in person

The viewing at the end was well worth the travel and dealing with altitude. The rough accommodation, showering with a rat and dealing with change in culture, food and way of life were all worth it. They made it special. It hadn’t been easy but I was strong enough. I could do it.

Everest Base Camp

Proudly standing at Everest Base Camp

I look back and remember these moments as a rite of passage. I challenged myself. I wrote down places I wanted to go and I went. I saved and worked hard to have these experiences and they changed me. Mount Everest was a great day and the journey to Everest was one of the most positive and life affirming yet.

Mount Everest, Mount Qomolungmal

Looking up at the peak of Mount Everest

Have you been to Everest Base Camp or traveled in China or Tibet? Would you be inspired to explore this region now?


  • Noel Morata says:

    What a fantastic accomplishment and such perfect skies, you couldn’t ask for anything better. Thanks for the tour.

  • Katie says:

    What an incredible experience! Holy cow! Traveling through China and Tibet to eventually make it to Everest Base Camp is pretty much a dream trip for me! I have only been to Beijing for a weekend, so I have much more exploring of China to do. This sounds like it was quite the epic first trip on your own!

  • Rosemary says:

    What a great experience getting to the Everest base camp. Love what you say that the journey is as important as seeing Everest. While I’ve never been to China or Tibet, yet…I plan on visiting in the next couple of years and would love the intimacy of your small group and connection with the local culture/people. Thanks for sharing your experience . Indeed inspirational.

  • what an amazing experience. Going to base camp is one of those real travel stories. It must have been so physically challenging with altitude sickness setting in. Tibet always looks magical and your photo’s bought it right into my lounge room \

  • This trip looks amazing. I hope I’ll do something like this one day! It must have been phisically tiring and emotionally streghtening! thank you so much for sharing.

  • Kathrin says:

    That must be an incredible feeling to stand in front of Everest! I’ve never been to China or Tibet, but I hope to visit in the future. Maybe I should add the Everest Base Camp to my bucket list. It’s great that you accomplished your goal – keep on going!

  • Congratulations on your achievement of visiting the base camp of Mount Everest. Showering with a rat, though, EEK!

  • Wow girl what an experience! I hope I can get to Everest one day too. It sounds like an absolute adventure and I’m glad you got to spend time with the locals and find out more about their culture. Shame about the rat shower though haha ><

  • Christopher says:

    What an incredible post. This sounds like story out of a novel. Fantastic pictures too.

  • Carmen says:

    How inspiring! It takes a lot of strength to be able to do something like this, and it’s impressive that you managed to complete the entire trek, even with all the new shocks and experiences along the way!

  • Sounds Amazing! When i was in Malaysia, we climbed Mt Kinabalu and it was enormous from a distance. Everest does not seem to “Tower” above the rest. is it because the rest of the mountain range in itself is just so high compared to Sea Level?

  • What an amazing experience, l bet it was just magical. I haven’t been but would definitely like to. You captured the journey so well, from the pictures to your words. Beautifully done.

  • Wow! What an amazing experience! The Everest base camp is high on our bucket list. The altitude sickness worries me a bit, read many stories of people suffering really bad.

  • Congrats Kate!!
    What an incredible adventure!! You started a trip focus on your final destination and end up enjoying every single moment and place that you passed by!! Everest is not for everyone, it’s a tough trip and is on my bucket list!

  • IamVagabond says:

    Great achievement. I can only wish to be there one day.. Lovely pics as well.


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