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Day 60: Tingri to Rongbuk

Michael Palin - HimalayaThe main bulk of Everest ascents, now running at around 100 a year, are made via the South East Ridge from which Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing had conquered the mountain in 1953. The North Face remains the more mysterious; aloof, daunting and much more dangerous. It was first climbed by a Chinese expedition in 1960. They laid a dirt road to transport their equipment up here, which is why we are able to drive up to Base Camp. The track bounces over impacted, corrugated earth strewn with small boulders, but the four-wheel drives don't find it too difficult, and by late afternoon, after winding our way through valleys fed by glacial melt from the slopes of Everest, we turn past the Rongbuk gompa, the highest monastery in the world, and in to the walled courtyard of the guesthouse, administered by the monastery.

It looks, for a moment, like the most wonderful place in the world. The same long, low, Tibetan-style layout as the Snow Leopard in Tingri, but with a hugely more spectacular location. This turns out to be its only redeeming feature. From the filthy, littered courtyard to the soulless concrete rooms with broken windows and the foul, doorless lavatories, Rongbuk Guest House is pretty much a hell hole.

The redeeming feature, however, is not to be underestimated. There is only one mountain to be seen from here and that is Everest. It stands, massive, grand and solitary, only a few miles away across the end of the valley. It is the horizon.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 60: Tingri to Rongbuk
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Rongbuk
  • Book page no: 145

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