|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – March 2009
Walk the World's Highest Trail.
The Perfect Circle: Hiking the Annapurna Circuit | Chile's Torres del Paine Circuit | Corsica's GR 20 | Peru's Inca Trail to Machu Picchu | Italy's Alta Via 1 | New Zealand's Milford Track | England's Pennine Way | Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro | Everest Base Camp, Tibet | Tour du Mont Blanc
Classic cred At 21,400 feet, Mt. Everest's Advanced Base Camp (ABC) on the mountain's northern side is the highest place on Earth you can hike to on established trails. Winding across the broad, barren Tibetan plateau, the trail starts in the village of Tingri and ends at the foot of Everest. This 44-mile, 10-day trek gains 7,000 vertical feet and accesses four of the Himalayas' mightiest mountains: Makalu, Cho Oyu, Lhotse, and Chomolungma (Everest's Tibetan name, meaning "Mother Goddess of the World"). You'll walk along the "serac highway," hugging the east side of the Rongbuk Glacier, where melting ice forms pinnacles that look like 100-foot-high swizzle sticks. And always, the mesmerizing north face lures you, until finally you're standing at ABC, so close to the world's tallest peak that it seems (alas, deceptively) like you could summit in hours.
Beta April, when Everest climbers flock to basecamp, offers a window of relatively stable weather. Fly from Kathmandu to Lhasa with your guides and jeep it as far as Tingri. Then trek up the Ra Chu Valley to the Rongbuk Monastery, a Buddhist temple dwarfed by views of Mt. Everest. The last push to ABC climbs just 656 feet over five miles–but takes five breathless hours.
Local's tip Tibetan Buddhists believe that the mantra om mani padme hum invites blessings from Chenrezig, the deity of compassion. Remember it: It'll come in handy when you're wheezing along at 20,000 feet.
Plan It International Mountain Guides has offered ABC treks since 1991 (mountainguides.com). Read The Other Side of Everest, by Matt Dickinson (Crown, $8) before you go, or bring it to trace different routes up the mountain while your dal bhat cooks.
Cost Guided: $$$$$