Photo Of The Day: Tibetan Travelers

One of the travel world’s more annoying debates is backpacker vs. rolling suitcase. Those with backpacks scoff at travelers wheeling suitcases along cobblestones, while the roll-aboard lovers might want to avoid the connotation that “backpacker” implies. Even backpackers are being criticized now for taking too much. In the end, it’s just a place for one’s stuff. We can all agree that seeing pilgrims walking for many miles with very little stuff at all is pretty impressive. Today’s Photo of the Day is from Tibet, where some pilgrims are returning from a trip. Flickr user abhishakey photographed the travelers coming from Lhasa, where thousands travel each year to visit the Jokhang Temple with little more than a prayer wheel.

Share your best travel images with us by adding them to the Flickr photo pool for a future Photo of the Day.

Everest Encounter Possible A Number Of Ways

Climbing Mt. Everest is often a lifetime achievement for many travelers. Each spring, some of the most adventurous, daring and physically fit among us attempt the risky undertaking. But summiting is not the only way to experience the highest peak on the planet. One eco-travel company suggests Everest travel strategies that can considerably lower the danger, cost, time or exertion required of summit-focused mountaineers.

“Seeing Everest from any perspective is a thrill,” JOURNEYS International founder Dr. Will Weber said in his blog recently, outlining 6 strategies for a personal Everest encounter.

1. Trek to the Everest base camp in Nepal. Takes eight days of hiking to reach the pinnacle viewpoint of the peak from an 18,200-foot, non-climbing vantage point.

2. Drive to the north slope of Everest in Tibet. Drive from Lhasa to Kathmandu in five days.

3. Trek to the Arun Valley of East Nepal. 12 days takes travelers to a high ridge between Everest and Kangchenjunga where they will have breathtaking views of four of the five highest mountains in the world.

4. Fly the Everest Flightseeing trip from Kathmandu. A comfortable pressurized aircraft virtually guarantees a peak-level view of Everest.

5. Fly on commercial, scheduled jet aircraft service between Kathmandu and Paro, Bhutan; Lhasa, Tibet; or Bangkok, Thailand. Odds are the plane will fly right over Everest but “bring a peak profile image to identify the mountain for yourself and your seatmates,” says Weber. “Views are brief and usually only available on one side of the plane.”

6. Hire a helicopter from Kathmandu. Fly to the Khumbu area of Nepal, have tea on the veranda of the Everest View Hotel, which offers a superb view of Everest, and fly back an hour later. “By several measures the experience will be astounding, but it is one of the more costly options.”

See more on these six strategies at the JOURNEYS International blog.

Flickr photo by Se7en Summits

Japanese Woman Becomes Oldest To Summit Everest

A 73-year-old Japanese woman by the name of Tamae Watanabe extended her record as the oldest female to climb Mt. Everest when she reached the summit for a second time this past weekend. Watanabe first climbed the world’s tallest mountain a decade ago and that previous record has held up until she decided to raise the bar herself.

Climbing with Asian Trekking, Watanabe scaled the 8848-meter (29,029-foot) mountain from the North Side, which falls inside Chinese controlled Tibet. She topped out, along with four other climbers, early Saturday morning after climbing throughout the night. The team spent a brief time enjoying the view from the world’s highest point, before starting their descent back to one of the high camps on the mountain. The following day Watanabe and her teammates all proceeded back down to Base Camp, where they are now preparing to head home after spending nearly two months on the expedition.

As we mentioned over the weekend, Saturday was summit day on Everest and as predicted, the climbers went to the summit in droves. The weather did take a turn for the worse late in the day on Saturday, however, and high winds forced a number of teams to retreat back down the mountain. Most of the remaining climbers are moving into position to take advantage of a second weather window that is expected to open later this week.

Incidentally, the distinction for being the oldest person to climb Everest belongs to Min Bahadur Sherchan, a Nepali man who was 76 years old when he reached the summit back in 2008.

[Photo credit: AP]

2012 Summit Day Begins On Everest

It will be a very busy day today at the top of the world. After months of planning and weeks of preparation, today is the day that the climbers on Everest will begin heading up to the summit en masse. For most it will be the culmination of a lifelong dream to climb the highest mountain on Earth, for others it will simply be the latest climb in their pursuit of mountaineering greatness.

The road to a successful summit of Mt. Everest in May actually begins in March. That’s when teams of mountaineers first arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal, and start to make their way out to the remote Himalayan peak. If they’re climbing the most common route, from the South Side, they’ll first have to make an 8- to 10-day trek to Base Camp. They can also elect to climb from the North, which is generally less crowded, but in order to get there they’ll first have to cross the border into Tibet. Once they’ve made that crossing, however, they can actually reach BC by car.

After they’ve settled into their respective Base Camp, the process of acclimatization begins. By making a series of climbs up and down the mountain, going a little higher each time, the climbers prepare their bodies for the challenges of dealing with altitude. Slowly but surely they adjust to breathing less oxygen as they hone their technical skills and keep an eye on the weather. The climbers know they need the perfect window of opportunity to reach the summit, as misjudging the conditions can be fatal.That is where most teams have been for the past week or so. With their acclimatization completed, the climbers have been watching the forecast and waiting for high winds to die down just long enough to allow access to the top. That happened yesterday, which allowed the all-important Sherpa guides to complete their work of fixing the ropes to the summit. While they were busy doing just that, a talented team of Chilean climbers blitzed past them and nabbed the first successful summits of the season.

Now, with the ropes firmly in place, the rest of the climbers can begin heading up as well. Over the next few days, several hundred climbers will reach the top of the mountain from both the North and the South Sides. With a little luck they’ll all get up and down safely. After nearly two months away from home, they’ll be eager to pack up and get back to their lives.

[Photo Credit: BabaSteve via WikiMedia]

First Climbers Arriving In Everest Base Camp Today

The 2012 climbing season on Mt. Everest officially gets underway today when the first climbers begin to arrive in Base Camp on the south side of the mountain. They’ll spend the next six weeks or so acclimatizing on the slopes of the world’s tallest peak before attempting to climb up to the 8848-meter (29,029-foot) summit.

Mountaineers first began arriving in Kathmandu, the gateway to the Himalaya, at the end of March. After spending a few days preparing their gear and completing their planning, they slowly began to filter out to the various mountains that they’ll be climbing in the weeks ahead. Most will go to Everest, which requires an eight- to 10-day trek through the Khumbu Valley culminating with their arrival in Base Camp. When they do arrive they’ll find that the Sherpa teams have already been hard at work building the tent city that will serve as home for the next few weeks.

The Sherpa guides have also been busy preparing the route up the South Col of the mountain. Not only have they already built a route through the dangerous Khumbu Icefall, the most deadly section of the climb, but also they’ve fixed ropes up to the first high camp located at 6065 meters (19,900 feet). That will allow climbers to continue their all-important acclimatization process as they prepare their bodies for the challenges of high altitude.

While the south side of Everest, located in Nepal, is the most popular route for climbers, some prefer to make their attempt from the north side, which is found inside Chinese controlled Tibet. The approach from that side of the mountain is no less challenging although it is typically less crowded and less expensive. Mountaineers can skip the hike to Base Camp as well, as it is possible to drive straight to the starting point. The first teams are expected to arrive on the north side over the next few days.

Spring is considered the best time to climb Everest as the weather is more predictable and conditions more stable. After the climbers have spent several weeks climbing up and down the mountain, letting their bodies adapt to the conditions, they’ll wait for a weather window to open that will allow them to go to the summit. When that window opens they’ll head to the top en masse with dozens, if not hundreds, of climbers standing on the world’s tallest point over the course of just a few days.