There are two base camps on opposite sides of Mt. Everest – located at an altitude of 17,600 feet is the South Base Camp in Nepal; and at altitude of 17,090 feet is the North Base Camp in Tibet. The South Base Camp is used when climbing via the southeast ridge, while North Base Camp is used when climbing via the northeast ridge. Although the mention of an Everest base camp may sound glorious, the camps are actually rudimentary, usually consisting of long lines of tents with food, blankets, and light. There’s even some bits of rubbish, accumulated over decades, and spoiling the otherwise majestic scenery.
Supplies are carried to the camps by sherpas as well as with help of animals. The North Base Camp has vehicle access (at least in the summer months). Climbers typically rest at the base camp for several days acclimate themselves to the altitude. A visit to the North Base Camp (on the Tibet side) requires a permit from the Chinese government. This is in addition to the traveler’s visa required to visit Tibet itself. Such permits are generally arranged via travel companies in Lhasa, the capital, typically as part of a travel package that includes hiring a vehicle, a driver, and a translator. Road access to the North Base Camp may be obtained from a road branching to the South from the Friendship Highway. The trek to Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side is one of the most popular trekking routes in the Himalayas and is visited by thousands of trekkers each year, most of whom have no intention of climbing to the summit. For them, the base camp is the final destination.