The trek out to Everest Base Camp follows two main routes -- from Xin Dingri via the wretchedly poor village of Chay, and from Lao Dingri via Lungjiang. The former route (113km/70 miles) is usually traveled by 4WD in 3 hours along a much-improved road. The latter is a tough 3- to 4-day journey, and the path is hard to follow in places. Gary McCue's Trekking in Tibet is a reliable guide for this route and for other hikes in the Qomolangma Nature Preserve. At ¥400 per jeep plus another ¥180 per person (plus the guide which passengers must also pay for), the permit price matches the steepness of the mountain. Tickets can be purchased at Xin Dingri and Lao Dingri. There are also basic rooms at Rongbuk Monastery (¥80) and a new(ish) guesthouse (tel. 0892/890-6404) next door which charges a ridiculous ¥300 for its simple rooms without bathrooms. The best place to experience the mountain is to spend the night in a black tent at Base Camp (¥40 per person) at an elevation of 5,150m (16,890 ft.). The "real" Base Camp with real expeditions and mountaineers is 4km (2 1/2 miles) farther on; there are buses which cost ¥25 round trip or you can walk it in around an hour although even a simple stroll can be challenging above 5,000m (16,404ft.).
The exact height of Mount Everest is still a fiercely contended subject, and varies from 8,844m to 8,848m (29,015ft.-29,029ft.), depending on whether the icecap is included. Although the mountain is still growing, its icecap looks set to continue shrinking, which will doubtless keep the protagonists busy over the coming years. However, a few yards is invisible to the naked eye and on a clear day it presents an astounding vista. Insistence on the use of Qomolangma (Zhumulangma) rather than Mount Everest to label the world's highest peak would have pleased Sir George Everest, who staunchly believed in using local place-names.