Everest Basecamp

We started our trip by flying from Kathmandu, Nepal to a small village named Lukla. The previous week, a similar flight (same route and airline) crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all its 17 passengers. Suffice to say, we were quite nervous.

Our luggage being loaded on the DHC-6 Twin Otter 19-passenger Canadian-made plane we took to Lukla.

Lukla is a small town in eastern Nepal right at the foot of the famous Mount Everest. Before the existence of an airport, Lukla can only be reached by road traveling from Kathmandu to Jiri and five day hiking from Jiri to Lukla through rugged hill. The airport was named the 'Tenzing-Hillary Airport' - after the first two men who climbed Mt. Everest.

The airport is situated in the Himalayas at 9000 feet above sea level. This high altitude often causes difficulty for the pilot to control landing speed of the plane. The runway is a short and sloppy asphalt strip. It is only 1,500 feet long and 65 feet wide with a gradient of 12% from north to south. Due to its size, it can only accommodate small airplane and helicopters.

The topography of the place makes any go-around impossible. At the south, the runway is the end of an angled drop of about 2000 feet. This cliff is fenced off as a precautionary measure. At the northern end of the runway there is a huge mountain terrain. It leaves no room for error.

The weather is highly unpredictable and can suddenly change by minute. Fog, high wind and cloud are common. Low visibility often causes flight delay or non-operation of the airport. Flights were delayed for 5 days the week before so we were quite relieved that everything went well.

The landing plane comes from the north to the south of the runway, so the plane will have go round the mountain and land on an uphill runway. Being uphill helps stop the aircraft before it hits the fence and falls into the steeply cliff. Pilot has to reserve propeller even before touch down. There is a possibility that a plane could fly too low due to a false visual perception. Any mistake in the approach procedure will result in either the plane crashing the mountain or falling into the cliff .

We started our trek by walking along the river to Phakding. Phakding is a village in Khumbu. It is located between Lukla and Monju. It's located at 2652m.

Yak, naks (female yaks), and dzos (yak/cattle cross) are used to carry heavy loads of raw materials, food, and trekker packs throughout the trails.

Dorche and Dukes, our assistant guide and porter, blaze ahead on the trail to do the paperwork at the checkpoints.

Our first view of Mt. Everest on our way to Sherpa capital, Namche, at 2800m.

RJ on route to Namche.

Etienne, from Barnstable UK, leads to way as we pass by other trekkers.

Another viewpoint of Everest on the way to Namche.

Dukes (one of our porters), Etienne, and I standing in front of one of many bridges we had to cross.

Each porter takes the big packs of 2 trekkers. Dukes leads the way. On the way to Namche, we climbed up 800 vertical meters.

Steel cable bridges connected the trail at many key areas.

Neil and Theresa Pitkin (on their quest to travel the world) crossing a rope bridge. Their teddy bears followed them where ever they went.

There they are.

The view over the bridge.

100m long waterfalls caress the sides of the mountains.

Etienne and RJ cross another bridge.

Visit their blog at http://pitkinsaroundtheworld.com/

RJ stands in front of the highest rope-bridge we'll be walking aross.

Prayer flags line the bridge.

Sanskrit prayers are written on the flags. The wind takes their message and spreads them to the gods.

Walking (well, dance-walking) to music always gave us some extra motivation.

At about 3000m, you begin to reach low-altitude clouds.

These girls yelled 'Photo! Photo!" at me as I walked pass.

Arrived to Namche - Although no more than a village, the Sherpa capital has two museums, several internet cafes, and, at last count, two pizza houses and three cafes (locally known as bakeries).

We had an acclimatization day at Namche. This involved us walking up 300m, staying at that altitude for 30 minutes, and relaxing the rest of the day. This was meant to get our bodies ready for the lower oxygen levels at high altitudes.

At 3440m, Namche has some beautiful views of snow-capped mountains.

Namche's helipad and elementary school.

The entire birds-eye view of Namche from our 3600m acclimatization point.

Frozen rivers down the mountains.

At the top of our acclimatization point.

At the same level as the clouds.

We decided to do a quick trip over to the neighbouring village, Khumjung.

Aw.

During cloudy days, many mountains become fully hidden.

On our way to see the famous Yeti scalp in Khumjung.

Nima (our porter) talks to a Sherpa child while leading us to the Yeti skull.

An explanation of the Yeti skull.

...the Yeti skull.

Stone tablets engraved with Sanskrit prayers line the walls along the paths.

Donations are made for tablet restoration projects.

We began looking for rocks to take dramatic photos.



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