Today we had an early wake up in order to get to the airport for what was scheduled as a 7:35 am flight to Lukla, where our trek begins. Once at the airport it quickly became apparent that there were no flights in or out of Lukla due to a very low ceiling and less than an eighth of a mile visibility. This airport is considered one of the most dangerous in the world due to the combination of it’s elevation (9334’), length of runway (1729’) slope of runway (11.7 deg gradient), and a steep drop off at the approach end of the runway.
Since there were no flights to Lukla, the departure terminal quickly became a crowded hub of anxious trekkers who were concerned about how the unknown delays could affect their plans for the weeks ahead. There were no flights the previous day either, so there was a large backlog of folks needing to get on a plane. For our part we immediately began to weigh options. After awhile the weather had lifted enough for helicopters, so we exchanged our tickets and reserved a helo.
We finally lifted of around noon and landed an hour later where we were met by our guides Kalden Sherpa, Nigma Sange, and Tsering Dorjee Sherpa. After a quick lunch, we were finally hiking around 2pm. With the late start, our head guide, Kalden, determined that we would hike to the village of Phakding for our first night. Although a bit shorter than originally planned, we were finally on the trail!
Although the days ahead will feature some significant elevation gain, during today’s hike we actually descended from 9334’ to 8539’. It was a bit overcast and rainy, but we were all very happy to be on our way. We passed through many Nepal villages and got to see and experience this fascinating culture up close. Finally around 6pm we entered Phakding and found our lodging for the night, the Royal Sherpa Resort… although not “royal” or a “resort,” it was comfortable, had good food, and the opportunity for a good night’s sleep.