24 Aug 2020 Peak Climbing Nepal
While most of the trekker’s overcome days long climb on a rugged trail, others simply choose to fly in and out of Everest Base Camp. That being said, every trekker takes at least a flight to the closest airport to Mount Everest as it’s a gateway to the Everest region.
This costs them just a few bucks and a total travel time of 45 minutes from Kathmandu. Tenzing-Hillary Airport also popular as Lukla Airport is the nearest airstrip to both Everest Base Camp and Mount Everest.
It’s certainly not the best airfield in the country with no airside shops and cafe stores. And yet, Lukla airport is one of its kind with a picturesque view of the Himalayan ranges, sweeping landscapes, and verdure.
Travelers onboard are usually surprised by wild animals playing around Sagarmatha National Park. A sneak-peek outside the window will help them catch the breathtaking scenery of cascading waterfalls, luscious meadows, and beautifully designed Tibetan monasteries.
Tenzing Hillary Airport is one of the busiest domestic airports in Nepal with travelers flowing down from all over the world. It’s the prime access to the Khumbu region and inlet to Everest. Hence each trekker flies the closest airport to Mount Everest or takes a drive up to Jiri and scrambles uphill for about five days to reach Lukla.
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Opened more than 5 decades ago, Tenzing-Hillary airport is the only airstrip in Lukla.It was made in 1964 by Sir Edmund Hillary, a mountaineer, and philanthropist from New Zealand. He was the one who acknowledged the urgent need for an airfield in the region and decided to construct it on his own.
The Kiwi initially approached local farmers to trade their plain field so that he could build the airport. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well with the Sherpa so he had to dump the plan and get the runway made in a new location. Back then, it cost him US$2,650 to purchase that big acre of land.
Edmund subsequently lured Sherpa with a liquor to do foot-stomping on the land and make it evenly flat. Professional aviators used the unpaved runway for as many as 37 years before an asphalt concrete was finally laid on the surface.
As of now, the airstrip serves twin-turboprop and single-engined utility aircraft including fixed-wing, Dornier do 228, and The narrow runway of Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter. Most of the aircraft that lands on Tenzing Hillary airstrip is a short-take-off-and-landing flight due to its small runway.
The airstrip is only 1,500 ft, long and 65 ft, wide with a gradient of 12% north to south. At one end of the airstrip, there’s an adjoined cliff with a 2000 foot drop while the other end has a rock-solid stone wall.
Given the dramatic ascent and steep path, pilots landing at Lukla airport needs special training. They have to make a sharp turn at places with no strong visibility and also make a quick landing when the weather’s bad.
Tenzing Hillary airport lacks night operations and navigation aids, following which pilots have to use their skills while flying over terrains and mountains. Take-offs and landings need precision on the tyne runway of Lukla airport.
A gateway for Mount Everest, Lukla airport is 85 miles far-off from Kathmandu. It’s perched on a cliff at an elevation of 2,485 meters above sea level in eastern Nepal. A vast majority of flights taking down the Lukla airport leaves from Tribhuvan International airport.
It takes around 40-45 minutes for the aircraft to reach the runaway during which it offers an awe-inspiring view of snow peaks and canyons. Travelers who have made the trek through an agency will get a narration from a tour guide.
They provide detailed information about every significant place that holds great importance and mark the main snow peaks. Starting in Lukla, the trek passes many quaint villages, an ancient Tibetan monastery, flooding rivers, and hills to reach Everest Base Camp.
The trek distance from Lukla to Base Camp is 38.58 miles, most of which walks on rugged routes and upward sloping hills. Walking through the forest is arguably more fun throughout the trip as it rewards fresh air, dense shade, and a glimpse of wild animals.
Unfortunately, trekkers do not get to relish it after climbing above Base Camp as the trail is full of snow. The trek route passes deep crevasse, steep glaciers, and seracs which is extremely tough to prevail over.
The trek distance from Base Camp to Summit is just 20.5 km and yet, it takes mountaineers a month or more to ascend the summit. They initially make their way from Lukla airport to Namche and Dingboche in order to arrive at the base camp. From there, they gently ascend their way up to the summit through ice sheets and rocks.
As the closest airport to Mount Everest, Lukla airport is quite often visited by travelers for an obvious reason. With the likes of Mount Everest, the airfield has seen an incredible number of visitors flying to the airport in recent years.Every year thousands of trekkers wing their way to Tenzing-Hillary Airport just to hike Everest Base Camp. Some of these hikers go beyond and ascend the icefalls and rock to reach the peak. The airstrip is usually crowded during the prime trekking season while the offseason has a least visitor.
Autumn and spring host a maximum number of trekkers, providing warm weather, and great visibility. Both seasons have fewer delays and cancellations of flight since the weather favors flyers.
A small town of as few as 500 population, Lukla is the starting point for Everest Base Camp Trek. Thus every traveler has to fly to the nearest airstrip perched on a steep rock face in Lukla to climb base camp. Otherwise, they’ll have to make a five days uphill hike from Jiri to Lukla.
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The flight fare of Tenzing Hillary Airport depends on what flight service you choose. Chartered private planes normally cost more than the regular flights due to luxe amenities. The cost of flight to Lukla airport from Kathmandu is anywhere from US$175 to US$180 depending on the service.
The domestic airlines only allow a total weight of 15 kg while traveling to Tenzing Hillary Airport. You have to get all the mountaineering equipment and gear on luggage weighing 10 kg and carry the rest of the essentials on a handbag. If the weight exceeds 10 kg, you’ll be charged with an extra amount.