Island Peak Team Arrives in the Khumbu
Early this morning we loaded all of our gear up and drove through the slowly waking streets streets of Kathmandu to the airport for our flight to the mountains. Arriving well before sun up we found the airport bustling with sleepy but anxious trekkers. Four days of bad weather had prevented any flights from getting to Lukla, the gateway to the Khumbu, and people were understandably frustrated from spending day after day at the airport waiting to fly. But thankfully for us, the weather chose to break this morning and we walked straight through the waiting area and onto one of the first flights to Lukla. Our mountain flight, in a small twin otter designed for STOL runways - Short Take Off Landing - was amazingly smooth and we had gorgeous views of the Himalaya as we flew eastward from Kathmandu to the Everest Region.
Landing in Lukla is always, well, exciting. A narrow strip of asphalt, the Lukla airport is built straight into the hillside, perched at angle of 10 degrees or so, and only a couple of hundred meters long. As you approach all that is visible over the pilots’ shoulders is a rapidly approaching mountainside before the strip appears below the wheels, the plane touches down and comes to a screaming halt, all in the the span of a few football fields.
We left the busy, congested streets of Kathmandu, flew past some of the world’s greatest peaks, and landed on a narrow mountain airstrip in the heart of the Himalaya, all by 8:30 in the morning! In Lukla we stepped from the plane right onto the stone lined footpaths of the Khumbu where the trekking begins. We took advantage of the time needed to unload the plane and finalize our bags to enjoy a cup of tea and pasty from the local bakery while admiring the stunning mountains around us.
By midmorning we were on the trail, with the sun shining and a few clouds hanging amongst the highest mountains, making their summits appear to float in the sky above us. We made our way along the long, gradual descending traverse from the mountainside village of Lukla to the bottom of the Khumbu Valley along the banks of the Dudh Kosi. The trail took us along lines of neatly stacked stone walls between fields of wheat, lettuce and cabbage, through little villages tucked between the mountains and the river, and past banks of prayer wheels and stacks of mani stones - stone tablets engraved with Buddhist prayers. While the walking is quite benign, the surroundings are overwhelming with the combination of soaring peaks and fascinating Sherpa life that has carved a rich culture into these mountains. The group was thrilled to finally be here and walking after so many days of travel and moved very well today, taking to the trails easily and taking advantage of the great weather to snap plenty of photos.
Tonight we are staying in a small teahouse in Phakding on the banks of the Dudh Kosi - meaning milky river due to its silky blue/white color from the glacial sediment it carries. Tomorrow we climb from the valley floor to the trading center of Namche Bazaar where yak trains from Tibet bring in goods to exchange with the Sherpa and Nepalis of the surrounding area.
The teams sends their best to everyone back home. We will check in from Namche tomorrow.
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March 25, 2010
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