Mount Everest, the mother of all mountains. In our own small way we are following in the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
As we fly on our tiny plane through the Himalaya's from Kathmandu to Lukla in Nepal, we can't help but feel a little giddy. Legends have had to take this exact flight en-route to summiting Mount Everest during their expeditions. While we are not going to reach the summit ourselves, we are trekking to Everest Base Camp. The place where all the great high altitude mountaineers of the world make their camp while they acclimatize for weeks on end before their final push to the top of the world's highest mountain.
One half hour into the flight the white peaks of the Himalayas come into view on the left. It is a thrill made even more thrilling by the fact that we are flying in a 14 seat twin otter plane between these mammoth peaks.
See the flight to Lukla from Kathmandu
Read about the entire flight at: Flight to Lukla, One adventurous Thrill Ride
Dave and I sit at the front and we have a first hand view of the pilot and co pilot at work. They fly with finesse. They turn knobs and adjust gauges. When the the plane leans to the left a little too much, I see the captain spin a dial beside his seat to level us out. These are some the the greatest pilots on earth flying daily through difficult conditions. We feel in good hands when we hit some turbulence. The little tin box is tossed around in the air and my palms get sweaty, but I see the smile on the captain's face as he holds the plane steady and I feel more comfortable knowing he is not worrying. In a minute or so it is over and we see the Lukla airstrip in the distance.
The Tenzing-Hillary airport stands at an altitude of 2800 metres in the middle of the Himalayas. It is a short landing strip built at a steep grade to slow the planes down quickly. It is needed too because if you don't stop, you are going straight into a mountain. It is not the landing I am nervous about as much as having to take off in 2 weeks time. It looks terrifying, but I don't have to think about that for a while.
We have just taken our thrill ride of a lifetime and we are only at the beginning of our adventure of a lifetime!
No time to stop and think about what we are about to do though. Once we land, we have to trek for 3 hours to Phakding our first stop on the trail. So after a quick breakfast we are off.
We have been awake since 4:00 am.
It is awe inspiring to be surrounded by the Himalayas. Our guide Dipendra points out jagged white peaks named Kwangde, Mumbu and Kishumkongara (of course I am spelling them all wrong as I write their names in my journal as best I can) At 6000 + metres, these are the “little guys” of the world's highest mountain range.
We decided to hire a guide and porter for our Everest Base Camp trek. Several days are spent at over 5000 meters and as Bobby from Fort Lauderdale pointed out, “why not enjoy the trek and support the local economy?” Nobody is going to say, “yeah, but did you carry your own bag when you went to Everest?”
We also had the added bonus of making great new friends in Dipendra and Sher. We learned a lot about local customs and tradition and enjoyed excellent conversations. We instantly took a liking to Dip and Sher. Sher is a sweet man with a soft smile and Dip is an entrepreneur with 10 years of guiding under his belt.
Having Dip explain things to us not only makes our Everest visit an adventure, it also makes it spiritual. We feel the life that Everest nurtures and provides for as we watch porters and local people alike walk to the right of the boulders covered in sacred text. They respect the mountain and keep to traditions. Walking to the right of the prayers keeps you in the right hand of God. They spin prayer wheels saying the mantra Om mani padne Hum giving blessings to the climb ahead. Mount Everest has taken many a life and it even in a trek to Base Camp which isn't nearly as dangerous as the climb itself, it is still wise to respect this mountain at every point of the trek.
It is going to be a beautiful trip.