AsiaNepalLukla

Day 175 (1): Scary Flight

Lukla Travel Blog

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take off

Without any warning the plane nose-dived into the clouds. I looked out the window and saw that we were flying awfully close to the mountain on the left. In fact, we were flying awfully close to the mountain on the right as well. The plane dove into the mountains through a small crest, down into the Dudh Koshi valley.

The flight to Lukla is considered by many as one of the scariest in the world and I have to admit that 'many' isn't joking. My God, I thought I have experienced some scary flights before (landing in Ushuaia, Argentina comes to mind), but those flights pale in comparison with this!
As our small beechcraft 14-seater plane plunged steeply into the clouds (I'm sure I read somewhere once that aircraft are supposed to stay out of clouds, especially in mountainous areas) I wondered just what I was doing up here.

Stunning views during the flight


Many years ago I met an English guy in Chile, who had been raving about Nepal. We ended up doing a trek through Chilean Patagonia together and during this trek he told me about this wonderful three-week trek in Nepal, the Annapurna circuit. I figured I had to get to Nepal some day and do that trek.
Well, it took me a while to reach Nepal, but here I am. However, I am not doing the Annapurna circuit. When preparing my trip I was approached by someone on Travbuddy trying to get a group together to do a trek to Everest Base Camp, which sounded quite intriguing to me. However, I didn't want to commit myself to such a thing at the time, because first of all, I wasn't sure just when I would arrive in Nepal and secondly, I wasn't sure if I could actually do (or wanted to do) a 14-day trek.
Mountains coming a little too close for comfort
My body is not really designed for prolonged walks - I have weak ankles and knees, so I was hesitant to commit myself to such an undertaking.

On our planned trip to Ladakh Ed and I were going to do an 8-day trek and I wanted to see how that went first before I would commit to a 14-day or longer trek in Nepal. Well, with Ladakh getting cancelled because of the flooding, I figured I simply had to do a trek in Nepal now. Just which one, that still begged the question.

I had spoken to many people in the months before Nepal and all gave me a different advice. Annapurna is supposed to be more beautiful, while Everest is more crowded and touristy. Yet in the end I decided on Everest after all. Firstly because (according to some) it is easier. It is basically a walk up. I can do up. I can't do long distances that well, but climbing to altitude is generally no issue for me.
The tiny runway at Lukla Airport
Secondly because, well, hey, it's Everest! I mean, when you come back from Nepal and people ask you where you've been, chances are they stare at you blankly when you mention Annapurna. On the other hand, mention Everest and people will think you are the king (no need to mention I am not going further than Base Camp, at 5300 metres, rather than the summit at 8848m).

So this is how I ended up on the scariest flight ever. Lukla is Nepal's third busiest airport, despite having only a single 500m runway and can only hold up to four planes at a time. The airport is notorious for its difficult approach in between two mountain ridges, which is often hampered by mist. Needless to say a flight here is not without risk. Less than a month ago a plane crashed while approaching the runway, killing all 16 people aboard. I didn't find out about this until ten minutes before boarding. Not the best news you want to hear before boarding a small aircraft.
You can imagine that I was happy when my feet finally touched the ground again.

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take off
take off
Stunning views during the flight
Stunning views during the flight
Mountains coming a little too clos…
Mountains coming a little too clo…
The tiny runway at Lukla Airport
The tiny runway at Lukla Airport
Checking in with Agni air
Checking in with Agni air
Ready for take-off. I could still …
Ready for take-off. I could still…
The cockpit door remained open thr…
The cockpit door remained open th…
Stunning views during the flight
Stunning views during the flight
Stunning views during the flight
Stunning views during the flight
Stunning views during the flight
Stunning views during the flight
Stunning views during the flight
Stunning views during the flight
Stunning views during the flight
Stunning views during the flight
Into the clouds we go
Into the clouds we go
Soaring above the Himalayan foothi…
Soaring above the Himalayan footh…
Glad to feel ground beneath my fee…
Glad to feel ground beneath my fe…
Welcome to Lukla
"Welcome to Lukla"
Lukla
photo by: halilee