Lukla – Gateway to Mount Everest Base Camp
Named after the legendary Mount Everest explorers, the Tenzing Hillary Airport in the town of Lukla is reportedly the third busiest domestic airport in Nepal. It is here that many passengers will start their trek to the Mount Everest Base Camp, and taking a flight from Kathmandu on board one of the small two-engine planes saves hours of travel along bumpy roads on a bus to Jiri, followed by a week-long hike to Lukla. While being the gateway to the Khumbu region and the trail to the Mount Everest Base Camp, Lukla has the reputation of being one of the world’s most dangerous airports, which is not necessarily statistically true – it may just look that way.
The airport runway consists of a thin strip of tarmac lying at twelve degree incline, and the pilot has to battle against prevailing winds rushing in from the surrounding Himalayan Mountains to land with a screeching of brakes bringing the aircraft to a standstill. Take-off is just as hair-raising, with the airplane rushing downhill to where the runway abruptly ends, giving way to the valley below, but thousands of travelers will vouch that this seemingly hit-and-miss experience simply adds to the adventure of trekking in Nepal.
International non-profit organization, Porters’ Progress, runs a ‘clothing bank’ situated on the main street of Lukla, and trekkers can call in there to find a reputable porter to carry their backpacks and act as guide, for a reasonable fee. The blue and yellow printed sign “Everest Clothing Bank” identifies the modest office and store, with another sign reminding visitors that porters are the backbone of trekking in Nepal. Trekkers are asked to consider donating some of their gear to the clothing bank before leaving Lukla. These clothing items are used by the porters who may otherwise be scantily clad for the icy conditions. Porters’ Progress is also involved in research relating to trekking in high altitude destinations and the potential hazards of not acclimatizing en-route. The results of the study can be viewed on the Porters’ Progress official website.
Hiring a porter supports local families, while providing trekkers with an invaluable source of information about the trails they choose to explore. And before heading to Lukla airport for the take-off of a lifetime, lighten your load by donating some of your gear to the Everest Clothing Bank.