Got to airport at 5:30, they opened the gates at 6:30 and we were told to come back a few hours later. The photo at top and video above of departing flights in the morning offered significant hope that plenty of planes will be coming in today. And, then, leaving with happy, tired trekkers. But it’s getting into Lukla that’s the hard part, landing at the world’s most extreme airport. Even in the morning video you can see the clouds coming in. And after a confusing series of back and forth discussions in which we were pushed back and shuffled in 3-card-monty style throughout the day, repeatedly informed that “there’s a system,” we’re still here. And we’re socked in (I love that phrase for some reason. Get used to it.).
Tenzing-Hillary airport’s runway is 1,500 feet long, 4,500 feet short of the standard length for small- to medium-sized aircraft. It makes up for this deficiency at an altitude of over 9,000 feet with a 12% grade slowing landings and speeding up takeoffs. After committing to landing, there’s no going back, as there’s a mountain rising out of the other end of the runway. Which you don’t want to hit.
The weather here changes quickly, as notable by the photo later in the day included here, stopping all traffic. Airport closed, go change your ticket, come back tomorrow. Have a nice day.
Since pilots coming in need to cut through high, narrow valleys and identify the runway by sight, circle a couple times if they can’t see it and then head back to Kathmandu if conditions aren’t perfect, conditions need to be pretty sparkling.
In short, no exit for us today, but high hopes for tomorrow. Cross your fingers. In the meantime, we’ll eat veg noodles, play cards, and try not to be cold.