A flight to Mount Everest

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Our helicopter (operated by Manang Air) was one of the first to take off at sunrise around 6:20 am from Kathmandu airport. There are many helicopter operators offering tours to see the majestic mountains of Nepal, but there is only a small window in the season to do so. I would recommend going in April or October when the weather is clearest and not that cold.

The first leg is from Kathmandu to Lukla, which took about 40 minutes of flight. On the way, we can see many mountain peaks in the distance, including GauriShanker, Mount Everest, and even Kanchenjunga.

Stop 1. Lukla (9,380ft / 2,860m)

Lukla is the gateway to Mount Everest. There is no road so no car can get there. You can reach Lukla by trekking, STOL fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter. We got there at 7am.

Lukla (9,380 ft / 2,860 m)
During our stop we were offered hot tea/coffee as it was cold before the sun came up the mountain. Captain Vijay Lama and Dr Andreas Hartmann joined me on this trip.

We took off again after refueling and headed up Mount Everest, passing Namche Bazar, Syangboche Airstrip, Khumbu Icefall…

Namche Bazaar (11,290 ft / 3,440 m)
Syangboche Airfield (12,402 ft / 3,780 m)
We continue to climb in the helicopter, as you can see on the GPS it’s red everywhere (terrain!)

Less than a 10 minute flight from Lukla, we got a close look at Mount Everest.

Depending on the angle of view, the mountains can look different and confusing. Some peaks can look even taller than Mount Everest from different angles.
Mount Everest (29,031ft / 8,849m) is the one with the sharp peak with snow blowing at the top.

We were almost at 20,000 feet but Mount Everest was standing really high from where our helicopter was. We were trying to climb to Camp 2 of Mount Everest which is the limit of our helicopter. Unfortunately there was a 20-25 knot gust of crosswind blowing so we couldn’t get anywhere higher than Camp 1.

We had an amazing view of the Khumbu Icefall. Watch my video for pictures. I asked where the Everest camps were but was told there were no camps set up in the fall as it was too cold to climb. The camp will be reset for the spring season.

Video

Stop 2. Kala Patthar (18,519 ft / 5,644 m)

We finally landed at Kala Patthar (18,519ft / 5,644m).
We finally landed at Kala Patthar (18,519ft / 5,644m).

I was taking pictures so frantically and became slightly disoriented. I started using the helicopter’s oxygen supply.

We spent 5 minutes outside while the helicopter kept its rotor on. It was the highest altitude I have ever set foot on.

Our next stop is pristine Gokyo Lake. Along the way we saw the highest glacier in the world, the Khumbu Glacier and we flew over the Cho La pass (17,782ft / 5,420m).

Khumbu Glacier – The highest glacier in the world

The helicopter pilot told me that the rule is to keep flying left to give way to other vehicles. As the valley is cleared, he flies right towards Gokyo Lake. I’m really amazed at how close we fly to such mountainous terrain. Watch all the flight action on my video.

Stop 3. Gokyo Ri (17,575ft / 5,357m)

Gokyo Ri (17,575 ft / 5,357 m)

After a brief stop on the lake, we head to the highest hotel in the world, the Everest view hotel for breakfast.

Stop 4. Hotel Everest View (12,729ft / 3,880m)

View of Everest from the hotel (12,729 ft / 3,880 m)

Stop 5. Lukla (9,380ft / 2,860m)

After breakfast, we flew to Lukla. The light on the Lukla track is excellent now. It was a totally clear day.

Helicopters not only bring in tourists, they also carry goods and bring sick and tired hikers down the mountain daily. Once the cargo arrives, donkeys are used to transport it to the mountain villages.

Planespotting at the most dangerous airport in the world;  Lukla
Planespotting at the most dangerous airport in the world; Lukla

The trip was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.

Our trip

After spending 40 minutes in Lukla, we returned to Kathmandu. There is nothing like it in the landscape.

There is no difficulty in doing this trip compared to several days of trekking. The helicopter is providing oxygen but we really stayed at 20,000 feet for a few minutes.

The whole trip took about 5 hours. The cost to do this is around $1200 per person sharing the helicopter. ($3300-$3500 per helicopter with 4 seats)

Way Point of our helicopter flight:

  1. Kathmandu (4,390 ft / 1,338 m)
  2. Lukla (9,380 ft / 2,860 m)
  3. Namche Bazaar (11,290 ft / 3,440 m)
  4. Syangboche (12,402 ft / 3,780 m)
  5. Khumbu Icefall (17,999 ft / 5,486 m)
  6. Mount Everest (29,031 ft / 8,849 m)
  7. Kala Patthar (18,519ft / 5,644m)
  8. Cho La Pass (17,782 ft / 5,420 m)
  9. Gokyo Ri (17,575 ft / 5,357 m)
  10. View of Everest from the hotel (12,729 ft / 3,880 m)
  11. Lukla (9,380 ft / 2,860 m)
  12. Kathmandu (4,390 ft / 1,338 m)

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