The flight to Lukla in the Everest Region is one of the most thrilling experiences. Apart from the stunning vista of +8000m peaks and snowy Himalayan ranges, the heart racing touchdown and take-off experience at the airport runway (which is perched on a cliff) is guaranteed to give one goosebumps. No wonder the Tenzing Hillary airport has made it as one of the “World’s Thrilling Airports.” According to a report on CNNGO, Airfarewatchdog.com has compiled a list of the world’s most thrilling airports and Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla is one of them.
The runway at Tenzing-Hillary Airport (pic: EH archive)
The Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla was built in 1964 at the initiative of the Himalayan Trust to ease the transportation of cargo and building materails for the trust's educational projects in Everest Region. Prior to the establishment of the airport, locals as well as trekkers and mountaineers had to make an ardous trek lasting several days from Jiri to reach the Sherpa villages in Everest region. With the building of the airport, life has become much easier for the Khumbu locals as well as tourist visiting the Everest Region. In 2008 Nepal Government named the airport Tenzing-Hillary Airport in honor of Everest heroes and the first climbers to conquer Mount Everest, Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary.
Hirotaka Takeuchi, a Japanese climber, conquered his last of the 14 8000ers, the 8,167m-high Mount Dhaulagiri in Nepal on May 26th. With this achievement he became the first Japanese climber to conquer all the fourteen 8000 metre peaks in the world. According to Nepal Mountaineering Assocaition he is the 30th climber to complete this feat. Takeuchi's effort to climb the world's 14 8000ers began in 1995.
The world's mighty fourteen 8000ers are Mount Everest (8848m),K2 (8611m), Kanchenjunga (8586m),Lhotse(8516m), Makalu(8485m), Cho Oyu(8188m), Dhaulagiri I(8167m), Manaslu(8163m), Nanga parbat(8125Mm), Annapurna I (8091m),GasherbrumI (8080m), Broad Peak (8051m), Gasherbrum II (8034m), Shisapangma (8027m). All these peaks lie in Asia.
A massive chunk of snow and rock – Spire of Dhaulagiri (Pic; Samir Shrestha)
Today, ie, 29th May, 2012 marks the Fifth International Sagarmatha (Everest) Day. The Nepalese Himalayan mountaineering fraternity celebrates this day to mark the first ascent of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa on 29th May, 1953. To celebrate the day Namche Festival is being held in Namche Bazaar in Everest Region and the world’s highest marathon Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon which began from Everest Base Camp is underway. In the capital, various mountaineering and tourism organizations are holding special programs to celebrate the special day.
73 year old Japanese mountaineer Tamae Watanabe successfully reached the summit of Mt. Everest on 19th May (Saturday), 2012 thus becoming the oldest climber/ woman climber to climb the world's tallest peak. She made her summit bid from an altitude of 8,300 meters on Friday night and finally reached the summit in the early hours of the next day. Watanabe had set out for the expedition last month.
Many deaths occur in the high Himalayan mountains due to lack of oxygen. Though mountaineers or their sherpas carry supplementary O2 while climbing, heading up to the summit carrying a heavy load of supplementary O2 canisters is nothing less but cumbersome. Many climbers choose to throw the used canisters away, adding to the litter on the mountain.
According to a report on Explorersweb, Summit Air a Vancouver based company has developed a system where oxygen will be pumped up Mt. Everest from a camp in the Western Cwm above the icefall, enabling mountaineers who reach the South Col to breathe oxygen from a source other than bottled O2. The oxygen pipes used by the company for the system has been developed by NASA and used by astronauts during their space-walks. They have used an advanced form of technology in developing a high pressure pipe for the purpose which remains supple even at -50 C but when punctured by a crampon will self-seal without leaking.
After the pumping station has been set up at the first camp above the icefall, the company will employ sherpas to carry thousands of feet of pipeline up the mountain to the South Col. Once the system comes into operation, climbers will have 24 hour access to breathable oxygen. Those who want to use the system will have to pay for the O2 and a special attachment hose and mask.
It is near impossible to climb Mt. Everest- the highest peak in the world without supplementary oxygen.