More than 2000 travelers remain stranded in the Himalaya after bad weather moved into the region earlier this week. High winds and thick cloud cover have conspired to cut off all flights back to Kathmandu, leaving the high altitude trekkers with an unexpected extended stay in the mountains.
Most of the travelers were returning from treks in the Khumbu Region of Nepal, which includes hikes up to Everest Base Camp, located at 17,600 feet. Those treks generally begin and end in Lukla, a small and remote village in the Himalaya, which sits at an altitude of roughly 9100 feet, and offers the only true airport in the region. That airport is little more than a runway that runs up the side of the mountain, and is widely considered to be amongst the most dangerous in the world. The already tricky approach to the village becomes impossible when you add bad weather to the equation.
Fortunately, help began arriving yesterday when the Nepali army sent helicopters to Lukla to start evacuating some of the stranded travelers back to Kathmandu. Their helicopters perform much better in the poor weather conditions and offer plenty of lift to get the trekkers and their gear out of the Himalaya safely. With so many travelers waiting for a ride however, it’ll take a few days before everyone is back in the capital.
Having visited Lukla this past spring, I can’t even imagine where all of these trekkers are staying at the moment. While it is one of the larger villages in the Khumbu Valley, that isn’t saying a whole lot. There are a number of good teahouses to stay in there, but the rooms fill up quickly, and generally it is a very transient place, with adventure travelers coming and going on a regular basis. With 2000 trekkers in the village, it must be one very busy and crowded place.