Plane Crash Kills 19 In Nepal

A plane bound for the infamous Lukla airport in Nepal crashed yesterday, killing all 19 people on board. It is believed that the aircraft struck a bird shortly after takeoff from Kathmandu, resulting in the crash minutes later. This is the sixth such accident in the past two years, calling into question the level of air safety in the country.

The plane, operated by Sita Air, set off with 16 passengers and three crewmembers for the Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, which is the starting point for trekkers hiking to Everest Base Camp. Shortly after departure, the air traffic controllers noticed an erratic maneuver by the aircraft and when contacted by radio the pilot indicated that they had struck a vulture. The plane was attempting to safely return to Kathmandu when it went down.

Reports indicate that there were seven passengers aboard from both the U.K. and Nepal, while the other five people were Chinese nationals. Most were there on holiday and were preparing to trek in the Himalaya Mountains.

Over the past two years, 120 people have been killed in similar accidents throughout the region. Most were either on their way to or from the airport in Lukla at the time. According to the BBC, Nepalese Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has vowed to improve safety and prevent similar accidents from happening in the future, although he has not outlined exactly how he intends to improve safety just yet.

Having made that same flight a few years back, I can tell you that it is a beautiful journey into the mountains, but most of the planes look like they’ve seen their better days. At the height of the trekking season, which is just getting underway now, aircraft are constantly in and out of Lukla. That means that there are dozens of similar flights all day long, weather permitting.

Hopefully the Nepalese government will introduce a more stringent maintenance and inspection process to prevent similar problems in the future.

[Photo credit: Associated Press]

Everest Encounter Possible A Number Of Ways

Climbing Mt. Everest is often a lifetime achievement for many travelers. Each spring, some of the most adventurous, daring and physically fit among us attempt the risky undertaking. But summiting is not the only way to experience the highest peak on the planet. One eco-travel company suggests Everest travel strategies that can considerably lower the danger, cost, time or exertion required of summit-focused mountaineers.

“Seeing Everest from any perspective is a thrill,” JOURNEYS International founder Dr. Will Weber said in his blog recently, outlining 6 strategies for a personal Everest encounter.

1. Trek to the Everest base camp in Nepal. Takes eight days of hiking to reach the pinnacle viewpoint of the peak from an 18,200-foot, non-climbing vantage point.

2. Drive to the north slope of Everest in Tibet. Drive from Lhasa to Kathmandu in five days.

3. Trek to the Arun Valley of East Nepal. 12 days takes travelers to a high ridge between Everest and Kangchenjunga where they will have breathtaking views of four of the five highest mountains in the world.

4. Fly the Everest Flightseeing trip from Kathmandu. A comfortable pressurized aircraft virtually guarantees a peak-level view of Everest.

5. Fly on commercial, scheduled jet aircraft service between Kathmandu and Paro, Bhutan; Lhasa, Tibet; or Bangkok, Thailand. Odds are the plane will fly right over Everest but “bring a peak profile image to identify the mountain for yourself and your seatmates,” says Weber. “Views are brief and usually only available on one side of the plane.”

6. Hire a helicopter from Kathmandu. Fly to the Khumbu area of Nepal, have tea on the veranda of the Everest View Hotel, which offers a superb view of Everest, and fly back an hour later. “By several measures the experience will be astounding, but it is one of the more costly options.”

See more on these six strategies at the JOURNEYS International blog.

Flickr photo by Se7en Summits

2012 Summit Day Begins On Everest

It will be a very busy day today at the top of the world. After months of planning and weeks of preparation, today is the day that the climbers on Everest will begin heading up to the summit en masse. For most it will be the culmination of a lifelong dream to climb the highest mountain on Earth, for others it will simply be the latest climb in their pursuit of mountaineering greatness.

The road to a successful summit of Mt. Everest in May actually begins in March. That’s when teams of mountaineers first arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal, and start to make their way out to the remote Himalayan peak. If they’re climbing the most common route, from the South Side, they’ll first have to make an 8- to 10-day trek to Base Camp. They can also elect to climb from the North, which is generally less crowded, but in order to get there they’ll first have to cross the border into Tibet. Once they’ve made that crossing, however, they can actually reach BC by car.

After they’ve settled into their respective Base Camp, the process of acclimatization begins. By making a series of climbs up and down the mountain, going a little higher each time, the climbers prepare their bodies for the challenges of dealing with altitude. Slowly but surely they adjust to breathing less oxygen as they hone their technical skills and keep an eye on the weather. The climbers know they need the perfect window of opportunity to reach the summit, as misjudging the conditions can be fatal.That is where most teams have been for the past week or so. With their acclimatization completed, the climbers have been watching the forecast and waiting for high winds to die down just long enough to allow access to the top. That happened yesterday, which allowed the all-important Sherpa guides to complete their work of fixing the ropes to the summit. While they were busy doing just that, a talented team of Chilean climbers blitzed past them and nabbed the first successful summits of the season.

Now, with the ropes firmly in place, the rest of the climbers can begin heading up as well. Over the next few days, several hundred climbers will reach the top of the mountain from both the North and the South Sides. With a little luck they’ll all get up and down safely. After nearly two months away from home, they’ll be eager to pack up and get back to their lives.

[Photo Credit: BabaSteve via WikiMedia]

One Foot – Everest Base Camp Trek

Far above a trip to the Caribbean or Antarctica on my bucket list is a journey into the depths of Nepal, and I can’t help but feel jealous that my friend Bassam Tarazi beat me to it. Tucked above the northeast corner of India through a seam of the Himalayas, Nepal is the definition of adventure. It seems far enough away from the western world to be free of any nonsense like reality television and Us Weekly, rugged enough for a lifetime of hikes and camping trips and filled with all sorts of adventure opportunities. Nepal is also the home of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world and a destination in and of itself. In the above video, Bassam details his journey to its base.

Dramatic Everest Rescue Caught On Video

A dramatic rescue took place on Mt. Everest this past weekend where photographer and filmmaker Corey Richards had to be evacuated from the mountain by helicopter. Much of the incident was captured on film, which offers insight into high altitude mountaineering rescue operations that can be employed to save a climber’s life.

Richards was climbing the world’s tallest mountain as part of the co-sponsored National Geographic/North Face team that is preparing to tackle Everest’s seldom visited West Ridge. As part of his normal acclimatization process, he had made his way up to Camp 2, located at about 21,000 feet, and while there, he began to experience chest pains and was having trouble breathing. Fearing an impending case of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), better known as altitude sickness, Corey’s teammates sprung into action to help ensure his safety. After putting him on supplementary oxygen, ten other climbers loaded him into a plastic sled and started to lower him down the mountain.

The original plan was to take him to Camp 1 where he could be picked up by a helicopter, but the weather worsened as they descended, and they were forced to assist him all the way back to Base Camp at 17,500 feet. Along the way, the 28-year-old Richards had to periodically get off the sled and walk across large crevasses on out-stretched ladders.

Upon reaching Base Camp, Richards was taken to the village of Lukla, located at a lower altitude in the Khumbu Valley. Once there, high altitude doctors were able to examine him and they determined that it was best to send him back to Kathmandu for recovery. He is reportedly there now, feeling much better and weighing his options for potentially returning to the team.

Update: The video has been changed to no longer allow us to embed it here on Gadling. To check it out for yourself click here.