May 2008, we left for Everest in a cramped jet built for 15, including the crew, and endured a harrowing 35 minutes to Lukla Airport. Built on an incline, the 900ft mountain slope runway decelerates the plane to a screeching halt and within an hour, it is reloaded, circling around for takeoff. The nose lowers toward the abyss, rolling down with the speed of gravity as it first dips and finally begins to climb, delivering its prey back to civilization.
Returning home, legs weary and spent from our rapid descent, 8000 ft. since Everest Base Camp, we arrived in Lukla exhausted and a day early. Expecting to escape on an earlier flight, our ignorance surfaced as we learned the reality of such a request. Only three airlines have rights to this airport and only ideal weather grants access. Yetti Airlines held no promises of an early return to Kathmandu. Nightmare rumors of 7 day waits and planes turning back midway were feeding my fears of an extended stay. The next morning, we dragged our feet to the airport and awaited the dispatch, had the planes left the city, would they land, could we go home? By midday the airport’s dilapidated gates were once again locked and we were diverted back to our overcrowded tea houses. San Miguel beer, the consolation prize, was running low. Another sleepless night, cheers and songs culminating from a group of successful Taiwanese climbers tossing back bottles of Rum, I awoke restless and anxious. From the window, a heavy layer of morning fog dampened spirits as the growing number of trekkers waiting for pending flights reconciled their fate. We were stuck another day.
At 10:30am word spread- four planes had left Kathmandu. A warm wind pushed at the fog, allowing a small window of opportunity. Three planes were able to land, ours the auspicious third: Yeti Airlines, embossed with a large green bigfoot bobbled onto the runway, the cargo was emptied along with the new round of virgin trekkers. Moments later they herded our nineteen sweaty bodies, packs and gear into the steel vessel, propellers spinning, we headed down the roadway, cheering.