Day 15: Lukla flight to Ramechhap and 5 hour van ride to Kathmandu – 4,593 feet

As I awoke this morning, I hear the wonderful sound of planes taking off. Yea! This airport gets closed often for fog and wind. As I mentioned earlier, it is also considered the most dangerous airport in the world. It truly clings to a cliff with a sloped and short runway to get enough downhill speed to basically fall off the mountain into the air. Around 9:30am, we had our turn. Most smooth by our pilot who looked way cool in his aviator glasses and gloves.

Arrived to Ramechhap Airport which could be literally nowhere’sville. Sure feels like it. Loaded into a Toyota van for ride to Kathmandu. Let’s just say, this was a white knuckled experience for the ages, particularly disorienting because they drive on the left side. With no seatbelts to be found in the vehicle, our driver whizzed around corners like Mario Andretti, and the topography around here is all corners, on the edge of cliffs! One bad brake or broken steering control and we would be airborne. Our driver was very good though and seemed to simultaneously know when a section was too narrow or dangerous to pass, where potholes would disembowel the fairly new Toyota we were in, and where a cow, a goat, or chicken might be located as I suspect that would be a particularly bad thing in this majority Hindu culture. Given the topography, it is a wonder there are even roads at all! At one point, passed what appeared to be a Hindu ceremony with a young girl being carried in a basket up high and a band of sorts leading the procession. I don’t know what it was, but given it was near a river, perhaps a baptism or coming of age ritual? Our guides didn’t seem to know.

Stopped for lunch at a place that at best could be described as a small Stuckey’s, Nepalese style. But they had very good Dal Bhat, something I am growing fond of and our guide and porter anyway, eat basically at each meal! Shortly after departing, we came upon a traffic backup due to an accident. Another van got too close to a vehicle coming down and mushed the right front. Fortunately they were not careened off the road into the deep canyon!

Finally arrived Kathmandu and my one splurge, a night at the 5 star Hyatt where my climbing partner stayed for a few days earlier in the week. Yea for a real hot shower, toilet paper provided, clean crisp sheets, and great WiFi. And, perfect for washing a few needed necessities in the gorgeous tub :). Tomorrow I hotel downgrade again for my final few days in Kathmandu. As a sidebar, I hadn’t planned on a few extra days on this end, but the readjusted route due to bad weather in Kangma La Pass created it. I could have lingered another day in Gokyo, but it would have meant doing the last pass solo and not with my new partners on the same route, Adam and Sandra. Groups are generally wiser when doing the challenging passes so more guides and porters (theirs and mine) are in the mix in case of an emergency. As it turned out, it snowed again the night following our crossing of the Renjo La Pass which might have made a crossing the next day impossible, or at least extra treacherous.

Hyatt Kathmandu is amazing. 5 star and still only about $130 per night. My big splurge and only wish my climbing partner were here to celebrate with me. She was able to get a flight change earlier based on medical and insurance coverage. Superb dinner of wood fired chicken and washed down with an Everest beer. Have uploaded a number of pics and tomorrow hoping to upload some video. Good night all from the other side of the world.

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