In my opinion, no trip to Nepal would be complete without catching a glimpse of Mount Everest. If I’d come all the way to Nepal, I really had no excuse for not seeing the tallest mountain in the world with my own eyes. And so, on my very last morning (or what was supposed to be my last morning, but that’s another blog post) in Nepal, I woke up bright and early to hop on an hour-long scenic flight out of Kathmandu. I thought it was a fitting way to end my journey.
A fair amount of our mornings on this trip, especially when we were traveling from place to place, had begun fairly early: six a.m. or earlier, usually before the sun had properly risen. I consider myself a morning person, so I was pretty energetic on most days, but on that last morning, when I knew I’d be seeing Everest for myself? It was all I could do to keep my excitement contained to levels considered appropriate in public.
That excitement faltered a few times, though. When we settled down in the domestic terminal of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport, I assumed that our scheduled departure time was more of an estimate. There are several airlines that operate scenic Everest flights, and while our choice – Yeti Air – was generally considered to be one of the better options, sometimes delays are inevitable. That’s especially the case in a city that deals with hazy, dense fog almost every morning. I don’t do well when being forced to play “the waiting game,” and I’d be lying if I said frustration didn’t start to clench my teeth and force its way out of my lungs in hefty sighs. I repeatedly had to tell myself to take deep breaths and that the views would be worth the wait. (Spoiler alert: they were.)
And so we sat and waited, as the departure board listing our flight flashed and blinked with delays that proclaimed that it would be fifteen minutes…twenty minutes…an hour behind schedule. When we finally were given the go-ahead to board our plane, I bounced my way up the stairs and buckled myself in with all of the glee of a kid waiting to open Christmas presents.
And then we were told to deplane. Turns out that my happiness was premature; the weather in Pokhara was mucking things up. Because of safety regulations, the flights from Kathmandu can only operate if the airport in Pokhara is up and running as well. The airports are close enough that in emergencies, any landings meant for one place can be diverted to the other. Unfortunately, fog came rolling into Pokhara that morning and grounded flights from both places.
After another half hour or so, we finally boarded the plane (for real, this time) and took off. And let me tell you, all of the frustration and impatience caused by the delays melted straightaway when the Himalaya came into view. The word “wow” seems paltry and trivial when trying to describe something as staggering as those mountains, but it was what resonated most strongly, over and over, during that flight.
My favorite part of the flight was definitely when each of the passengers was invited up into the cockpit for a clearer view of Everest and the mountains that flank it. Yes, you read that right. Passengers are allowed into the cockpit with the pilots. File that under “things that would never happen at home in America.”
I’ve climbed Mount Fuji in Japan. I thought that was a proper mountain, that it was mighty. Fuji, as intimidating and gorgeous as it is, does not even begin to compare to the craggy, cold monsters that make up the Himalaya. I don’t think I’ve ever felt tinier than when I stared out the airplane window at the snow-covered, rugged upper ranges of Everest. The day may have broken hazily in Kathmandu, but up there, above the mountains, the view was as beautiful as the ones you see in the pages of National Geographic, the ones you can’t help but suspect are enhanced for the biggest possible impact.
And the views of the surrounding areas, with all of the ridges and foothills, are just as breathtaking. Deep, vibrant purples meld into dusky blues and then bright sapphire in the distance, and the valleys between the peaks glow with pearly fog.
Admittedly, a scenic flight around Everest is not exactly a budget activity. It’ll run you around 200 USD, which could easily translate to a full week’s expenses for a savvy backpacker. For me, though, the price is worth it. When else would I have the opportunity to see Everest again with my own eyes? It’s a chance that I have no idea if I’ll ever have again, so that made it an easy decision for me. And it was worth every penny to see the sheer, intimidating, overwhelming leviathan that is Mount Everest.