Published: November 24th 2007October 29th 2007
First of all, props to Ali (the Travelblog admin) for adding the panoramic feature just in time for me to take advantage of it with a sweet panorama of Everest and Lhotse on the top of the page.
This might set a record for my shortest entry. It only covers a one hour activity on one day of my journey. But it's a remarkable hour...hence, I shall remark.
Spending 2 weeks doing the small village thing with Hemraj meant that I hardly spent any money during that time...which made me think that perhaps I could splurge on something I had been considering.
How could I come all this way and not have a look at the tippy-top of the world - Mt. Everest? I hooked myself up with a ticket on a scenic mountain flight and was at the airport by 6am ready to see what I could see...hopefully some mountains of staggering elevations.
(A note about the staggering elevations. Outside of the Himalaya, the world isn't even able to produce a single peak above 7000m (highest being Aconcagua in the Andes at 6962m...over a vertical mile lower than Everest) while the Himalayan system has more than
100 peaks over 7200m.)
No sooner had I sat down to await my flight (one of about a dozen for the morning) than the voice came over the intercom to say that all flights were currently grounded due to weather. Sweet. A little while later they started calling flight numbers and groups of folks kept filing through the security checkpoint to board their planes. I never heard my number, but there weren't many people left so I figured I'd go ask what was up. They looked at my ticket and passed me through and told me to board the mini-bus to take me to the plane.
The planes are supposedly 'special' sight seeing planes with bigger windows and high quality glass and can carry about 20 wide-eyed tourists who each had paid their $135 entrance fee (mine was $125...volunteer discount. Nice). The windows were a bit bigger, but as for "high quality glass"...sorta.
In any case, I strapped into seat 2C looking out the right side and we took off. We rapidly climbed above the layer of clouds to be instantly wowed by the clear blue morning sky with the white-capped, spiny, ongoing natural wonder of the
Himalaya to our north. Since I'm brilliant, I had noticed that 3A wasn't occupied & I greedily schemed to hit up that seat for the flight out (while mountains were on the left) and then would return to my seat for the return journey in order to maximize the number of times I could snap the shutters on both of my cameras.
The hour that followed was a whirlwind of seat changing, lens changing, focus-adjusting (auto-focus had problems through the windows), lens cap losing, and cockpit queuing. But it was a whirlwind hour that brought continual amazing views of the knife-edge profiles of the world's highest peaks.
After 20 minutes or so they allowed us to go one at a time into the cockpit to have a look at their views...very amazing. I had enough time to snap a few pics and quickly take in the view of the Himalaya range stretching all the way to the eastern horizon before I had to head back out to the cabin to let someone else in.
In my best estimation, during the 60 minute flight I saw 6 of the world's 14 peaks that break the 8000m barrier. They
Shows the lower ranges in the bottom as they rise up to the 7000-8000m heights in the background.
Shisha Pangma - or Gosain Than (8013m / 26289ft)
Cho-Oyu (8201m / 26906ft)
Sagarmatha - or Everest (8848m / 29028ft)
Lhotse (8516m / 27940ft)
Kanchenjunga (8586m / 28170ft)
Makalu (8463m / 27766ft)
There were some peaks on the western horizon as well that may have been Annapurna and Dhulagiri (both over 8000m)...but it's hard to say for sure. I plan on seeing these more up close anyway.
My identification of the various peaks in the photos should be mostly
correct. It was rather difficult to keep identify (let alone keep track of) the 20 or so peaks named in our guide while snapping 100 photos...from constantly changing perspectives. But regardless of the correct nomenclature, they were all amazing and impressive.
Sixty minutes passed in what seemed like 60 seconds. We all did our best to sneak final peeks of the peaks as we veered away from the range and back towards Kathmandu - leaving the snow abode (the literal meaning of "Himalaya") behind us.
Overall, it was an amazing morning filled with some of the best view these eyes will ever see.
Forgive the less than ideal coloring, focus, reflections,
etc of all the photos...I think these deserve a little editing time upon my return home. Taking photos of mountains 50km away through a crummy window 5cm away proved challenging at times. Also, I took most of the photos in a format that I can't post on line...so I have better ones...but you'll have to come see them in person when I'm home.
This entry was made possible by the ongoing collision of the Indo-Australian and Eurasian Plates that began 70,000,000 years ago. Thanks, plate-tectonics. Oh, and since the collision is still continuing, the range is still rising 3-5mm/yr. So when you come see it, I'm sure it will be even more impressive...
There are more photos below