Mountain flight appeals all categories of travelers. For those who are restricted by time or other considerations from going trekking, these flights offer a panoramic view of the Himalaya in just one hour. Even those visitors who like the rigors of a trek still don’t miss the opportunity to conquer the mountains in one fell swoop.
The Himalaya is the youngest yet highest mountain range in the world and forms a natural border for Nepal in the northern front. For Nepalese these mountains are the sacred abode of the gods but they also continue to captivate millions around the world due to their sheer majesty and beauty; tempting thousands to attempt at conquering its peaks. Those who actually reach the Himalaya will tell you that the experience can indeed be very humbling.
Of the fourteen peaks higher than 8000 meters, eight are in Nepal. Although there is no denying that walking up and down the hills for a close up view of the Himalaya is very much worth the effort, this we have to confess is not for everyone, due to the physical and time requirements. Buddha Air’s Everest Experience is meant especially for those who don’t want to leave Nepal without touching the sacred and majestic Himalaya.
To get the best of the weather conditions in the mountains where strong winds start blowing gathering clouds and raising snow plumes which block the view as the day progresses ahead, mountain flights take place early in the morning. Buddha air or yeti air is not something you want to miss; regardless of how late it was last night or how cold it is outside.
Upon receiving the green signal from the air traffic controller, the commander and co-pilot of the Beech craft 1900D, the safest plane operating in the domestic sector, start the engines to take you on the ride of your life. The flight heads north east upon take off and soon after the emerald green or golden paddy fields below, depending on the time of the year, start giving way to green sub alpine forests.
Less than ten minutes after being airborne, one gets the first glimpse of the snowy white peaks on the far left while below the hill slopes acquire a rocky rugged and barren look, like empty landscapes from another world. Within the next few minutes one is already flying above the snowy outlines of the greater Himalaya at an altitude of 25000 feet above the ground.
The first ones to come to view are the peaks straight north of Kathmandu Valley, starting with the 8013m high Shisha Pangma, the 14th highest mountain in the world, which is actually located in Tibet, a few kilometers from the border. Then come a series of several smaller peaks beginning with Dorje Lakpa (6966m) which looks like the figure eight and is located on the eastern edge of Langtang National Park, followed by Phurbi Ghyachu (6637m) on its right, the 5970m Choba Bhamare which remains unconquered, Gauri Shankar (7134m) named after Lord Shiva and his consort, Melungtse (7181m) all part of the Rolwaling range.
For most distinguishing one peak from another doesn’t come easy. But Everest is something else. Known simply as Peak XV until 1856, the Great Trigonometric Survey of India established the first published the height of Everest. As Nepal and Tibet were both closed to foreigners the British Surveyor General of India at that time named it Everest after Sir George Everest who measured its height and pinpointed its location. The local names of the worlds highest peak though pay tribute to her majesty; the Nepali name Sagarmatha means “mother of the skies” while the Tibetan name Chomolongma means ‘mother of the universe”. In 1999 Everest was found to have grown by at least six inches since the last survey bringing its total height to 8850m possibly due to the same plate tectonic movements that raised the Himalaya from the bed of the Tethys Sea.
Jutting up behind Lhotse (8516m) and Nuptse (7855m) Everest is as distinct as is it should be for a mountain of its status. Even from a distance of 5 nautical miles one can clearly see why thousands are obsessed with the thought of conquering it. While most mountaineers still use the southeast ridge on the Nepal side considered to be technically easier to reach the summit, the northeast ridge which takes off from Tibet is also increasingly becoming popular.
Those who trek up to the Everest Base Camp located at height of 5380m may proudly state that they have been there but viewing the Himalaya from onboard a mountain flight is another experience altogether. What would on the ground take days of travel can easily viewed in a matter of minutes and from within the safety and comfort of the Beech craft 1900D.
One of the most distinct features perhaps is the receding snowlines and the glaciers, proof of climate change and global warming. As the flight begins to head back to Kathmandu one cannot but help contemplate that we have but one earth and we must all work towards preserving its natural beauty for our children.
Mountain flight has created a niche for itself. We provide each passenger with an individual window seat during the entire flight. During the flight, passengers can also go to the cockpit from where they can take some spectacular pictures.