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Everest Base Camp with modern-day perks

by Floro Mercene

Lukla is a town in the Khumbu area in Nepal at 2,860m above sea level, where the Tenzing-Hillary Airport, the gateway to the Everest region, is located. A small mountain airstrip is accessible only to helicopter and small, fixed-wing, short-takeoff-and- landing aircraft for transport of passengers and cargo. The airport is popular because Lukla is the place where most people start the climb to Mount Everest Base Camp.

The airport was built in 1964 under supervision of Edmund Hillary. Before the airport’s construction, porters would spend days walking from Kathmandu to Lukla, carrying hundreds of kilos of expedition gear on their backs. The 65-kilometer trek to Everest Base Camp used to take a month, but the journey was cut to 8 to 9 days trek from Lukla.

In spring time, Khumbu glacier at the foot of Everest is transformed into a luxurious high-altitude metropolis, busy hundreds of climbers. In old days, climbers’ meals were canned food, and bulky satellite phones were needed in case of emergency. But now the Base Camp is not what it once was. All trekkers are spoiled with an array of amenities and services; Wi-Fi, freshly baked goods, salads with fresh vegetables, trendy coffee, hot showers running on solar power that provide respite from freezing temperatures outside, and the heated tents even have carpeted floors.

Last year, a record of 373 permits was granted to foreign climbers from the Nepal side. The modern-day convenience may make life at base camp easier, but Mt. Everest is notorious for its harsh climbing conditions, and the treacherous weather conditions that climbers face are the same as before. The Everest summit is not only the highest but also among the coldest places on earth to humans. In last year six climbers have died in their attempts.