Everest / Alpine Expeditions

Return To Everest Update 26 March: Scott Parazynski: Landing on an Aircraft Carrier in the Mountains, Trek to Phakding

By Keith Cowing
Scott Parazynski
March 26, 2009
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Return To Everest Update 26 March: Scott Parazynski: Landing on an Aircraft Carrier in the Mountains, Trek to Phakding
Tenzing Hillary International Airport
Scott Parazynski

The alarm in our room shrieked uncomfortably at 4:15 in the morning, but I was already wide awake — and had been for 30 minutes or more. Today was the day we escaped the bustle and chaos of Kathmandu for the mountains, The Himalayas! We boarded our twin turbo Dehavilland, run by the appropriately named “Yeti Air,” and climbed unpressurized above the smog but below a heavy and high cloud deck.

Our 32 minute flight to Lukla’s “Tenzing Hillary International Airport” was stunning nonetheless: the final 10 minutes or so we were hugging impressive cliffs off our left wing tip, and the final 5 minutes gave quite an impressive mountain display well above our aircraft! I was seated in the front row, off to the side of the flight deck access (seat 1A, if it had been labeled!), so to compensate for the lack of forward view I had my Sony mini-HD video camera held up to document the landing — while I was slack jawed admiring the view out the left window.

The final approach is most similar to a Space Shuttle zooming towards KSC, or perhaps a dive bomb run: there is no option to go around, as you can only land one direction on the runway in this box canyon, and takeoff in the other. Our pilots did a fine job, squeaking us down and promptly applying full thrust reversers and a healthy dose of brakes, bringing us to a stop on the apron with cheers from the back. Wow: it is GREAT to be back here!

Once off our Yeti, we reconvened at Kaji’s tea house (Kaji was our base camp cook last season, and will return again this year — he makes one fine yak steak, if you’re ever in the mood for one…). There I met with several old Sherpa friends, including Pasang Rinji and Mingma Dorje — I definitely felt right at home, instantly. After verifying our duffels were all present and accounted for, we hit the trail in a light mist, later becoming a drizzle.

Being back here, like having the privilege to travel back to space on subsequent missions, gives you the opportunity to notice more, savor the experience more fully, and just appreciate the gift. Today gave me the sight — the bandwidth — to appreciate things I had glanced past my first trip here. I stopped dozens of times to shoot photos of the beautiful children, the streaming prayer flags, the colorful mani wheels, the yak trains and, naturally, the towering mountains. There were many landmarks that were very familiar from last year, of course, many wonderful new ones…

As the light drizzle became light rain, I donned my full GoreTex and got into the rhythm of the trail, stretching my legs, working my heart and kicking in the endorphins. Last year we took a two hour lunch break 2/3 of the way to our destination, the village of Phakding, but today we each had box lunches and the motivation to get in out of the elements. After a quick 2 hour 15 minute hike I was sipping tea at Jo’s Tea House and Lodge — where we’ll stay tonight.

We have a great group of trekkers and climbers from all over the world: the US, South Africa, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and the UK. I’m enjoying getting to know this new group, but I certainly miss my Everest family of last year (Adam, Bob, Jaroslaw, Monty, Rohan and many others) — it will be great to see Rohan up here (at EBC) in just a few days time.

My hour of Internet cafe time is about to expire, so I’m logging off. Thanks for following along! [Of note, you should also be able to track me and our team’s progress online via the SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker unit I’m carrying on my back: it sends a GPS location to the Globalstar satellite network every 10 minutes or so when we’re moving, and then posts this on the web. The main advantage of this is that you can climb Everest alongside me, without ever having to break a sweat!]



Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻