Like most Himalayan climbers, Ueli and Freddie reached the Khumbu through a fairly hairy descent into Lukla airport.
Lukla (8,383 ft./2,860 m) is a small town in the Khumbu area of northeastern Nepal. The name means “place with many goats and sheeps,” but these days there are fewer of those than Himalaya-bound climbers and tourists. The Tenzing-Hillary airport (its official name since 2008) is a true heart-dropping experience for many.
With a short runway and a galloping takeoff on a downhill slope, a pilot has to gun it to reach takeoff speed or risk a drop into the valley 2,000 ft. (610 m) below.
Ueli has flown in and out of Lukla close to a dozen times and says the danger of the airport’s short runway is exaggerated. “I don’t know why people find this airstrip so crazy.”