Our helicopter was due to arrive in the early morning hours so we were awake for breakfast and all packed to catch our ride down the mountain. Unfortunately, the weather was still bad in Lukla so we hunkered down for possibly another day at 16,942′ in Gorakshep. At this point, I was fairly well adjusted to being at this altitude. I slept fairly well the night before, although a small headache did sit at the front of my head. I made sure to keep up with the vitamins I had been taking and drinking plenty of water. In Gorakshep, it is smarter to buy bottled water to avoid any contaminants in the tap water rather than risk unnecessary stomach issues.
The rest of the morning was spent playing multiple rounds of cards and eating the rest of the snacks we had left from the trek. We chatted with some of the other travelers that were also stuck waiting on a helicopter and planned to get some beers back in Lukla if we ever were to make it down the mountain. Just as we ordered a large batch of popcorn from the teahouse, we heard a helicopter fly over. Everyone in the teahouse seemed to freeze at that very moment and immediately started gathering up their gear to head outside. Our guide ushered us to the landing pad just behind the teahouse and as we stepped outside a helicopter was landing. We had no idea if it was supposed to be ours, but we ran approximately 50 meters at full speed up a very steep incline. I have never in my life been so out of breath only to find that the transport was for a couple of people who were feeling extreme altitude sickness and had to descend immediately.
We sat on the edge of the landing pad for a little while longer waiting for our turn. There were multiple groups of people waiting to catch a flight which was worrisome because only 2-3 people could ride down at one time. The air is so thin at 17,000′ that the weight of the helicopter is very crucial for a safe flight. Each flight back up the mountain brought supplies for the teahouses in Gorakshep to make each trip as efficient as possible.
Finally, it was our turn! I was looking forward to descending to a lower elevation, but the thought of this adventure coming to a close and the fact that I was standing at the base of the tallest mountains in the world was a hard pill to swallow. As we lifted off, my heart began to race since this was my first time ever in a helicopter. The views from the air were absolutely spectacular! The flight was only about 5-10 minutes and we were dropped at a landing pad down the mountain in a small town. As we jumped out, the helicopter reloaded with some more supplies and took off back towards Gorakshep. A few minutes later and we were reunited with the rest of our group. Hopping back into the same helicopter, we were transported all the way back to Lukla, where our journey began just a week ago. The skill that the piolets possess flying these helicopters in such extreme conditions is incredible and I had full faith that we would have a safe flight.
Once we arrived in Lukla, we ordered some beers and cheered to a successful trek to Everest Base Camp! We enjoyed some lunch and wifi as we waited for our flight from Lukla back to Kathmandu. The rest of the day was spent hanging around the airport and helicopter hanger because the conditions for the route back to Kathmandu were unfavorable for flying. Once our flight was canceled and the helicopters were finished running for the day, we settled in at the teahouse for one last night in the Himalayas. *April 8th, 2018.