Lifestyle & Belief

2,000 Everest trekkers stranded by severe weather


A photo taken on Sept. 30, 2010 shows Mount Everest (C) from the window of a Druk Air aircraft during a flight from Bangkok to Paro. Everest is the world's highest mountain above sea level, at 29,029 feet high.


Ed Jones

About 2,000 people are stranded in the foothills of Mount Everest in Nepal because of bad weather, according to reports.

Foreign hikers and Nepalese guides and porters are among those who have been stuck in the area for five days as thick clouds this week, forcing airlines to cancel flights in and out of the tiny Tenzing-Hillary airport in Lukla, the BBC reported.

Lukla, 78 miles northeast of the Nepali capital Kathmandu, lies at a height of 9,186 feet (2,800 meters) and is the gateway to Mount Everest.

The windswept resort in the Solukhumbu region, visited by tens of thousands of trekkers and climbers yearly, has only a small airstrip which is carved into the rugged mountainside.

Private helicopters were able to remove some tourists from the area Friday, Reuters reported, but the weather closed in again.

"Visibility is almost nil. Fog and clouds have covered the entire area making flights by fixed-wing small aircraft impossible," Utsav Raj Kharel, chief of Lukla's Tenzing Hillary Airport, told Reuters.

Food is reportedly running low and hotels are overrun with guests, although they were not in physical danger, Kharel said.

Hotel owners "have sent word to inns further up Everest that trekkers there should not descend the mountains, as there is no room left downhill," UPI reported.

Similar conditions last year left tourists stranded for about 15 days, resulting in a severe food crisis.

Air traffic controllers say the bad weather is unlikely to shift for days.