It started as a clearing grazed by yaks, which were shooed from their rumination to allow an occasional plane to land.
Now, Lukla Airport, high in the Nepalese mountains, may be graced by the name of the world’s two most famous mountaineers. Tenzing-Hillary Airport is the proposal from Nepal’s tourism minister Prithvi Subba Gurung for the ‘doorway to Everest’.
Lukla Airport in 1999. The runway has since been resurfaced
The airstrip was first used in 1971 and was recently asphalted to improve the surface, but is still rated as one of the world’s most white-knuckle landings, with its 475m-long (1,560ft) runway, perched at 2,860m (9,383ft), more than twice the height of Ben Nevis’s summit.
The naming would commemorate the first summiteers of Everest, Tenzing Norgay, who died in 1986, and Sir Edmund Hillary, whose passing was announced last week.
Mr Gurung said he would propose the naming to his cabinet colleagues. He said: “Had they not climbed Everest no one would have known Nepal.
“They have made a very big contribution to Nepal's tourism and mountaineering. I expect the proposals will be passed without opposition.”
The minister said he would also propose that 29 May, the date of the pair’s conquest of the world’s highest peak, be named Everest Day, and be celebrated each year.
grough reader Denzil Broadhurst responded to the news of the Nepalese plans. He said: “Just seen the article on Lukla possibly being renamed Tenzing-Hillary. Great idea.”
Denzil sent this picture (right) from a visit in 2003.
He told us: “This is with the runway surfaced.
“Somewhat different from when I was there in 1994 when the local porters were busy carrying baskets of soil to replace the holes washed out by the monsoon rains! We went in by helicopter then – fixed wing couldn't land for a few more days.”