From Katmandu we took an old Russian military helicopter to our base hiking elevation of 9000 feet, in a small town called Lucla. I am glad that we took a helicopter because the runway in this town begins on the edge of a steep cliff, with nothing but hundreds of feet of air between you and the bottom of the ravine. At the time of our trip this runway as gravel at best (since paved) and is situated on a fairly steep slope. The runway is steep because it is fairly short and when planes land, they coast up the runway.
When planes take off they rapidly gain speed by cruising down the runway. One of our porters said that he has seen a few planes crash into the steep bank, which is at the end of the runway. So in order to land or take off from this high mountain runway you had better be slowed down enough when landing to avoid crashing into the bank, or when taking off have enough airspeed to avoid going over the edge of the runway. The airport was built by Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest. He also helped fund the building of a school in this small town.
A typical helicopter flight from Katmandu takes about 45 minutes. All our gear was loaded in the middle of this large helicopter. During the flight you fly over Katmandu and then head north east. If the day is somewhat clear you will have awesome views of the Himalayas. Part of the flight is over terraced hillsides, with homes built precariously on the edge of the hills.