Kathmandu air-traffic control found a reason to deny our helicopter permission to pick us up from the Hyatt pad. No explanation was forthcoming - just no. So, at 6am we crowded into an ancient battered small coach and rumbled out onto Kat's dawn, but already bustling street.
Breakfast wood smoke and mist mingled into swirls as the bus swept through, bouncing and rattling over potholes that can kill. The depth of these holes beggars belief, easily capable of swallowing a small child whole.
With a spectacular new sun flaring on the horizon we lurched to a halt outside the "domestic" terminal and unloaded. Eager, opportunist hands scrambled to carry our kit bags to a rudimentary weigh-station, where each additional KG is subtracted from the chopper's lifting capacity. My keen pilots eye added these cumulative weights in my head, conscious that aircraft weight regulations are not quite the Bible they are to flyers in the UK.
Numbers agreed, we drifted through "security" - Woody, one of the Kiwi guides was asked to locate and find some scissors buried deep within the bowels of his pack. A simple but terse "sod off" was enough for the adolescent uniformed official to withdraw his request. We wandered, unfettered onto the apron as an early morning Yeti Air 12 seater turboprop screamed past and hauled itself into the misty air.
A flatbed jeep pulled up emblazoned with the Heli Company's logo - Seth, Ethan and I jumped into the back. We roared around the perimeter road to the Heli Apron - the chilly early morning wind both thrilling and waking us. Ethan's ear-to-ear grin was infectious.
The B3 jet engine whined into life and in seconds our stomachs turned as we lifted our skids and lurched forward into the climb. We maintained just 500ft over the ghostly city rooftops, before gently climbing and heading due East and Lukla. Beneath us dozens of needle like chimneys dotted the vista, already belching their smoke; their brick-baking days already begun.
After skimming the crests of ever-higher mountains we finally spotted Lukla though the haze, its suicidal runway both a feat of engineering and courage. I have thumped down many times crammed in the back of a fixed wing, but this arrival was much less marginal. With engine screaming and blades barely slowed we ran, instinctively crouched double to safety.
Dozens of sun-darkened faces of all ages peered though the ramshackle, chain-link fence as we gathered our packs and shuffled the 100m to our chosen breakfast venue. Black tea, coffee and hot lemon accompanied bullet hard toast and porridge - but it was enough to start our motors - the trek to BC had begun at last.
Arrays of very similar shops line the path to the exit of Lukla village. Dozens of tiny children, some little more than babies play unsupervised along the path, each and every one of them dark with filth and sporting a runny nose. No nauseating health and safety here - the kids play amidst the hooves of yaks and horses, inches from killer cliffs and drops.
Above the trail, smallholding fields are cut from the steep hill growing vegetables and grazing the occasional yak. As we aimlessly wandered snapping pictures with early trek enthusiasm, a yak fell from the field above me and landed feet first no more than 2 feet in front of me. I hadn't heard it fall - I just saw it land. It frightened the c**p out of me, much to the amusement of those behind. With my expedition little more than a day old I had almost been killed by a falling yak! This stuff only happens to me.
The fading winter had been a harsh affair forcing the Spring blossoms to reveal their beauty much later than normal - an unexpected bonus for us. I've never seen the valley look so spectacular. Dodging both plodding yaks and the occasional cantering, bell-adorned horse we rock-hopped and puddle skirted our way onwards.
We in turn gazed repeatedly in wonder at the ant like stream of porters and yak-boys, each hefting indescribably heavy loads towards the ravenous teahouses and expedition tents dotting the route to Base Camp. The standard "legal" load weight is 40kg, but its obvious that this "legal limit" is exceeded - sometimes twice over. Most shuffle swiftly by, the basket suspended from a thick strap wrapped around their foreheads - their pain threshold is alien to Westerners. My idea of a bad day is if the train is delayed - their bad day is somewhat different.
Today, however, our day is good.
Our trail rises and falls with the contours of these magnificent mountains, hopping back and forward across a raging, glacial blue river. We tiptoe across vast swaying, barely maintained cable bridges, fighting for room with the yaks that share our space; prayer flags horizontal in the chilly wind.
As the skies darken and spots of rain are felt, we park for the night at a small settlement called Monju. Once fed and watered, I will curl the boys up in their sleeping bags and finally close my own eyes. Namsche [3500m] awaits tomorrow.
I would like to thank, once again, all those kind enough to support this effort - I, and every vulnerable child are grateful.
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