Everest View Hotel
Mission Improbable

An oxygen trolly adorned the hallway.

Was this a hotel or a hospital?

At nearly 4000 meters above sea level, I must say I wasn’t feeling as spritely as I usually do, and the thought of using said oxygen therapy did cross my mind.

As the porter opened the door to our room all thoughts of altitude vanished. We stood there aghast, staring. Our bags flopped to the floor. Mouths ajar. Eyes wide open.

There, before our eyes, stood Mount Everest. It was a sight we simply would not grow accustomed to.

And the only word spoken was “Wow”!

This is the Everest View Hotel, the icon, and the story of its creation, the man behind it and what it’s like to stay there.

The Reason

It’s the late 1960’s. Japan’s economy is booming, less than 25 years after its’ complete capitulation in the Pacific War. By then, Japan was assisting other developing nations to develop their economies.

Takashi Miyahara worked in the Department of Cottage and Small Industries (a Nepalese department) for Japanese foreign aid. He knew that tourism was the key to unlocking Nepal’s potential and he wanted to help.

Like so many great discoveries, the genesis of the Everest View Hotel was a turn of fate. In 1968, after working in Nepal for two years already, Takashi Miyahara received a telegram from a famed Japanese mountaineer, Naoyuki Sakamoto.  “About to die like a dog at Namche. Send plane. Waiting at Lukla. Sakamoto.”

Organising a plane or a helicopter to Lukla was completely different in the late 1960’s. There were only two aircraft in the entire country that could land at the recently built airport in Lukla,  a 10-passenger Nepal Army Twin Pioneer and a 6-seater Pilatus Porter owned by the United Nations. There were only 4 helicopters that could do the trip, 2 owned by Nepal Airlines, 1 owned by the army and 1 by the King. That’s it!

 “About to die like a dog at Namche. Send plane. Waiting at Lukla. Sakamoto.”

Needless to say, Miyahara rescued Sakamoto, but at the same time an epiphany. A luxury hotel near the foot of Everest, but no ordinary hotel, a game changer, a model for future development, an icon.  From the get-go, however, the naysayers lined up calling him and his idea “crazy”, “impossible” and “irresponsible”. The king of Everest, Sir Edmond Hillary, weighed into the debate and Mother Nature and high altitude made the concept and the task seem insurmountable. 

Miyahara though was no ordinary starry-eyed dreamer. He had the grit, determination and drive to stare down the impossible. And that is where the real story begins.

The Construction

Even today, to build such a large structure at 3800 meters, away from any road would be a construction marvel. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Nepal had neither enough appropriate aircraft to airlift construction materials into the area, nor equipment to work with what they had on sight. This is why a large portion of the hotel was constructed by hand, by local workers from Khumjung and Khunde.

Stone slabs were cut from rock outcrops on the hill on which the hotel stands. Two-man teams would hammer large splitters into the boulders to separate them into smaller sizes, which would be hand-chiselled and crafted to fit into the incredible stone walls you see today.

Essential materials had to be transported either by porters on a gruelling two-week journey from Lamusangu, 80 kilometres away from Kathmandu, or via helicopter. Over 3000 journeys were made by porter teams to carry vital equipment to the site.

The timber used was taken from a plantation further down the Dudh Koshi River. Hundreds of trees were felled, cleaned and cut and carried by hand over several days to the building site. These clearings were replanted forming thick forests once again.

Numerous items, including sliding glass doors for the rooms, glass for the solarium, blankets, and eating utensils, were imported from Japan. These goods were initially shipped to a port in Calcutta and subsequently brought into Nepal.

All up, the construction of the Everest View Hotel took over 3 years. Their first visitors stayed in rooms without glass in the windows. A true soft opening for a hotel.

Hand splitting rocks
Frame goes up
You can see the boulders they use for the stone work here
Mr Makio Deguchi Japanese Craftsman

The Structure

An impressive stone staircase, reminiscent of Incan architecture, leads to the entrance. The hotel’s design is notable for its horizontal layout, flat roof, stone terrace, and robust stone columns, Frank Lloyd Wright style. But it is Japanese architect Yoshinobu Kumagaya who deserves the credit for this fine design.

The hotel’s dry-stone walls exhibit a distinctive pattern, with stones carefully aligned, some jutting out, others set back. This ‘techne’ style, showcases the skill of the craftsmen. Each stone was once a part of the hill on and in which the hotel rests, removed by hand, chiselled by metal and muscle and placed by an artist. Despite being mainly a single-storey structure, the hotel achieves a sense of spatial fluidity through the use of split levels. Guests enter the main building and can either ascend a few steps to the informal dining and lounge areas, guest rooms, and outdoor terraces or descend to the formal dining area and lower terraces.

Inside, there’s a profound sense of peace. The simple stone “lodge” reflects the humility of the Nepalese and Japanese people, surrounded by towering mountains. Instead of extensive glass walls, the architect strategically placed large windows at specific points, gradually unveiling the stunning scenery, creating a more impactful experience than a straightforward panoramic view.

Details throughout the hotel draw attention: the glossy wooden ceilings extending in a continuous plane, a wooden door leading to the entrance vestibule, slate flooring warmed by vibrant, textured rugs in the lounge and dining areas, and the carefully proportioned window mullions. Surrounded by the immense verticality of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, and Ama Dablam, the hotel’s horizontal form and heavy stone construction serve as a grounding force, offering a sense of shelter. This creates a remarkable architectural moment in the grandeur of the Himalayan landscape.

An Airport?

To get to the hotel, guests would need to trek for 2 or 3 days from the newly built Sir Edmond Hillary Airport at Lukla. Miyahara thought this may put some people off so an airport at Syangboche, just below the hotel, was to be constructed. This in many ways would prove to be as difficult as building the hotel itself. 

Huge boulders needed to be removed, dismantled by dynamite which Nepal had none of, and then the rubble removed by bulldozer, again there wasn’t one in Nepal. And besides how do you get a bulldozer to 3800 meters when there are no roads?

A 3-ton bulldozer was dismantled and carried by 200 porters, taking 10 days to travel from Lukla to Syangboche. It was reconstructed on sight. To fuel the machine, 50 drum cans were sent to Lukla and transferred into 30-litre polyethylene containers with 10 porters making regular to-and-fro visits to keep the bulldozer going.

Construction stopped over the Christmas period, not for religious reasons but because the bulldozer couldn’t operate in sub-zero temperatures for long.

All up, 70,000 cubic meters of soil and rock were removed,  and after 2 years, the first test flight landed at Syangboche in June 1973.

Sadly the airport is no longer operational for fixed-wing planes at least; and those who wish to enjoy the Everest View Hotel, need to once again hike for 2 to 3 days to reach her giant staircase or chopper into a nearby helipad.

First Test Flight into Syangboche
The airport design

Reaching an Icon

There are a couple of ways to reach the Everest View Hotel. The first would appeal to Miyahara’s dream of flying to the airport and the second would appeal to his love of nature.

Helicopters from Kathmandu and Lukla fly up to the hotel each morning and afternoon, providing guests with incredible views and either a lunch or breakfast at the hotel. It’s easy to spot the fly-ins: they’re decked out like they’ve just stepped off a Milan runway – fluffy boots, blinding white down jackets, Tom Ford shades, leather gloves with a touch of fur. One man, flying in from Kathmandu,  was seen with shorts and a t-shirt. The temperature in Kathmandu was a balmy 22 C, the hotel, a teeth chattering 5 C. 

The other way is on foot. After landing in Lukla from Kathmandu, it is a 3-day hike to the hotel. From Lukla, the trail winds up a narrow valley affording occasional views of snow-capped peaks, but it’s not until you reach Namche Bazaar on day 2, that mountain views explode into view. The large settlement of Namche Bazaar has all the trimmings of modern life including Italian coffee, cake shops and the ubiquitous Irish Pub.

From Namche, it’s only a couple more hours of hiking but an extra 500 meters in elevation gain. And that’s the kicker. It’s all about altitude up there. Bite off more than you can chew and you might just find yourself on one of those helicopters with the jetset crew back to Kathmandu. Above Namche, a ridge trails its way to Om Lhasa, the knoll on which the Everest View Hotel rests. 

Below the hotel are the villages of Khumjung and Khunde and the people who helped build the hotel. Along the trail is Mong La, the gateway to the Gokyo region and Cho Oyu another 8000-meter peak. 

But it is Everest that everyone comes to see. From the hotel, Everest plays the lead, flanked by other giants Lhotse and Ama Dablam, all dominating the Khumbu skyline. The view? It’s not just a feast for the eyes; it’s a full-on sensory overload. You’re not just seeing it; you’re feeling it, right down to your bones (especially if you are only wearing a t-shirt and shorts).

The Stay

The experience of staying at the Everest View is like no other hotel. At this altitude and in a place at least 3 days from the nearest airport, let alone a road, accommodation and the “lux” factor is a comparative study.

For example, in local tea houses, rooms are normally very bare, possibly 4 meters x 3 meters in dimension possibly with an attached toilet. However the beds are cold, there is no hot shower and certainly no view.

At the Everest View, you step into these rooms, and it’s like walking into a time capsule from the ’70s – but with a twist. The rooms are huge, carpeted, with enough space to stash your gear and hang up those well-worn clothes. Each room comes with its own bathroom, hot water on tap, and beds with electric blankets. It’s like they know exactly how to take the edge off the mountain chill.

BUT, the air is cold. There is a small floor heater in each room (powered by solar), which takes the chill off, but you will find yourself walking around the hotel, often, with long pants on and your puffer jacket, especially when the sun sets.

During the day, lunch is served on a sun-drenched patio with views of Everest (you may find yourself pinching yourself as you tuck into some delicious Japanese meal).

The main dining room has immense views of the Khumbu Valley and is heated by a large central fireplace. It’s where everyone gathers, nursing their drinks, gearing up for a dinner that’s a three-course affair, new every night. 

Beside the small bar is a secret passage, open only to guests. A narrow, spiral staircase sneaks you up to this sunroom – one of the few spots in the hotel where ‘warm’ isn’t just a distant memory. Wooden seats, mountain views (of course), but the real showstopper? A little door at the back.

Up a few steps, there’s a large viewing platform providing you with what has to be some of the best mountain views on the planet. It’s the kind of place where you brave the cold to see the sunrise and sunset, where the Milky Way’s on full, glorious display, cradled by the highest peaks on the planet. It’s not just a view; it’s a moment, a memory!

I have visited the Everest region many times on both hiking and climbing trips. Of course I love the area with its enormous mountains and wonderful people. But all these trips seemed to be in a hurry, each day packing and unpacking, moving from one village or campsite to the next. This Lux trek is like slow cooking. It allows you to savour the region, to slow down and immerse yourself, become familiar with the area and even to the people who live there. It is only then that you see and appreciate the finer details of the Solu Khumbu and Everest. I love it!

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