We were so lucky to see them that spring morning – it is perhaps one of the most awe inspiring views from a commercial flight. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga, all lined up like giants, a pantheon of giants, clear and vivid.
I’ve made the two hour flight from Delhi to Guwahati in Assam many times, but I’m still awestruck at the sheer majesty of the Himalayan peaks.
We took off in the dark, the Delhi smog smothering any starlight on the ground, and on breaking through the cloudline, the window was an oval of jet black, devoid of sun rays, in the eerie moments before sunrise.
Then, within minutes, the eastern horizon became tinged in a light yellow, the Himalayas appearing as a line tiny, dark serrations, sharp and pointy, like a row of crocodile teeth. Bandar Panch, Kamet, Nanda Devi to name a few.
Minute by minute, the early sun rays illumined the black night sky with hues of baby blue, turquoise and azure.
The tops of the clouds became a golden prairie filled with ploughed furrows of pink, orange, brown and close to us, black.
Breakfast was served, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the unfolding lumiere show outside the oval window.
To the north, the plateau of Tibet, and Kailash, mountain top abode of ganja-smoking, serpent-wearing, blue-necked Lord Shiva. I tapped my head to the cold plastic window, and could just make out the arid plains of north India, with the Ganges making her slow and inexorable progress sunward.
Our course turned a sharp 90 degrees left as we approached the eastern Himalayas, abode of the highest peaks on earth, the Eight Thousanders to those quantitatively inclined. The roof of the world passed just below us.
At first, the peaks look like fluffy cumulonimbus, but closer up, their shapes are sharp and jagged, thrusting vertical ice, and black rock, grey shade on their western faces and toothpaste white on the east.
Only as we neared and the cloth of peaks separated to show their cwms, spurs and faces so visibly, did Everest became distinctive, for its neighbours, Makalu and Lhotse, are close to its stature.
Its western black rock face, pyramidal peak and feathery plume of ice, an aura like steam from a whale hole, marked out Everest – Chomolungma, Sagarmatha – as unmistakable.
In the photos below Everest is the sharp pointed peak on the left with Lhotse, a blunter peak, and Makalu to its right.
Then finally further to the east , the beautiful , classic shape of India’s highest mountain, Kanchenjunga came in to view. In the short video below, you can see four of the five highest peaks on earth. Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga. (Only K2, the world’s second highest mountain, which is in the Karakoram in the western Himalayas, eluded us.)
What are your most spectacular or awe inspiring views you’ve seen from a flight? I’d be intrigued to read about other bloggers’ views from a plane. Please post in your comments. Thanks!
I take this route only…and the one thing I can’t stop looking at the mighty river Brahmaputra and its tributaries. It’s amazing, beautiful, big and powerful.
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