The Everest View Hotel once held the Guinness world record as being the ‘highest placed’ hotel in the world. Located at 13,000 feet, it is currently the third highest; the record is now held by the Takya del Desierto in Bolivia. This latter one is located at an altitude of 15,091 feet.
The idea to build a grand hotel at this hostile altitude was initiated by Takashi Miyahara — a Japanese national. He was inspired by the striking views of Everest from Syangboche. The imposing Amadablam and Lhotse peaks are also visible from this vantage point. Construction began in 1968 and the Everest View welcomed its first guests in 1971. This year marks its 50th year of operation.
Prior to its construction, Miyahara reportedly had a discussion with Sir Edmund Hillary. It turns out this meeting culminated in a difference of opinion. Hillary was of the view that the Khumbu region be left untouched. Miyahara, on his part, felt that locals should be empowered to sustain themselves economically, rather than rely on grants or aid. In the decades since, what is clear is the region has been left unspoiled; yet a large share of its locals enjoy sound economic status. While the two did have a difference in opinion, both visionaries shared a love for the mountains.
In case of the Everest View’s founder, he grew up in a mountainous region called Nagano in Japan. While in university, he joined its mountaineering club and even enlisted for expeditions to Greenland and the Antarctic. But despite the stunning environs that he’d probably witnessed, it was Nepal that captivated Miyahara most. Suffice to say this erstwhile kingdom does boast some of the world’s most stunning views.
Its construction was no small feat
Miyahara was able to accomplish a mammoth task, in an area without motorable access. This, of course, is why the region is still unspoiled by the ills of exhaust fumes and engine roars. At the same time, this meant there were even bigger challenges to overcome back in 1968-69.
The bulk of materials were transported by helicopters or porters — a practice that still continues today for construction in the region.
Certain bits were even sourced from Japan; these were first shipped to Calcutta. From there, it was transported to Kathmandu, onward to Lukla and ultimately to Syangboche. It also helped that the project’s chief initiator was a mechanical engineer himself, and he held hospitality experience too.
Takashi Miyahara’s family still owns a ryokan in Nagano. Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns that became popular in areas with hot springs. They featured what are called tatami rooms; tatami being straw mats. The inns also served up delicious local cuisine, making them popular with locals and foreign visitors alike.
His legacy will live on
Takashi Miyahara became so fond of Nepal that he became a citizen of the country. He married a Nepali lady and the couple was blessed with a daughter called Sonia. Miyahara even went on to hold political office in Nepal; he was engaged with Nepal Ministry of Commerce and Supplies. In 2006, he founded the Nepal Rashtriya Bikas Party.
Miyahara made an Everest summit attempt at the age of 60. It wasn’t successful, but then again, not many would consider such an idea at 60. He breathed his last in November 2019 at the age of 84. Currently, Sonia holds the reins to the family business.
The airstrip at Syangboche was also Miyahara’s brainchild. It would allow visitors easy access to the hotel. In the decades since, the Syangboche airstrip isn’t used much because it can only cater to single engined planes. Besides, there’s now a helipad right next to the hotel.
A problem that many visitors faced, however, was altitude sickness. Trekking to the hotel allowed ample time for acclimatisation but flying in directly to 13,000 feet didn’t agree with everyone’s bodies.
As for us, we’d only stopped for a cup of tea at the Everest View. I loved its minimalist interiors. Also, the presence of a fireplace and a grand piano, set against a backdrop of 8000-ers, was quite surreal. On a future visit, I hope to be able to stay at this magnificent hotel, and simply stare at the mountains.