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Bad Weather Strands Thousands near Mt. Everest

A Tara Air Dornier Do 228 aircraft taxis after landing at the Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, some 140 kilometres (87 miles) northeast of Kathmandu, on December 2, 2009. Lukla is known as the gateway to Mount Everest. The Himalayan nation's government is holding a cabinet meeting on the shadow of Everest on December 4 to draw attention of climate change in the Himalayas.
PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, Dec. 2, 2009.
PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images

Thick clouds and high winds have grounded most flights to and from the closest airstrip to Mt. Everest this week, stranding around 2,000 foreign tourists, including some Americans, in the small town of Lukla in eastern Nepal.

At an elevation of around 9,100 feet, Lukla is considered the hub of the Himalayas where mountain climbers typically begin and end their expeditions to Mt. Everest. But inclement weather has forced many travelers to extend their stay.

Phurba Gyeljen Sherpa, owner of an Irish pub and internet cafes in Lukla, tells CBS News in an e-mail that travelers are running out of money as prices in town for food and lodging are rising.

"Whole trekking groups and large expeditions are stuck in our tiny town," he wrote. "All over town, all lodges are full and many Americans are getting desperate to catch a flight to Kathmandu."

"Many [Americans] are late to their jobs, important meetings, or are using my internet cafe's satellite to contact their husbands, wives and kids at home to explain why they won't be back from their adventures in the mountains in time," Sherpa wrote.

Located on a mountainside cliff, Lukla's airport is considered one of the world's most dangerous. It is only accessible by small airplanes and helicopters and constantly changing weather conditions often force the cancellation of flights between Lukla and Kathmandu.

At the moment, there is a high demand for ways out of Lukla, but options are limited and becoming expensive.

"The only way to get out is to catch one of the few helicopter flights each morning," Sherpa wrote. "At first prices were at $250 a seat, but now have risen to over $900 a seat for the one hour flight."