Bad luck can be attributed to many things. Lousy weather, a misinterpreted Puja, or caused by stepping on thousands of ladybirds. For this expedition’s failure to reach the summit after two weeks of hard toil, I hold the latter to blame but the lousy weather probably didn’t help things either.
This 360 Expeditions Spring Mera Peak team (Peter, Emma, Sarah, Richard, Ian, Melanie and Sandra) reached the base camp, Khare (5,000m) via the remote jungle route. A forest dominated by many species of flowering Rhododendron and pock-marked by clearings where Sherpa people live growing crops and children.
For the first seven days we had seen no other trekking groups and enjoyed Nepal raw and real. Our descent into the Hinku Valley led us to encounter other people with the same objective and it was good to meet like-minded folk and to have a few giggles amongst ourselves about those funny national quirks other teams seem to have. In the Hinku valley the Himalayas make themselves known. Looming over everything is the huge north face of Mera and the rarely climbed Kussum Khanguru (6,300m) and Kyashar (6,770m).
Standing out from our like-minded ideals was the Polish “deepest scuba dive in the world” record team who unlike us aimed to do some diving before attempting the summit. Their porters were unique in that they, in addition to carrying 40kg of food and camping kit were burdened by scuba tanks, dry-suits and flippers. The Poles’ challenge had been made additionally tough by the fact that their thick neoprene hoods had been pinched from their bags at Delhi airport, a short-coming they had improvised upon by using plastic bags and gaffer tape. The dudes certainly lived up to their country’s alpine reputation for being hard-core but also were responsible for a few sniggers from us.
The trekking is through an area that sees few western visitors and, unlike the Khumbu, to stop for a beer or apple pie every hour or so is not possible. And even though there is ample time to chill and acclimatise you are still camping, enduring the weather and gaining altitude. The base camp (Khare 5,000m) is a lot higher then Mt .Blanc, the summit another mile above this.
Far from being short of hardcore ourselves we had remained healthy and fit. The high camp (5,780m) was reached by all but the unfortunate Melanie who although strong enough developed a chest problem just short of stepping on the glacier. She was helped down to the lower village of Tagnac (4,200m) for a little immersion into Sherpa hospitality and we met up again a couple of days later after our summit bid.
The midnight weather check from the tent at high camp is a moment I never look forward to. What I see outside determines if we will attempt to summit or not. This morning I opened the door and thought about the crushed ladybirds. It is snowing. In fact it hasn’t stopped snowing for 12 hrs. The snow build-up had piled thick on the tents and muffled the sound of the wind blasting the stuff around the camp. A quick satellite phonecall to HQ: forecast for next two days beginning to deteriorate.
Hmmm.. I still have two porters needing to come down from camp one. I have ordered 4 more to come up to clear the high camp for our descent. The glacier is now covered with at least a foot of snow. A radio hook-up with the Nepal crew determines that the avalanche hazard is not worth the risk. It’s a no-go for my team, we are coming back down to base-camp.
It hits us hard to realise that we probably will not be making another attempt. The hard work seems to have been for nothing. Bad luck and a bit of weather have stopped us reaching the summit. The team prepare for the trek out. Still not easy when we need to put in some big days of ascent and a monster day of descent to get back to Lukla, the gateway to the delights of Kathmandu.
During the return walk we cross the rivers where we spot huge boulders sticking high up in trees, up the valley we see a huge hole blown out of the moraine wall by a lake formed by the rapidly melting glacier, another avalanche big enough to consume a village roars down the northern flanks, it begins to snow and the path ahead disappears high up into the swirling mist. Yep, we are still in the Himalayas where mother nature calls the shots and amid this very vivid display of power the talk soon turns to how lucky we are to experience what we are seeing and doing. And it is not long after that we are reflecting on what a fantastic place the hidden Hinku Valley of Nepal is to have found ourselves for a short period of time.
If you too want to head out to Mera peak with 360 Expeditions then head to the website where you will find the full details. The next expedition to Mera is in October 2012 (however this is fully booked) so why not jump on to the April 2013 one.
Mera Peak Jackets
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