Mera Peak (6476m) is one of the most crowded peaks in Nepal. We did this as an acclimatization climb before Baruntse (7220m), but I'm quite surprised and disappointed that we only aimed for the central summit (6461m), which in fact is the false summit. But so do everybody else, being fooled by Sherpas and other locals to believe that this is the highest point of Mera.
Day 0 - Kathmandu to Lukla
As usual when flying to Lukla, one have to wake up very early in Kathmandu, around 4am. That was very unfortunate for David who had been vomiting all night due to a stomach bug. At the domestic terminal in Kathmandu there are less hustle and bustle than normally, so we board our flight earlier than I expected. It turns out to be a pretty exciting flight because the pilots has to fight their way around all the mushroom clouds. I'm very relieved after the rough but safe landing. Still alive after one more dangerous Lukla flight. We stay the night in Namaste Lodge, a nice place with ok food and rooms.
Day 1 - Lukla (2840m) to Chutanga (3480m)
A pretty short day on the trail, but longer than expected because Chutanga's elevation on the map was wrong by 300 meters. Later we learn the reason, that there is a lower and upper Chutanga. Most of us arrive the tea house in Chutanga shortly before it starts to rain. Seven of us (David, Andy, Andy, Matt, Michael, Thorsten and myself) sleep in the dining room instead of the wet tents. David has improved remarkably after his Kathmandu bug, but now it's Sam who vomits.
Day 2 - Chutanga (3480m) to Thuli Kharka (4300m)
All but me eat Diamox like candies to make this day at high elevation possible. In addition to that, some take antibiotics due to stomach bugs, others are on painkillers because of headaches. I'm the first to arrive the snowy Zawtra-la pass at 4600m, and have no altitude problem at all, probably due to my recent climb of Mount Ararat. It's an awful day for sick-boy Sam, but it's quite remarkable he is able to cross the pass in his condition. The seven dining-room-sleepers from yesterday share a dorm again. A lot of jokes, burps and farts eventually turns into snoring.
Day 3 - Thuli Kharka (4300m) to Khote (3500m)
Everybody expect plenty of downhills, but it turns out to be numerous small ridges to cross on the way, thus many uphills as well. Khote is not a settlement, but just a village with plenty of tea houses catering for Mera Peak. This is also the entrance to the Makalu Barun National Park. I decide to get my own room in Khote for 300 rupees after a couple of nights in dorms.
Day 4 - Khote (3500m) to Tangnag (4350m)
It's a gorgeous day, and Mera Peak is clearly visible high above the village. The gentle hike up the valley is really enjoying, and to the left we see Kusum Kangguru (6367m) and just ahead of us the beautiful peak Kyashar (6770m). Kusum Kangguru is the hardest (TD) trekking peak in Nepal and rarely climbed, while Kyashar had it's first official climb in 2003 by a Swiss team. Shortly before Tangnag there is a monastery under a cliff. Richard, John and myself spend 30 minutes visiting the lama.
Day 5 - Rest day in Tangnag
I spend the day hiking up the ridge in front of Kusum Kangguru. I reach 5100m before I decide to stop. From this point I have a very up close view of the challenging route to this TD-mountain. One day I might return for Kusum Kangguru, so I make sure to get some good photos of the route.
Day 6 - Tangnag (4350m) to Khare (5000m)
A big leap in elevation, but distance wise a fairly short day. I'm surprised of all the activity in Khare, it's almost like a small version of Namche with some tiny mountaineering shops as well. Mera Peak climbers can even hire plastic boots from this village, so they don't have to be carried in the long way from Lukla.
Day 7 - Rest day in Khare
This day is spent for final gear check and some practise with jummar on a fixed rope. A few of us even hike up the ridge behind Khare to get a better view of Mera Peak and the valley on the north side. We gain almost 300 meters before the ridge ends.
Day 8 - Khare (5000m) to Base Camp (5200m)
Shortly beyond Khare we arrive the glacier. The snow conditions are good, so we don't put on crampons. We don't even rope up, and as long as one follow the hard packed trail on the glacier there are not really any crevasse issues. Soon we reach the Mera-la (5415m) and start the short steep descend on the other side, where crampons would be nice to have. But it's just a few meters before we reach the rocks, so no one seems to bother anyway. Most teams have pitched their camp just next to the pass, so we are surprised to find out that our camp is 30 minutes further down. But our spot next to a lake is surely a better place for BC, despite loosing quite many elevation meters from the pass.
Day 9 - Rest day in Base Camp
While the rest of the team head up the nearby glacier to practice on ice, I decide to stay behind in BC. I have nothing to gain from such basic lessons, so instead I spend the time organizing my gear, reading books and get some rest before the summit push starts.
Day 10 - Base Camp (5200m) to High Camp (5800m)
Finally we start the push after so many days of waiting. I decide to wear my Everest Millet shoes right from the start, because it will only be an hour or so on the trail before we reach the Mera-la and the glacier anyway. On the glacier we put on crampons, but there is no need to rope up, so we move independently. I arrive High Camp well ahead of the others, a big advantage when it comes to tent selection. It's very windy up there, but High Camp is protected by a rock outcrop, so it's a magic place with a gorgeous view. My tent buddy Sam arrives after a while, and the stew we get for dinner is excellent.
Day 11 - Summit day
Me and Sam are in the fast group intended to start at 3am, so we are really surprised to get bed tea as early as 1am. We just relax for another hour, before the porridge arrives our tent at 2am. After the awful porridge it's time to get ready. The slow group left shortly after 2am, while we are ready to leave at 3am. As yesterday we are not roping up due to the solid surface. I wear a down jacket and down pants from the start, and it do not take many minutes before I'm overheated in the uphills. I have to remove the fleece jumper and partly unzip my pants before I can continue. That cumbersome operation leaves me and Sam behind all the others. But it do not take long to pick up the tail of both the slow and fast group. We bypass one by one during the early hours. I'm surprised how fit and fast Sam is after all his stomach problems. He keeps up with my pace, and he is never more than a few meters behind me. At dawn we bypass the two Greeks and only have Matt and Andy a few meters ahead. The four of us arrive the saddle together, and shortly after we are in front of the crevasse which has turned around so many other climbers this season. This short pitch is now secured by fixed ropes so it is easy work with jummar and ice axe to climb out of the crevasse and reach the Central Summit of Mera Peak. The late starters were (not surprisingly) the first to summit, and it took us only 3 hours and 10 minutes from High Camp. We enjoy the sunrise, and take the mandatory been-there-done-that summit photos. I look over to the North Summit, and it does look slightly higher, confirming my suspicion that the Central Summit really is the false summit. I estimate another 1-2 hours to reach the North Summit, and maybe trouble with crevasses and cornice as well. I ask the Sherpas if we can go over there. They just say no, no, this is the real summit, why go over there. I just give up, knowing that a solo venture over there would not be accepted by the leadership.
On the descend we meet all the others coming up. There were 5 people not summiting (Maikie, Elaine, Hanne, Charles and one of the Greek guys), everyone else made the summit during the day
Continue to Baruntse