The team is now safely back in Kathmandu. After a short walk from Chutanga down to Lukla on Saturday morning they had a leisurely day followed by the first of a number of celebratory dinners.
Sunday’s flight from Lukla to Kathmandu was mercifully uneventful. In a less than an hour’s flying time the team were transported from the fresh cool air of an isolated mountain village to the warm and humid chaos of Nepal’s capital.
Afternoon activities were segregated according to Dom. Margie, Di and Janice were off shopping while Warwick, Frank and Dom headed for a shave. Frank was allegedly also lining up for a manicure.
Last night they were heading for another celebration dinner in one of the many excellent
restaurants near the Shanker Hotel, before spending a couple more days rest and relaxation around the pool in the gentile surrounds of the Shanker.
Margie is on an earlier flight and should be back in Adelaide at 8.10am on Tuesday morning (Singapore SQ279). The others are due in on Thursday morning, also at 8.10am.
Thank you readers for your support of Centacare’s Mera Peak Team 2012. Many messages of support were relayed to the team and were most appreciated when the going was at its toughest. Your donations for Auricht House are also most appreciated.
If the team’s adventures have given you the taste for a similar challenge then contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org – Centacare’s Mera Peak Challenge 2013 is now being considered.
|Support Dominic Reppucci||Support Di Walker||Support Frank Favaro|
|Support Janice Watt||Support Warwick Bowden||Support Margie Anderson|
I know some followers of this blog have been unable to see the official Adventure Consultants dispatches (http://www.humanedgetech.com/expedition/ac82/). From the AC site we have just received Mark’s first dispatch since the Summit so I have reprinted it here in full – it gives a much better picture of the summit attempt than I have been able to give with the information received over our satellite link. As I read it I was filled with even more admiration for what each member of the team had achieved.
Whew, what a few days. I apologize for not updating the dispatches, but we have been preoccupied with climbing a mountain.
As I mentioned in my previous dispatch we were indeed due to head to high camp. We set off in clear conditions, full of beans and anticipation of what lay ahead. We passed over familiar territory from our previous acclimatisation walk and soon we were into new ground, on the glacier, walking between huge crevasses happily traipsing along in our mountaineering boots and crampons. Life was good!
Soon though the wind started to rise. Clouds gathered. Snow began to fall.
Before we knew it we were in a full blizzard. We were at Mera La pass, 5450m, we still had 400m to climb. Visibility was down to near zero, the temperature had plunged and the wind was close to gale force. We had some choices to make. Our team had split into two by now, a fast group and a slow group, 3 and 3. I had to make a difficult decision and now was the time to make it. I gathered Dominic, Frank and Margaret together and half shouting into the wind I told them that they had to go back. Reluctantly they agreed and the last I saw of them was them disappearing into the clouds being led by Nema Sherpa on the way back to base camp.
After some time I managed to catch up with the faster group, Warwick, Di and Janice who were being led by Singi Sherpa, the conditions hadn’t improved but we were warm and moving steadily higher…..and higher….and higher. The hill seemed to go on and on forever into the clouds. The air was thin and our legs screamed for a break, but we couldn’t stop, it had to be so close. Eventually it did arrive, high camp, our safe refuge. The weather had by now eased slightly but we were all exhausted and extremely pleased to see our mountain solace. We were now at 5900m. It was 4pm and we had 9 hours to rest and recover in order to push onto the summit.
But rest we did. At least as best we could as very strong wind gusts battered our tents throughout the night. As it inevitably does, time moved on, and the light became dark, we ate what we could on a stomach that wanted nothing to do with food. Sleep was difficult to come by and the anticipation was high.
1am. I leapt out of my sleeping bag to have a look at the conditions, well I say leapt, but it was around minus 20°C and at close to 6000m, it was more like a struggling crawl. But look I did and I was greeted by the welcome scene of glistening pin pricks in the inky blackness, stars. Clear weather. It was on, it was time to move.
Well, 2 hours later anyway, of struggling with harnesses and boots and crampons we set off into the darkness.
The footsteps we followed led off, upwards towards the stars into the black. Our world only being within the pool of light emanating from our headlamps. Oxygen at this height is scarce and our lungs heaved and legs burnt. The extreme cold pierced our extremities and doubt pierced our thoughts. Why carry on? The rope we were tied to never seemed to relent to slope remained constant, the cold intense.
It was now that Warwick decided that he didn’t want to go on. He had put in a huge effort to get to high camp and he acknowledged that his body didn’t have it in it. There was no gas in the tank. It was a wise decision and not one taken lightly.
So now it was Di, Janice, Singi and Sherku Sherpa, and myself. Still moving upwards. Moving upwards towards the beckoning stars, looking within to somehow find the strength to carry on. Was it worth it.
The hope began to rise in the eastern sky. First as a silhouette , then a burning glow. The sun was rising over the greatest mountains on the planet. Soon Everest, Makalu, Cho Oyu and countless others were framed by a golden sky. As the sun rose hope rose within us. This was possible.
The slope never relented, but to be able to see at least to the top of the next rise made the task at hand seem achievable.
False summits dashed our hoped several times and the seeds of doubt began to creep in again, but then there it was, the summit. One last long slope. Exhaustion screamed within our bodies, begging us to turn back, but the mind remained strong and at 8am, 5 long hours after setting out from high camp we stood on the top of Mera Peak.
We had done it.
The views from here were phenomenal. The highest mountains on earth stretched out before us. The steepness of the peaks seemed to defy gravity and the valleys seemed carved by some giant hand. There was elation and relief all round. The pain had stopped and the summit achieved.
One could stand here, silent. In a place where humans shouldn’t be and feel the privilege of this place. This was a moment that would remain with us until we die. And it seemed that when we died that this would be the place that our soul might come, such was the beauty.
The descent was inevitable, and down we went. The downward slope passed beneath us and hours rolled by. In a haze of exhaustion we passed through high camp. Rested and carried on to base camp. Clouds rolled in, snow flakes fell. We slipped on rocks. We walked, sat, talked, smiled, slumped and struggled. Then 32 hours since we had left, we wandered back into base camp. The others who had turned back were there to greet us with elated hugs, kisses and handshakes.
We had done it. Home safe.
That was 2 days ago now. I am currently sitting in the oxygen rich air, in the sunshine in Mosom Kharka (the Ewok village) back down valley. The group has gone ahead towards Tashing Dingma. We are all pleased to be descending and enjoying the warmth after our efforts up high. There is some obvious disappointment from some that the summit wasn’t reached by all, but we are all circumspect about the condition.
Mountains are the great humblers of the world, and Mera Peak is certainly no exception.
Janice and Di are extremely pleased with their achievement , but I think will only really appreciate when they can get home again and recover properly as fatigue still plagues their bones.
A special mention has to be made to Singi and Sherku Sherpa, who without them it would have been far more difficult. In fact they seem to wander along whistling all the way. The Sherpa people continue to amaze us with their strength and patience.
Well, I must head off into the sunshine to catch up with the group. I will write some more soon about our descent. We have a couple of easy days ahead and then 1 long day over the Zatra La pass back to Lukla and our flight back to Kathmandu, and a shower, on the 6th.
So, finally, until tomorrow
Mark and the team
The team have had a very busy day in Kathmandu. Adventure Consultants guide, New Zealander Mark Morrison, did a thorough gear check. Mark’s patient, organised and laid back demeanor has inspired confidence in the group. I understand Margie has hired a container to store the excess gear she has which Mark says will not be required on the mountain. There were reports though of Margie attempting to smuggle some of the extra thermals, possum skin gloves and wool beanies back into her backpack.
The team have collected all their mountaineering gear, tried on boots and had a practice with crampons and harnesses. Then it was time for some sightseeing in Kathmandu, described by Janice as one of the most amazing and chaotic place she has ever seen – where to cross the street is to take your life into your hands. (This from a woman who has spent time in Port Moresby!) Amongst other places the team visited Pashupatinath, the sacred Hindu temple and place of funeral rituals. Margie was last seen doing some shopping for more gear.
Back to the Shanker for a restful coffee by the pool and then into rooms to pack, repack and then repack again.
As I write this the team will be at Kathmandu Airport, having been woken for a 4am start, and hoping that fog will permit an early flight to Lukla.
The Team have arrived safely in Nepal. I understand a team of Sherpas was on standby to help Margie unload her carry-on luggage from the plane but the airport and customs were successfully negotiated without drama. The team made their way through the chaos of Kathmandu traffic to the relative calm of the Hotel Shanker. The Shanker comes from the pages of a Rudyard Kipling novel and will be home for the next 2 days. Tasks for today will include a thorough gear check, some last minute gear shopping and hopefully some time for sightseeing.