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|
Sounds easy. It wasn’t.
At the best of times Thuli Kharka can be described as desolate and I don’t think last night was the best of times. The snow set in during the afternoon and continued till midnight. As the snowfall continued the decision was made to move everyone out of their tents, which were in danger of collapsing under the weight, and into the stone lodge building.
This morning the team rose to a world covered in snow and ice, and began the daunting 300m climb up to the pass. Ropes were needed to get the team over the pass on a track which Dom was certain even goats wouldn’t attempt.
Warwick then took up the commentary and described the descent, a steep 1600m decline that is usually covered in loose rubble but today was spiced with ice and snow. Multiple falls and the odd bruise followed. Janice reportedly performed a triple somersault with pike that earned 10/10 from the Russian judge. Frank, Dom and Marg allegedly slid the last kilometre to camp on their bums.
After a gruelling 8 hour day though the team were set for a celebration tonight. The worst is over, civilisation (or Lukla at least) is just a 3 hour walk away tomorrow, the air is thicker and there are no more hills to climb.
………and we are now taking bookings for Mera Peak 2013.
Last night they stayed at Tashing Dingma after a 3 hour walk from Mosom Kharka. Today they will climb 3oom to the gloriously named Thuli Kharka at about 4300m. Leaving another 300m climb on Friday over the high pass at Zatrwa La.
I had the chance to talk briefly to Di last evening. She was still weary from the climb and glad that yesterday was a short day. She spoke about the fantastic views from the summit but also how lucky they were to get a brief clear window on top of Mera. By they time they were heading down, the snow and wind had returned and visibility was again poor. While Di reported that there were no problems with altitude sickness she did warn that they will not be pretty sights with their windburnt swollen faces and burnt cracked lips.
With the usual caveat about difficult communication and the poor quality of my maps – this is a picture of a plot of the team’s progress on my wall :
Tuesday was an interesting day for the team. The departure from the Mountain would have been accompanied by a range of sometimes conflicting emotions. The quiet satisfaction of achievement, the wonder at their bodies capacity to cope with extreme challenges, perhaps regret at leaving Mera with some things not done, some sights not seen, the physical exhaustion and mental weariness that comes after such a trial, a stirring of excitement about coming home to family and friends and deep gratitude to those around them who helped make this possible.
From Base Camp at Kore the team headed back down the river valley, did not stay at Tangnag, and continued to Kote (Mosom Kharka). The air felt thicker, the conditions warmer and the village felt like a luxury hotel with the possibility of washing clothes, warm showers and a day of rest with no acclimatization walks.
Some time today they will sit down with Mark and look at what comes next and realise that it is not all downhill from here. To get back to Lukla they will need to climb over the pass at Zatrwa La, a tough but spectacular trek. But that is tomorrow’s challenge. Today they rest, reflect and recover.
After another long day’s trekking on Thursday the team reached their target destination, the small village of Panggom. Although the height of 2600m may give the impression that the trek has been all downhill since Lukla (2860m) the team have in fact been ascending and then descending some significant ranges.
Di was on communication and described the fantastic scenery. The walking for the day was through mixed forest interspersed with traditional terrace farming – often millet which can handle the harsh conditions. Di said that the pace was quite slow and steady with all 6 walkers keeping together, although she did reveal that Frank and Dom were happy recipients of some muscle massaging by Margie. Also noted that Margie has managed to produce a new set of clothes each day.
Di said that the Mark and the Sherpas have been doing a great job and that the food has been excellent. Steak last night apparently.
Today the group plan to visit the local school, which has 15 students, to present some books and equipment to the teachers. They will then set out on their trek for the day. They will be following a rarely used path along the ridge above Panggom. So rare that it doesn’t appear on any of the maps.
Di passed on thanks for the messages the group has received and sends love back to all at home.
Finally the team have taken their first walking steps towards the summit of Mera Peak.
The early morning wake up call, hot cup of tea, warm towel and breakfast in bed at the Lukla Tea House was only a distant memory by the time they arrived at the Apple Pie Lodge at Puiyan after a walk of 7 hours 40 minutes which included some quite tough sections.
Unlike most of the crowd of trekkers at Lukla who headed uphill, north to Everest Base Camp, our group headed initially south and downhill through lush farmland and then into the strange and beautiful Rhododendron and Magnolia forests. The track was well made but with steep slopes above and below and had to be shared with local traffic – heavy loads being carried by human and animal power.
Eventually the track began its inevitable rise and Janice described the pace as nice, slow and comfortable and the views as spectacular. All were fit and well on arrival and as Dom said “still talking to each other”.
Puiyan is small village at 2800m featuring some excellently constructed stone lodges and glorious views over the mountains. The team had an early night following their meal of pizza and roast potato and found their first night in tents to be surprisingly warm – “only one layer of thermals required” (by Janice at least).
Communication with the team will become more difficult from now on as they head further into the mountains. If you would like to send a message however I will try to pass it on if we can establish a satellite link. You can email messages to me at email@example.com or via my mobile 0407093246.
Just received this picture from Dom taken during the morning walk.
A quick note on time: Adelaide is 3:45 hours ahead of Kathmandu. That means when it is 9:00 am in Kathmandu, it is 12:45 pm in Adelaide. Yes this is no mistake – Nepal is one of the few places with a 15 minute time differential.
We have news from Dominic that the team have arrived safely in Lukla.
This is good news on two fronts. The landing at Lukla is one of the most interesting in world aviation – with a short bumpy strip on a narrow plateau on the side of a mountain – it is always a good feeling to land safely. The other part of the good news is that this is a very early arrival at Lukla (7am Nepal time) and sets up the possibility of getting a few kilometres under the belt before lunchtime.
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.