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 :
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
All team members are now safely back at base camp (Khare).
For the three on the mountain, Janice, Di and Warwick, the day started at 1am. They set out from High Camp after a fitful sleep and headed into the dark towards the summit. Warwick turned back about an hour out from High Camp at around the 6000m mark. Janice and Di pushed on to the summit and were rewarded with beautiful clear skies and views in every direction. Janice said she could see everything – and everything includes Everest.
They made good time coming down and were back to base camp by 4pm (Nepal time). Janice said it was a wonderful experience but that they were absolutely exhausted. The phone link was, as usual, scratchy and intermittent but I suspect I could hear the beginnings of a celebration in the background.
The plan for tomorrow is to sleep as long as possible, then depart in a leisurely fashion, heading back down the valley for 4-5 hours. That may well have them back in the relative comfort of Kote tomorrow night.
Through the Adventure Consultants expedition updates we have received news that the team (with Dom, Frank and Margie being back at Base Camp we assume this means Janice, Di and Warwick with Guide Mark) have reached the summit of Mera Peak. The news of great views and weather suggests good conditions for the descent. Congratulations to all for their endevours at these altitudes – nothing is easy up that high. We look forward to more news when the team is settled at camp.
For those not receving the AC updates (http://www.humanedgetech.com/expedition/ac82/ ) the Summit Message reads:
We have just now heard from guide Mark Morrison from the summit of Mera Peak.
With great views and amazing weather for climbing his team made great time from their high camp to the top at 6476m.
Mark will be back down at high camp later today and will hopefully be able to provide a full account of their day.
Congratulations to all.
Sunday was a tough day on Mera Peak for our team. An early start from base camp and then the difficult climb up on to the glacier before the slog across the ice began. They walked in two groups, Warwick, Janice and Di in the lead group and Dom, Frank and Margie in the second group. About the time they were passing Mera La the weather deteriorated, wind rose, snow was blowing hard into faces and visibility declined. Warwick, Janice and Di pushed on towards High Camp while Dom, Frank and Margie made the decision to turn back.
Dom, Frank and Margie are now back at Base Camp, safe and relatively warm, and will wait there until the others return.
The team reached Mera Base Camp (Khare) before lunch today (Thursday) and are in excellent spirits. Dom said they had maintained their very slow deliberate pace which all the team were finding quite easy.
Dom reported that the team are also in good physical shape. A few have got over some minor tummy troubles and at this stage there is not an altitude headache between the lot of them. While some in the team found the jungle section difficult and were worried about what was to come, Dom said that the last few days has seen confidence and determination grow.
Dom did offer the thought that the excellent food must have come from Jenny Craig, because no matter how much they eat they are all, with the possible exception of Frank, losing weight. Message to Gina from Dom – he will need a new belt and all his trousers taken in please!
This afternoon they are re-acquainting themselves with their boots, crampons and climbing gear ready for tomorrows excursion onto the glacier. The plan at this stage is to go all the way to Mera La (camp 1) before returning to base camp. This will allow them to both acclimatize and to test their climbing gear in action.
I thought you might be interested in this photo of the map on my notice board on which I am plotting progress. In case you can’t read the writing: the two green tags are on Tangnag and Khare and the first pink tag is Mera La. Second pink tag is High Camp and orange is the summit. The map has some name and altitude discrepancies with other maps and I’m pretty sure some of the locations are wrong as well but the general direction of travel is close!
At a short ceremony on Thursday April 12 Centacare Director, Dale West, presented Dominic Reppucci with the Centacare Flag.
All being well and conditions allowing, the flag will fly on the summit of Mera Peak around May 1st.