Mera Peak & Island Peak – April/May 2019
Macaroni cheese for breakfast at half past midnight on a Monday morning is unconventional to say the least. But that’s what I was eating. Then again, not many Monday mornings start at a high camp at 5800m preparing for a push to a 6000m+ summit in the Himalayas.
We were about to set off for the summit of Mera Peak (6476m), the first of our three objectives on this expedition. Rik, Ged, Sharon and I were going to form the faster rope with Phuchetar, one of our climbing Sherpas; whilst Ron, Holly and Silke would follow in a slower group led by our Sirdar Funuru. After a couple of hundred of metres height gain, Ron (who had been bravely struggling with a knee injury) decided that he was going too slowly and opted to return to high camp. At the same time Sharon, who had been amazingly strong up to now, was battling with nausea. A swift reconfiguration of the ropes saw Rik and Ged moving ahead as a smaller fast team with Funuru and I staying with the remainder.
It was a long night as we toiled up the glacier towards Mera. It was always “three more hours” no matter how far we progressed, and without a doubt with each step our pace slowed and slowed. Another hour on and it was still “three more hours”. There were no landmarks against which to measure progress but instead just false horizons. Suddenly Rik and Ged appeared on their descent, having summited at 0630. Pointing out the landmarks and telling us we were almost there gave the team a new sense of energy and purpose. An hour or so later, Sharon, Holly, Silke and I all made the top and were delighted to have the place to ourselves for some emotional congratulations and photographs.
Eight hours later we were down at the lovely campsite of Kongma Dingma at 4750m. The next couple of days were spent moving up the Hongu Valley towards our next objective and the highlight of the trip – the crossing of the Amphu Lapsta pass. We trekked and camped by ‘white lakes’, lakes filled almost entirely by ice with just a small fringe of water, the dying throes of once mighty glaciers. Eventually we were poised below the Amphu Lapsta.
The crossing of the pass was indeed the highlight. An ascent up the glacier; then jumaring up fixed ropes through rock slabs and steep snow/ice; before another section through the top seracs brought us to the top of the pass. From there, multiple abseils down rock and snow/ice slopes, as well as traverse sections clipped to fixed ropes, finally brought us to the end of the technical difficulties and a very long walk down to the next campsite.
Our third objective, Island Peak (6189m), was sadly not to be. Having lost several days at the start of the trip due to various different flight disruptions, we no longer had any slack in our timetable. Two days of heavy snow came in just when we didn’t want it, giving us no option other than to abandon our attempt on Island Peak.
It was time to head down, and a few days of trekking to Lukla followed by our flight and bus journey saw us back in Kathmandu.
As the song goes, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”