Read about Adventure Consultants' 2006 expedition to Mera Peak, the highest trekking peak in Nepal and one of it's hidden gems.
9 October 2006 - A Will to Climb Everest
On the 3rd October Will Elrick climbed Mera Peak (6,476m) as a member of an Adventure Consultants Team. There is nothing particularly remarkable about this fact. What stands out about this ascent is that Will has one leg and climbed the mountain using crutches. Yes, crutches. Understandably, this drew looks of amazement and overwhelming respect from those who witnessed him in action. Very few people believed that even a powerfully built and determined athlete like Will could achieve this feat.
If you are like me, you are probably wondering why Will did not use a prosthetic limb, like other climbers have. The difference is that Will has had a hip disarticulation which means that he lost his leg to the hip. Put another way, when Will goes to sit down he only has one buttock! Successful ascents of Everest have been made by climbers who have had below knee amputations but never a hip disarticulation. Most folks with a hip disarticulation opt not to use the available prosthetic options as they are too cumbersome and limiting.
Will’s climb of Mera Peak is an unofficial height record for an ascent on crutches. Will plans to break this record, in fact, his goal is to climb to the top of Mt Everest on crutches. Having climbed with him on Mera Peak I believe he has the capacity, skills and endurance to achieve this goal.
Will lost his right leg in a traumatic automobile accident in 1997. He was in a coma for five weeks and suffered a multitude of injuries that left medical staff in awe that he even survived. A week after Will was given the 'all clear' from the hospital he went canyoning. He has not stopped pursing full on physical activities since. Among other things, Will is committed to Kung Fu and was a competitive track cyclist. In 2002, Will competed in the World Cup 1,000m time trial in Germany where he equalled the Australian record. In 2005 Will was a member of a team that raced 100km through Australian Bush Country. Will's Team finished in 25hrs while the average time for 'two leggers' was 29hrs. As training for Mera Peak, Will hiked 900km on the Camino de Santiago trek through France and Spain. He accomplished this in five weeks carrying all his own kit. Unless you witness Will in action it is hard to believe the speed he can autonomously travel over rugged terrain.
Will is 34 and lives in Sydney. For the past five years Will has worked as a massage therapist. He does up to eight massages in a day standing on one leg.
What is Will's ultimate goal? It is to raise environmental awareness and to educate people on environmental sustainability. Wills intention is to empower people to not just think about environmental sustainability but to act on it. "If a bloke with one leg and crutches can climb Mt Everest anything is possible".
I wish Will all the best in the pursuit of his dreams and in finding sponsorship for his goals. Mera Team member Paul Argyle believes Will should adapt the stage name, Will Power! Very apt, even if somewhat commercially crass. Will was fun company on Mera Peak and a true inspiration.
7 October 2006 - Descent to Lukla
Last night the decision was made to complete our return trek to Lukla in one day. Our porters were very onto it this morning in anticipation of the final day of the expedition. By mid-morning we were on the Zatra La in misty conditions and the big descent began. Will did half eccentric tricep dips for six hours! Try that next time you’re at the gym. No wonder he has triceps the size of some people’s thighs! Yep, Lukla was a welcome sight. It only took a few minutes before Kim was flicking through the channels on the one Sat TV for an English Premier League football game to watch. Paul thinks it is very funny that this is the one weekend there were no games. Meanwhile Will was protesting to get the TV turned off. This afternoon it felt great to be indoors during a heavy down pour. Seeing oneself in a mirror was truly frightening, Brad reckons. Tomorrow at 6.00am we will trot off to the airport to see what the day brings.
9 October 2006 - Kathmandu
Hi folks! Yesterday morning we had a spectacular flight from Lukla to Kathmandu. Before we knew it we had checked into Hotel Tibet and we were treating ourselves at 'Mike's Breakfast', a wonderful Kathmandu institution. Everyone is happy to be back and indulging themselves in city comforts; hot showers, clean clothes, satellite TV and their favourite café meal etc.
Overall, this Mera Peak expedition was a resounding success. I wish Will, Paul, Kim and Brad all the best with their future ventures, be they on mountains or otherwise.
There is one final dispatch, a feature on one legged climber Will Elrick.
4 October 2006 - Descent to Thangnak
A glorious morning heralded our departure from Mera La. You may think that having achieved the summit we would take a well-deserved rest day, but high altitude climbing doesn't work like that. There is much incentive to depart the alpine zone and to descend to the safety of the relatively oxygen rich sub alpine environment. So, it was business as usual, tea at 6.00am and the familiar ritual of packing, as tired as we all were. By 10.00am we had descended to the Base Camp town of Khare. In Khare, our climbing gear was packed away and we switched to trekking mode for the return journey.
Descending to Thangnak, on a grassy track, in lightweight trekking boots was a joy. There is a certain feeling of lightness, almost euphoria, that one experiences when descending to oxygen rich environments.
Our plan is to take some rest time in Thangnak and to trek to the small town of Kote tomorrow afternoon. Everyone is looking forward to some sort of a sleep in tomorrow.
Hurray for now
5 October 2006 - Onwards and Downwards
After the joys of our truncated sleep in (locals brawling in the chang house), Brad decided it would be nice to have a Tardis to get home in (re. Dr Who) with dancing girls in one of the spare rooms. Got that? What’s your age?
Several dispatches back I had a wee rave about how Thangnak was set in an amphitheatre of very spectacular and steep peaks. Well, about mid-morning today, a tremendous avalanche released from a massive ice cliff a vertical kilometre above Thangnak. A powder cloud of snow and ice a kilometre wide rushed straight at Thangnak. Fortunately (to say the least), the avalanche debris dissipated before reaching our stunned coffee clad hands. Enough excitement for today thanks!
Our trek down to the forested town of Khote was more of a gravity assisted saunter beside a never ending series of cascading rapids. Very pleasant. The waterfalls above Khote are truly spectacular. Once in Khote we were hit up by the Maoists for a 'compulsory donation'. Will was not charged. So if you want to be exempt, chop your leg off!
Amazing fact of the day: The hand sawn timber cut in the forests around Khote is plumb within a millimetre! That was Brads observation. Those guys must have backs like horses.
A shower is starting to sound good!
A brief look into another day on the AC Mera expedition.
6 October 2006 - Forests, Mist and Weight loss
Today brought a change of pace. The pleasant downhill strolling of the past couple of days is over. Our lungs were once again working against increasing altitude as we climbed to the town of Tuli Kharka (4,300m). Eventually, we climbed out of the forest into very misty conditions.
Conversation is starting to gravitate towards returning to Kathmandu and home. Tomorrow will be our last full day of trekking as we cross the Zatrwa La (4,600m) and drop down towards Lukla.
Certainly the most entertaining moment of the day was when Brad imitated Kim's walking. This involved Brad revealing 2" of butt crack! (not a pretty sight). Two Sherpanis looked on with stunned amazement. Kim justifies the 'builder’s crack' as a side effect of the effective weight loss program he has been on. He is very proud of the weight he has lost. Altitude climbing will do this to you even when the food is great, as ours has been.
Civilization (as such) beckons.
2 October 2006 - Photographer's Dream at High Camp
What a day! As we climbed slowly up the Mera Glacier towards high camp a magnificent Himalayan panorama unfolded. Clear skies offered perfect views of five of the giant 8,000m peaks. To the west is the massive bulk of Cho Oyu. We are thinking of our fellow AC team who are scheduled to depart for the summit of Cho Oyu in the next 48 hours. Good luck to them! Towards the north are Everest, Lhotse and Makalu. On the Eastern border of Nepal is Kanchenjunga. These mountains are not just seen as specks on the horizon but they are revealed to us as the giants they are. This is not to mention the multitude of other spectacular 6,000m and 7,000m peaks within our view. The upper slopes of Mera Peak certainly offer an amazing Himalayan vantage point. It is hard not to go camera crazy.
Snow conditions this morning were perfect; crunchy and firm, none of this wallowing to the midriff. High Camp is situated on a sun-soaked rock ledge under the summit slopes of Mera Peak. This is a great place to chill out for the afternoon. An early start this morning assures we have a full afternoon of rest ahead of our summit bid tomorrow. Aside from a few of the usual aches and pains of high altitude climbing everyone is doing fine. The route to the summit looks enticing and anticipation is starting to mount for tomorrows summit climb.
Thinking of family, friends and the final challenges of Mera Peak
AC Mera Team
3 October 2006 - Mera Summit Day
Our summit day began auspiciously with an amazing sunset across the Himalayas last night. Sleep was fitful as it tends to be before an early start and summit bid. By 3.00am we were roped up with crampons strapped on. Guided by headlamps we headed up the gently angled glacial route to the Central Summit of Mera. Summits have a habit of being elusive... 'I bet it is up this next rise!' ... then, upon topping out on that rise, you find you have been fooled again. Mera was no different! A beautiful sunrise ushered in the new day. Persistent 10-15 knot north westerly winds insured we kept our warm layers on. At approximately 8.30am we reached a false summit (a high point on a ridge) where signs of tracks abruptly ended. A summit flag and other paraphernalia was placed there. Having carried fixed rope we decided to 'fix' the route to the true Central Summit. After some initial hesitation, the team bravely ventured forth and reached the summit at about 10.00am. Congratulations to Will, Kim, Paul and our climbing Sherpas Tashi and Pemba. Need I say, a camera clicking frenzy took place.
Despite being acclimatized and capable of reaching the summit, Brad decided to have a morning of solitude at high camp - a fantastic place to watch the sunrise and take it all in. Brad had achieved his objectives and was not strongly motivated by the summit. While this was a little disappointing to some team members we all respect his decision.
Upon returning to high camp power naps seemed to be popular (yes, some tired puppies!) as was the soup and tea we had before descending to our Mera La Campsite. I think folks will be out like the 'proverbial light' tonight.
I would like to offer a special congratulations to Will Elrick who climbed Mera Peak with one lower limb. Rather than use a prosthesis, Will uses specially adapted snow crutches because they are much more versatile. To watch Will hike and climb is truly humbling and it makes me realize how easy us "two leggers" have it. A truly inspiring effort.
Time for me to hit the go button on this dispatch and catch a nap.
30 September 2006 - Resting Before Summit Bid
Nepali techno-come-dance plays in the background as our Sherpa staff play cards outdoors in the sun. Today is a rest day at Khare. This morning we completed technical ropes training and now we are kicking back. Tomorrow we plan to move up to Mera La which is the location of our Camp 1. All going well we will move up to high camp (Camp 2) on Monday and attempt the summit on Tuesday. There remains the option of taking a rest or weather day at either of these camps.
The next few days will be a tough challenge. Just as we are thinking of friends and family in various locations around the globe, please send some positive vibes our way. Thanks!
Hurray for now
AC Mera Team
1 October 2006 - Camp at Mera La
A cloudless morning spurred us into action. From Khare we retraced our snow steps up towards the Mera Glacier. The frozen surface made for much easier travel today. At the Mera Glacier we roped up for crevasse travel and slowly plodded over to Mera La. Our camp is situated to the east of Mera La at 5,350m. It took about an hour of digging snow to make level tent platforms. After the 5-hour trip all members are happy to be relaxing. It is exciting to be bound for high camp tomorrow. Everyone is psyched and doing well. The general consensus is that the remainder of the route looks quite doable. Fingers crossed for continuing good weather.
Unfortunately, due to a wee technical hitch I will be unable to include real time photos for the next few days. Once back in Kathmandu I will match images with the dispatches. In the meantime I have some pici's stored from previous days that I can use.
29 September 2006 - Another Fantastic Day
Hi! After a leisurely breakfast, we donned plastic climbing boots and headed up the hill. What is often snow grass and rocky terrain underfoot was covered in snow. Brad, by default of being the heaviest became our 'crevasse poodle'. In other words, snow steps that would hold up for most of us often saw Brad wallowing into his waist. This is highly frustrating and uses a great deal of energy. The compensation was the magnificent weather and views. There are impressive mountains in all directions. All up, we climbed approximately 400m which enabled us to see most of the climbing route up Mera - very enticing. At our high point for the day we were about 1,000m above Thangnak and about 1,200m below the summit of Mera. Our climbing Sherpas Tashi and Pemba were in very high spirits and sung all the way down. The first thing Tashi did on returning to Khare was go for a ski. The energy of a youthful climbing Sherpa!
Tomorrow has been designated a much-deserved rest day. No doubt the ropes will come out and we will practice some tricks. Meanwhile, bring on a sleep in.
Adventure Consultants Mera Peak 2006 Expedition Dispatches
During the post-monsoon season of 2006, Adventure Consultants will operate an expedition to climb Mera Peak (6,476m) via the Mera La. The objective of the expedition is to make a safe and successful ascent of the mountain and for everyone to return safely to Base Camp. The expedition will take place over three weeks, with the team arriving in Kathmandu at the end of September. From Kathmandu, a flight to Lukla takes the team into the Khumbu Valley. They will then head to the Makalu Braun National Park where they will trek for eight days, slowly acclimatising to Mera Peak Base Camp. The team should be ready for a summit bid five or six days later, after carrying loads between camps and establishing a high camp at 5,800m. From the high camp the team will make their summit bid, returning to Base Camp the same day for celebrations and preparations for the trek back to Lukla.
For further information on this or future Mera Peak Expeditions contact us at email@example.com.
Mike Roberts - New Zealand (Expedition Leader)
Will Elrick - Australia
Brad Tucker - Australia
Paul Argyle - UK
Kim Jensen - Denmark
Pemba Gyalgen Sherpa - Nepal (Expedition & Climbing Sirdar)
Tashi Thundu Sherpa - Nepal (Climbing Sherpa)
17 September 2006 - Preparation in Kathmandu
Preparation for the Mera Peak expedition is underway. This is a trial dispatch to test the system.
Will and Brad have just spent two days in Nargokot hiking, relaxing and escaping the hustle and bustle of an ever more commercial Kathmandu. They took local transport which took four hours (normally one hour) but only cost 40 rupees! Kim has just climbed three trekking peaks in the Annapurna region of Nepal. Our fourth member, Paul is due to arrive in Nepal on the 18th.
Let me see if this message finds its way successfully through cyberspace to yours and my computer screens. Stay tuned for regular dispatches from the Mera Peak expedition.
Ciao for now
27 September 2006 - Blue Skies and High Peaks
Hi folks, today we were jubilant to awaken to blue skies and a mountain vista. What a lift! Fresh snow coating the peaks makes them even more striking. Initially, our route of travel to Thangnak (4,350m) followed a boulder-strewn river bed beside forest. This transitioned into grassy terraces with occasional dwellings and small herds of cattle and naks (female yaks).
Thangnak is an attractive small town nestled in an amphitheatre of impressive peaks. We all took advantage of the sun to lay our gear and ourselves out for a good baking. The solar system was producing at maximum rate and so we now have a charged battery and power. For the next week we will dwell in this alpine region, moving slowly higher as we acclimatize.
Thinking of friends and family
AC Mera Team
28 September 2006 - Up to Khare
Greetings all! This morning we awoke to cloudless skies and fantastic mountain scenery. All team members were feeling good and it was a unanimous decision to head up to the small town of Khare which forms Mera Base Camp (5,000m). We departed Thangnak at the leisurely hour of 9.30am and slowly climbed up grassy moraine beside the Dig Glacier. Before long, our route took us across grassy terraces beside a cascading stream. We had frequent rest stops to enjoy the suburb scenery. Will never imagined the Himalayas to be so beautiful. Kusum Kangguru (6,367m) and Kyashar (6,770m) are just two of the very impressive peaks in this region.
About 200m below BC (5,045m) we encountered snow from the recent storm. Presently BC has about 50cm of settling new snow. This will make for challenging climbing conditions as higher up snow depths are expected to be much greater. The small town called Khare has several rudimentary tea houses. 5,000m is an altitude record for Brad and Will.
Our plan is to spend a minimum of two nights at Khare. All going well, tomorrow we will venture out on an acclimatization jaunt and some training in the technical aspects of mountaineering.
Farewell for today
AC Mera Team
25 September 2006 - Rainy days and Mondays
Continuing on from the title... 'always make me smile'. Weren’t these words, or something like it, from a Carpenters sound track?
Yes, anyway, it is rather lashing down, cats and dogs as they say. There has been no respite from heavy rain in the last 48 hours. Consensus this morning was that taking a rest day in this cosy tea house was a fine idea and so we did just that.
Having gained 1,300-1,400m of sleeping elevation during the two previous days we can justify our actions on the basis of consolidating altitude gains for acclimatization purposes. Our team is doing fine and have not suffered altitude headaches etc. (touch wood and all that). Perhaps most importantly, we need to dry our dampening spirits not to mention our clothes.
Quotes of the day:
Will... 'The flamin rain on the flamin mountains is a shonk'
Brad... 'In this weather, I can't do anything with my hair... it goes all frizzy'
Kim... 'I miss my MP3 player ...' (namely, Slayer)
Paul... 'I'm glad Kim does not have his MP3 player!'
All very profound stuff as you can see.
Resting, chatting, reading, napping, listening to the rain and playing board games has been the nature of today. There is nothing like welcome and timely rest to motivate.
And there you have it for now.
Best wishes to all
Mike and the Mera Team
26 September 2006 - Descent to Khote
With much relief, we awoke to a clearance and the prospect of a fine day. Our morning routine consists of bed tea and a hot towel brought to us by our hard working Sherpa staff at 6.00am. We then pack our duffels so the porters can depart early. Breakfast is served at about 7.00am. Anytime between 7.30am and 8.00am we set off.
Today we headed down into the rhododendron forests and the Ingkhu Khola Valley. Tonight we are staying in a small riverside town called Khote (Mosam Kharke) at 3,700m. In the past year, seven new lodges have been built in Khote which about doubles the town size. In the forest close to Khote we came across a number of sawpits where the timber was milled. Local craftsman have very good skills in aesthetic dry rock wall construction.
Our plan tomorrow is to head up valley to the town of Thangnak which is only one day's walk from Mera Base Camp (BC). The recent rain has translated to large amounts of snow above BC. Today we met a French and an Italian climbing party retreating from Mera Peak due to the large amount of new snow. With plenty of days remaining we remain optimistic about our chances on the mountain.
After a 600m descent in altitude we all decided it was time to support the local economy and have an exorbitantly priced beer. Now it is time to turn a few pages and have a nap.
Hurray for now
23 September 2006 - Ridge Camp
Greetings from a damp camp in the Nepal high country where mist hangs on the hill tops and intermittent rain continues. A timely clearance at breakfast time was most welcome and spurred us into action. Our route today climbed 700m and traversed a ridge to our camp at about 3,700m. We are in sub-alpine scrub surrounded by craggy rock spires. There are no dwellings in this location and so parties have to be completely self sufficient. It is a one and a half hours walk to get water!
Our expedition party consists of a Sirdar/Climbing Sherpa (Pemba), a second climbing Sherpa (Tashi), our Cook (Zangbu), three 'Cook Boys' (Dengi, Mingma and Kuncha), eighteen hard working porters and five climbing members (Brad, Will, Paul, Kim and moi). Our staff are all doing an excellent job. Having been in Pakistan for the past two months it is very refreshing to experience a Sherpa/Nepali work ethic.
Today our cook and cook boys raced ahead so that by the time we reached camp our dining and kitchen tents were pitched and the stoves running. No sooner had we taken our packs off than a welcome cup of tea and noodle soup were served. Superb!
Despite the rain and mud everyone is in good spirits. Time for me to bury myself in a book or will it end up being an afternoon nap?!
24 September 2006 - A Tough Journey to Tuli Kharka
Today was tough. We travelled 'the tops' for eight hours in rough weather while gaining a further 600m in elevation. Exposure to the inclement elements provided challenging conditions to stay dry and warm. In other words, the rain was persistent! Our route followed a basic track in craggy terrain, through the sub-alpine zone. In places, the path followed a devious line of least resistance through spectacular bluffs.
Tonight we are staying in a lodge in the small alpine town of Tuli Kharka at an altitude of 4,300m. Right now we are busy drying ourselves, our gear and drinking tea. Tomorrow we will have a much easier day as we descend to the Ingkhu Khola, the drainage which flows alongside the west side of Mera Peak.
There you have it for today folks!
22 September 2006 - Hobbit Country
A change of plans today saw us taking an acclimatization day at Pangom, our Shire (apparently Will comes from a place called Sutherland Shire). This morning we climbed 550m in an effort to stimulate the body's physiological responses to altitude adaptation. Intermittent rain did not deter us and an enjoying outing was had.
In addition to the rhododendrons, the forest contains large oaks, bamboo pine and birch. Very reminiscent of New Zealand's forests, there are many varieties of fern, dense moss and a proliferation of 'Old Man's Beard'. Exquisite small flowers abound.
At our high point today was a Sherpani making butter in a rudimentary shelter while her young sister looked on. Their mother was out and about, minding their 18 cows. Come winter they will all return to Pangom and the butter will be sold in the local markets. This is a very traditional scene in an isolated location. Paul and Tashi had a go with the hand operated churner and discovered there was more of an art to making butter than initially seemed apparent. On our return to Pangom, we visited the Tibetan Buddhist Gompa (monastery). We all felt a strong sense of peaceful energy.
This afternoon we have showered, read books and rested. The opportunity to relax has been welcomed. Our plan tomorrow is to venture upwards and camp on the ridge high above Panggom. We'll see what the day brings.
21 September 2006 - Misty Rhododendron Forests
Hello folks, today has been another successful and enjoyable day of hiking. Within an hour of leaving camp this morning, we branched off the busy 'Everest Trail' and headed towards the isolated Arun Valley. Our journey took us through misty damp rhododendron forest with luxuriant undergrowth. The traversing route climbed in and out of gullies which contained spectacular waterfalls and cascades. Our Sherpa staff cooked a five star lunch for us in a basic 'old fashioned' tea house in a small town called Karte.
This evening we are staying in a remote town called Pangom (2m950m). As I write this dispatch we are lounging in an attractive atmospheric tea house to get out of the light rain. We will sleep in tents pitched on a lawn behind the tea house.
Will and Kim have discovered a common interest in death metal, heavy mental, grind core, hardcore, metal core, thrash, speed metal etc. I haven't heard of half of these music styles, let alone the numerous bands they are talking about! They are having a very animated conversation. Kim and Brad share a common interest in serious 'gaming'. Kim reckons he can disappear in front of the screen for weeks at a time. Where have I been!
Tomorrow our plan is to leave the haven of 'tea house land' and climb out of the forest into open sub alpine country. Our route will take us onto the ridge that divides the Khumbu Region from the Makalu Region.
Time for another cuppa so I'll say hurray for now.
19 September 2006 - Chilling out in Kathmandu
Hi folks, Mera Peak has officially begun. Welcome to three weeks of dispatches on our journey into Makalu Braun National Park to climb Mera Peak (6,476m).
After an introductory dinner on the evening of the 18th, today has been a chill-out day in Kathmandu. Time for Paul to recover from jetlag, a team meeting, last minute equipment purchases and packing. Not to mention the last chance for a salad and ice cream for three weeks.
We are all psyched to be flying to Lukla early tomorrow and beginning our approach trek tomorrow. Other than our Sirdar Pemba, our Sherpa staff are already in Lukla hiring porters and preparing loads. Fingers crossed for favourable flying weather and lets see how far we get on the track.
20 September 2006 - Our Journey Begins
A quick look out the window this morning revealed stars in the sky (yes, our wake up call was early!) which boded well for our flight to Lukla. Before we knew it we had shuffled our way through the airport procedures and were airborne. The views were fantastic and the air clarity high. What a treat of a flight, looking at high Himalayan summits and morning light on the small villages and agricultural terraces.
Lukla, gateway to the Khumbu Himal, is a relatively busy tourist and market town that we had a wander around. Two hours and a second breakfast later our porter loads were sorted and we were on our way. Yee ha, our week-long approach journey to Mera Peak is underway. Our route today involved descending from Lukla on the 'lower' Everest trail. Very few people nowadays walk from the road end at Jiri to Lukla. This section of trail was however bustling with porters carrying loads to the markets in Lukla and Namche Bazaar.
This ancient trading trail traverses the hillside high above the roaring Dudh Kosi River. Views of the surrounding mountains and river emerge at frequent intervals through the lush forest. Tonight we are camped in a scenic location near a small town called Paiya (Chutak). A heavy early evening downpour will hopefully clear the air and leave a good day in its wake.
Our plan tomorrow is to branch off the main trail and head to Panggom, a small town that borders the Makalu Braun National Park and the remote Inkhu Khola drainage.
Everybody is doing fine and happy to be underway, including our hardy porters.
Bye for today