Few years back, I decided to try my limits. I booked a trip to Nepal and specifically a climbing trip to Mera Peak. I had some long conversations with my wife regarding this, but finally she was okay with this…or that’s what she told me, but this was one of my “once in the lifetime” dreams…
As I don´t like to lay on the beach when traveling, I contacted a Finnish travel agency Aventura, who arranges tour leader led groups. If you are interested, check out http://www.aventura.fi. (This posting is only for my personal interest to share my experiences and is not paid by anyone).
I decided to try Mera Peak 6476m from several other trekking / climbing trips, even it was the hardest mountain they offered. Never before had I been trekking in the mountains and I just booked a trip to Nepal, a little crazy…. If I remember right, the trip cost around 6000€ including flights (not domestic), accommodation and the tour leader etc. Remember that the price of a domestic flight in Nepal is cheap, but what I didn’t realize was the cost of needed material – I can tell you I know today…
I started to train toward this trip by running few 1/2 marathons and carrying stones in my backpack in the forrest. I felt I had a good physical condition and didn’t think it could be that hard, even we were in high altitude and low oxygen levels.
What comes to buying the equipment required for these kind of trips (you will get a list of needed things), I suggest buy your things thru internet or some outlets. I had 1 year of preparations and I can tell you I bought the required equipments about 70% cheaper that recommended sales price. It was really god to get a list to buy stuff according to as there is a weight limit of equipment you can take with you.
One of the best things I bought was my high altitude sleeping bag, I bought it directly from Malachowski factory in Poland. One of my friends is from Poland and he took care of buying this when visiting his parents, and it was a really good sleeping bag. Light-weighted and durable, and still warm. Comfort limit was on -24 degrees celsius and when I tried at home in the middle of the winter in my garden, I just slept in my underwear.
Couple of months before we had a info evening, going thru all details about the trip and what to expect, having a check regarding equipment etc. I couldn’t wait anymore to get away, I just wanted to get to the mountains. Unfortunately, when the day came I had to say goodbye to my family at the airport, that was the hardest time of the trip. At that point I had my wife and my son, today I have more children. Well, I just swallowed my tears and I couldn’t check back on my family when they were crying, I still get chills when thinking about that situation even I had said bye to them for some trips before, but not a 3 1/2 week long trip, where you can’t be calling everyday to each other.
When departing Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland I just was just thinking of everything, from family to how it will be in Nepal. First flight was with Finnair to New Delhi, where we had a 4 hour waiting for the connection flight. Only thing we needed to make sure in India, get your stuff changed to the second Air Asia flight. This needed to do at the transfer desk and no one could tell you for sure we got them transferred. Well, at the end all good and I got my stuff to make the climb.
After arriving from New Delhi to Kathmandu, I could just feel the “thing”. A feeling I can´t tell you what it is, but its still in me and still wanting to go back. I´ll post a picture nearest to the feeling (Samuli took this photo on me)
We stayed a night in Kathmandu, preparing for the climb and to meet the group. We where 6 persons in my group and our guide, Samuli Mansikka. The following morning we headed early to the domestic airport to take TaraAir to Tenzing-Hillary (Lukla) airport, the most interesting airport I have been on. It.s on the side of a mountain in a altitude of 2860m. The airplane was a 18 seated plane with a flight attendant giving you candy and cotton rolls for your ears.
Well landed and enthusiastic I climbed of the plane and felt I was in the center where all Everest climbers start their journey. I got my bag, and THEN, it was hard to walk, breathing as a old locomotive. My thought, what have I done, I can´t walk up 10 steps before I need to stop. Its just 4000m until I have reached my target….haha…
Okay, we took a coffee and a small walk that day and started the acclimatization, I realized I was quick to adjust to our elevation. Next day we started the trekking and first step was to pass a ridge within the third day, elevation just over 4000m. This was okay for most of us, but already we had in my group some having first signs of altitude sickness. I had a bad mood one morning before crossing this ridge, I couldn’t be prepared to this mental pressure a trekking can have, I was cold and had a bad sleep in a wet tent. Only thing that took me over was a 1,5 year old boy that lived at this small village at almost 4000m. He was awake in the morning we had a coffee in a small house, he came to me and said “good morning”, this saved my day and I can still see him in front of me.
After crossing the ridge we came down to 3100m and from there we had a good tempo for acclimatization and enjoy the walk.
Kothe – a small village offering hot showers, well hot and hot. I would say a warm bowl of water in a freezing environment. Last time I washed myself totally before the big day. This village we had couple of days resting, before entering the Makalu Barun national park. This area was an amazing area and I could just relax and enjoy, making sudoku and listen to music.
Khare (5000m) – last village before getting on the Mera glacier. Final preparations and packing just the needed things. Amazing views and mind blowing quietness and mindfulness.
Mera La (5400m) and High camp (5800m) – two hard days to get to high camp, snow, ice and cold weather. Sleeping in the windy mountain was one of the most interested and hard experiences I have ever had. I had my water in my sleeping bag which was frozen in the night. I slept the night with all my clothes on and my shoes in my arms. its an experience I can´t forget, but I would do it again.
The next night we woke up at 2 am and had a breakfast, taking only my camera, water and some Snickers with me and started the last trekking at 3am with a headlamp towards Mera Peak. This morning only 4 of us went for the big day. I was in the first group, a leading sherpa and a lady from my team. At 4.30 we had to stop, the lady was sick and couldn’t continue and I thought I will miss my chance to get up. After a while the sherpa decided to take the lady down to high camp, but I didn’t want to go down, so I asked what we can do. Next thing is something I wasn’t prepared to, he hooked me to a aluminium pole and told “just wait, someone will come up to you, don´t move”.
I was alone for almost an hour, in the dark, in the cold and windy mountain, I saw just a few headlamps longer down. In 45 minutes a English group passed me and wondered what I was doing there, well, just waiting for my ride… Finally our group came, or lest say the last one, Samuli. Everyone had gone down because the hard weather and the cold. We continued and at 9.15 I reached summit, tired and happy of my chance to do this and what I had accomplished. At the top, just watching on Everest and the other mountains, I was there!!
After some photos and the jumping of joy, we started walking down. The hardest part is coming down, my feets hurt, my knees shaking of the 6 1/2 hour walking up, but still happy. After several hours coming down I finally ended my day in Khare, where I met my team and we could celebrate my day in two ways, I summited and it was fathers day!
After we walked down to Lukla and took the flight back to Kathmandu to relax a few days before heading home. I hope you enjoyed reading my post and pictures, and as I said “left a part of my heart in Nepal and waiting to get back”.
Thank you and please follow, Carl
In memories – One inspiration of this post was Samuli Mansikka, the best and kindliest person who touch me with his inspiration towards mountains. Samuli was climbing in Annapurna 2015 and in his descent probably fell and died.