In May of 2010 I led an expedition for Jagged Globe to Mera and Island Peak via the Mera la and the Hinku and Honku valleys and the Amphu Labtsa. It was a fantastic trip with a great crew – Enjoy the image gallery and trip report from the trip.
|Report Name||Mera and Island Peak – 3 April to 2 May ’09|
|Leaders Report||Mal Haskins|
The entire team arrived on the same flight from the UK via Delhi on the 4th of April and cleared customs fairly quickly by about 3:30pm. The afternoon was a fairly hectic affair getting the team settled into their rooms at the Summit Hotel, carrying out gear and equipment checks and getting everything packed fro an early morning (5:30am) departure.
The Domestic terminal at the Kathmandu airport was uncharacteristically quiet – probably because it was so early in the morning! The flight to Lukla was smooth and calm with great views – despite having just arrived at one of the smallest airstrips in the world – perched on the side of a hill – a good proportion of the team were overcome by excitement upon seeing a new Nepali style STARBUCKS gracing the streets of Lukla – a fair few coffee’s were consumed …
Due to a large backlog of flight some of our equipment was not able to arrive with us – which meant that we needed to spend a forced rest day in Lukla – whilst the rest of the team went for small walks and explored Lukla, I (Mal Haskins) got knocked over by a quick dose of Food poisoning – I spent the afternoon shaking and hallucinating whilst my body kicked out the evil influences of whatever it was I had eaten!
Our Sirdar, Choyte, was busy making sure that his porter and kitchen team were well organized and we needed up setting of early on the morning of the 6thy of April – head down valley towards the Pangkongma La were we would eventually cross over in the Hinku Valley and into the Shadow of Mera Peak.
The walk into Mera Peak is taken slowly and over the next week the team got into the rhythm of early morning bed tea – packing up and eating breakfast before setting off on a typically 4-6 hour day of walking. The terrain is best described as “Nepali Flat” –little up – little down Dai. A day of 1000m of up and down is not all that uncommon! It’s a go0od way to acclimatize though. Some highlights of the trek into the Hinku valley were the Monastery at Pangkongma and chanting monks – an incredible electrical storm when we were camped at 3600m and stunning views of the mountains as they slowly began to loom over us.
The upper Hinku valley towns of Khote and Tagnag provided the crew with the opportunity for showers and a full rest day at Dig Kharka was great for acclimatization – we also put team members into the Gamow Bag for training and played with ropes and jumars in preparation for heading up and onto the Mera La and Mera Peak. Dig Kharka and Khare are at the base of the NW face of Mera Peak – which makes for a pretty impressive view!
Everybody was getting excited and possibly a little apprehensive about the prospect of actually climbing Mera Peak and spending time at High Camp (5800m). Still being graced with amazing weather we made out way up to the Mera La for an evening at basecamp (5300m) before heading up to the breathless camp – (aka high Camp) at 5800m. It was the 18th of April and we getting ready for summit push on the 19th …. Drama didn’t leave us alone though – Mark had a very classic drop into Moderate AMS and needed to descend back down to basecamp in the afternoon. During the evening Aine developed a sever headache and dizziness and elected to not make a summit push – Simon gave up his summit attempt in order to stay with her and descended back to basecamp with her after the sun came up.
It was a reduced team of 4 Western climbers and 2 Sherpa who set off at 3:30 am – a brisk –9 degrees and no wind made for moderately pleasant conditions as we steadily made our way up the mountain. With only a few rests and not overexerting ourselves we got to the top of Mera at 7:56am on the morning of the 19th. The true summit was totally cut off by a large Bergshrund – however the team were happy to claim the summit – minus 23m.
The views of Everest / Lhotse / Cho Oyu dwarfed Island peak – which we could see from the summit of Mera – the sky was Cobalt Blue and the visibility amazing – to the south a large layer of cloud stretched out over the horizon like a white frozen ocean – time to do down!
That afternoon we descended into the Honku valley instead of staying at the Mera La – this gave the porters a measure of rest and allowed our bodies to recover a bit. Both Mark and Aine had recovered well and were looking forward to the remainder of the trip.
Our trip up the Hunku valley towards the Amphu Labsta was a visual feast with each day brining more and more views of incredible mountains and passes. Campsites with good bouldering sites provided entertainment and by now everybody was well acclimatized. We did 3 very short days up the valley instead of 2 long one with a full rest day – on the afternoon of the 22nd we were sitting at 5550m under the Amphu Labsta – the porter team were getting a little bit tense and wanting to get over the pass and there was another team behind us. Choyte and Galcheyn had gone ahead the afternoon before and fixed the pass and the plan was to get up early (again!) to get over the pass before the group behind us – to avoid traffic jams and needing to pull the fixed line. Again the weather granted us amazing views when we reached the top of the Amphu Labsta. Everest and Lhotse dominated the skyline and Island peak was right there infront of us – dwarfed by the impressively huge black wall of the Lhotse / Nuptse ridge line. The porter and kitchen teams were by now descending the pass below us and after a series of short down climbs and one abseil we were past – as Mark described it – The Nepali Cluster#$%^. It was only 10:30 by the time we had made our way down to the bottom of the pass where Ramesha had cooked up a very welcome soup! Another short 1.5 hour walk saw us arriving into our basecamp for Island Peak – situated at the end of the Imja Tsho, we had a very needed rest day – whilst some of us wandered down to Chukung (Pringles Mark?) the rest of us basically slept and rested out of the wind.
After a full rest day we started up to Island Peak Highcamp by 8:30am – it was a measure of just how well we had all acclimatized that we were in High Camp by 11:30 am! High Camp is a pretty windy place to hangout – as well as hot and dry. Water was an issue here and the kitchen team had to clamber over a ridge to a small spring about 500m away to collect any! The evening of our summit climb of Island peak we ate a meal of dehydrated food – at we paid the price. Everybody had stomach cramps etc – In the end Cherry was forced to forgo any attempt at the summit due to how bad she felt whilst the rest of us pushed on – we were up and away from High camp by 3:06am. After the early morning dark rock scramble we gained the glacier and passed the Japanese tam that had camped higher than us the day before. 2 small crevasses barred the entrance the upper glacier and the ice headwall was 150m of ice steps and flutings protected by 2 sets of fixed lines. Mark and Alan – accompanied by Galcheyn made it to the summit by 7:30 am. The rest of the team got to the top by 8 am. The weather had begun to turn and all morning there had been massive lenticular clouds forming above Makalu / Everest / Lhotse and Ama Dablam. The wind was picking up and after hanging around on the summit for about 20 minutes we all shot off down the summit ridge. From the summit we’d been able to see all the way back to Mera Peak.
There was a slight traffic jamb at the fixed ropes with a couple of the Japanese team being physically pushed up the fixed line by their climbing Sherpa’s ………
We’re all pretty knackered but we still needed to get down the hill – back to Highcamp to change out of our climbing boots and into our trekking boots once again and then down down down to the village of Chukung and a fantastic hot shower!
The next 3 days saw the weather change – no longer did we have cobalt blue skies – the dust had been blown up the valley and the peaks were shrouded by gray haze – however the trains of people making their way up to basecamp kept us all amused – it felt strange to be around so many people again. Chukung to Deboche – Deboche to Namche and Namche to Lukla – we were ready to leave and itching to get down to Kathmandu. Back below 3000m the air temperature was warmer and we all started to sweat and smell! A good night out in Namche was followed by a great party in Lukla with the Nepali team, the tips and presents were all well received by the team and then the dancing began!
We’d gone full circle from Lukla to Lukla – passing Starbucks again and making our way back to the Yeti Lodge
Not to let us off too lightly both Claire and Mark came down with a bad bacterial infection – Claire getting the worst end of the deal. After waiting for what seemed like ages the 4th yeti airlines flight pulled in – we loaded and within what seemed like seconds we were in the sky and away from Lukla …. Back in Kathmandu the Summit Hotel made us feel welcome and running around Thamel for shopping and visiting Boudnath and Durbar Square kept the team busy and tired!
A great trip all round – a strong western climbing team and amazing Nepali staff made this trip the success it was.