27 October, 2011
After the hard efforts of summit day, we were all delighted to hear that it
was back to the normal routine this morning - a friendly wake up with a cup of
tea at the leisurely hour of 7am! On the bright side, given that an early
night had been the order of the day the evening before, this still meant at
least 10 hours sleep, something of a luxury after our rather short night at
high camp. In truth however, I was woken somewhat earlier by a new dawn chorus
- the sound of hacking coughs coming from other tents, and also somewhat
closer to home from my tent-mate Steve. The famous Khumbu cough seems to have
taken a hold on a number of team members after the strain of climbing Mera.
Still, today was to be a nice relaxing day - a 500m decent down into the Hongu
valley where, we were assured, the air would be rich with oxygen, the weather
would be warm and sunny and we could all expect to sleep well. With these
bright thoughts, I got up for breakfast, only to discover that it was cold and
windy and, even worse, the porters had already taken down the dining tent
ready to leave. Breakfast was therefore to be an alfresco affair - although it
was lovely sitting with views of Mera peak, eating porridge and then omelette
and chapattis with gloves on proved slightly more difficult than our normal
breakfast (its worth noting for any concerned mothers out there that we are
eating extremely well on this trip!).
Breakfast over, we set out with various layers of down clothing on, looking
generally more like we were heading out for the summit again than going for a
short trek to our campsite. To compound the disappointment of the cold
weather, in what is becoming something of a pattern, the walk downhill turned
out to be typical 'Nepali' down - with more time spent going uphill than going
downhill! Fortunately, we were quickly rewarded with some stunning views of
our main objective - Baruntse - glistening in the sunshine at the end of the
valley. The walk therefore turned into quite a relaxed affair, a gentle pace
for our tired muscles and lots of time to take photos along the way as we
passed some stunning green lakes on the way down.
Our campsite for today proved to be a small clearing surrounded by boulders
down by the river at about 4,800m where we arrived in time to move into our
tents (largely already erected by the Sherpas) and then to have a rather nice
lunch (we are truly being well looked after). Sadly, the decent to lower
altitudes has brought back the afternoon clouds which rolled in rather early
during lunch leading to a cold afternoon and sending most people scurrying to
their tents to put on yet more down clothing and to hide from the gentle
flurries of snow which have started to fall. Apparently Erich (the oldest
member of the team whose combination of age and stamina defy belief) who is
something of a philosopher in normal circumstances predicted snow today so I
may have to pay more attention to his musings in future...
Anyway, I'm now huddled in the newly erected dining tent, playing some cards
and drinking endless cups of tea to keep warm. Meanwhile, the porters seem to
be having considerably more fun, laughing and even (allegedly) doing backflips
through the camp. Apparently they found some 'medicinal' roots near the
campsite which might be making them somewhat happier... hopefully Arnold's
extensive medical skills won't have to be tested further...
Time to stop typing now as my fingers are getting somewhat cold - I'll just
send out some Birthday wishes to Mikko's sister as apparently he forgot a
couple of days ago... climbing a 6,500m peak doesn't seem like a particularly
good excuse to me...
17 members and staff reached the summit of Mera Peak!
This morning (night) our staff woke us at 12am with tea and porridge. We all
left high camp at 2 o'clock. The weather was calm and surprisingly warm. Only
close to the summit we encountered some winds. Everbody managed to summit
between 6 and 8 in the morning. Read below what Vivian and Jan have to say
about their summit push.
Arnold Coster, exp. Leader.
By Viviane Pendleton
Mera Peak. Around 6500 metres above sea level and incredibly cold. We trekked
up to high camp on Mera yesterday and today was our first summit attempt of
the trip. We were woken at midnight (!!) to prepare for our bid for the top. I
managed to whimper "coffee" and, courtesy of our fantastic team of Sherpas, my
request was granted.
We set out into the freezing pitch black, the glow of our head torches a poor
match for the impenetrable darkness. I felt completely disorientated as I
followed the head lamp in front of me, hoping that it was going in roughly the
right direction. After about an hour, I turned to my husband and whispered "I
don't mean to alarm you, but I think that we may be at the front". A brief
bout of questioning revealed that yes, we were indeed embedded in the lead
bunch with the assistant guide and three climbing Sherpas. The arrival of
Switzerland's Marcus and fellow Brit Rich (normal habitat, Somewhere Near The
Front) convinced us that we had accidentally entangled ourselves with the A
Team, so we dropped surreptitiously back, knowing that we would not be able to
keep up their pace. It transpired that this was a bad time to be on our own,
as a howling wind struck up, blowing snow into our faces and, more
pertinently, covering the footprints of the group ahead. By this time we had
been joined by Mia from Finland and the three of us battled into the snow and
wind, in the direction we'd last seen any semblance of head torch. I was
starting to get cold and even the sun, rising rather spectacularly over the
stunning backdrop of the surrounding Himalayan peaks, did not alleviate this.
Mia moved on ahead and we were joined by team guide Arnold. He pointed out
Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Cho Oyu to an enthralled Husband. Five of the world's
14 highest mountains towered over us, it was a spellbinding sight and went
some way to consoling me for the fact that I could not feel my fingers. At
about 6.30am we arrived just below the summit of Mera. There, I was confronted
by a near vertical ice wall and expected to climb it. I did a quick analysis
of the situation. 1: I had been up since midnight. 2: I was substantially
higher than any mountain in Europe. 3: I couldn't feel my fingers. And
crucially, 4: I was now supposed to negotiate a precipitous massif of ice. I
won't lie. A small part of me thought "well.... heck, I'm nearly there..... I
don't really have to climb up this." Sadly, The Husband and Rich decided that
now would be an opportune moment to inflict some more suffering on me and
proceeded to issue a series of conflicting commands from the foot of the ice
wall. I started to scramble up the block of ice, pausing at times to hang off
my ice axe, gasp for air and contemplate mountain etiquette with regard to
falling asleep whilst roped onto a wall of ice. Eventually I arrived at the
top and collapsed gracefully at the feet of Mia and Noora, also flying the
flag for Finland. Somewhat exhausted, The Husband and I trailed back to base
camp to prepare for our ascent of Baruntse. At 7100 metres, Baruntse is
suspiciously likely to be yet colder than Mera, and may or may not involve ice
By Jan van den Bos
Yesterday all members and most sherpa's walked in their own pace to the Mera
Peak High Camp, over the snow fields and glacier. The location of this camp is
such, that you should not sleepwalk out of your tent. The tents are placed on
small ledges, mostly on a different level. Also finding a 'toilet' place might
be very risky, on some rock sticking out. But this, I guess, is one of the
adventurous things we booked for. As Arnold remarked, Mera Peak is of course
lower than the big giants of 8000+ m, but it has a lot of the things you will
find there. So an excellent training mountain for Baruntse that we will reach
within a week. Late in the afternoon our really great cook staff made a
dinner, served in the tents. We tried to get some sleep till wake-up time,
0.00 h. A breakfast was served, and everyone except Erich prepared for the
climb. At 1.45 all climbers and climbing sherpa's were ready and we left. Soon
the group was split up into smaller groups (there's a variation in climbing
led by a sherpa. As I later heard most of us had a hard time climbing the 800
metres from high camp to the summit. Was it the early time, or the wind that
blew snow in our faces? Apart from Andrea (cold feet) everyone reached the
summit, after the last 10 m of iceclimbing with a fixed rope. The first group
(Richard, Markus and me) had at 5.30 a.m. an astonishing view on the
surrounding mountains and a beautiful sunrise. At about 8.30 all members had
reached the summit. It was hard work but worth while! After taking their
belongings from high camp all climbers are now back in base camp. Tomorrow we
will leave this camp in the direction of Baruntse base camp, which we hope to
reach within two days.
Jan van den Bos
22 October, 2011
After a snowy day yesterday, today stated off sunny and nice. Although the
trail was covered with a couple of centimetres of fresh snow, walking wasn't
too difficult. The route follows the glacier moraine until you hit the snow
cover on the pass. From here you have to climb a little steeper on top of the
snowpack, but once you're on top, the route is kind off straight and flat
until the pass drops down again.
The surroundings are beautiful; it's a playing arena for mountaineers! We also
get a good view on our route on Mera Peak.
Unfortunately the day ended with snow again, this is quite normal in the
afternoon. The clouds always drop down and give a little precipitation, but
not too much. We passed the last villages until after Baruntse. We have our
own kitchen setup, dinning, shower tent, toilet etc. totally self supported
from now on!
Tomorrow we will do a day of rope training, before we go higher on the
mountain. Probably later in the afternoon some washing and I might shave.
Arnold Exp. leader
21 October, 2011
Today we woke up with a fresh amount off snow, all night it had been snowing
and it didn't look like if it would stop soon. So I decided to stay in Khare
and not cross the Mera La today. Specially for our porters who don't have the
same equipment as us this would be a bit risky!
Now it looks like the weather is clearing, so tomorrow will probably be fine
and we will cross the Mera La to our basecamp at the other side.
Arnold Exp. leader
Hi everyone. This is Tak. Greeting from the high Himalayan mountains just
below the Mera La 4900m.
Today we are not going to go anywhere because of snow. Anyway so far so good.
I feel fine, eat well and drink well. I cannot go first because high altitude
makes one go slow, step by step. Mizuho san please let every one know I am ok.
20 October, 2011
Good afternoon to those of you unfortunate enough to know me.... Viv here.
Today started with our morning wake up call with a Sherpa delivering us coffee
in bed (or rather in sleeping bag and tent).
We set off at an enthusiastic 8 am for our highest camp to date, Khare, which
nestles at the foot of Mera Peak at a respectable 4900 metres. The terrain was
more gentle than on previous days and a gradual incline saw us gain 700 metres
over the course of between 2 and 3.5 hours.
We saw more of Mera Peak today than we have before as we moved steadily
towards the north side, from where we will start our ascent. The mountain
afforded us some spectacular views, with the snow drenched peaks rearing
through the clouds to tower above us. As we started to pass glacial moraines
and vast ice seracs, there was no mistaking the fact that we were now truly in
the mountains; the sub tropical vegetation and verdant valleys of past days
were far behind us.
On arrival at Khare we were greeted, as always, by Sherpas bearing warm lemon
juice and a welcoming smile. Khare boasts a handful of tea houses, an
abundance of two man orange tents and several makeshift "facilities". In
comparison to some of our previous camps, it's a veritable metropolis.
Lunch was served in a bona fide building - it had windows, stairs and, if you
will, floorboards. From this lap of luxury, we will venture forth tomorrow to
attempt the Mera-La pass. This snow-covered corridor will perhaps be the
group's greatest challenge to date. At 5600 metres, it will be the highest
point that some of the group have ever reached. Our crampons and ice axes will
be unearthed for the first time as the pass presents us with technical
challenges and leads us, as we descend, to Mera Peak base camp.
19 October, 2011
After a good night of sleep, this morning was a waiting game for the sun. It
looked like the sun was playing games with us: everywhere in the valley we
could see sunrays, but at our camping spot it seemed a lot longer before it
appeared. At around 9am we got rewarded for our patience and we could fully
enjoy the warm sunrays.
We spend the morning washing clothes, shower and shaving (for the guys). Some
off us went for a small acclimatization hike to a view point nearby.
Tomorrow we will go to Khare at around 5000m. This is the last village along
the way to Baruntse. From here we will be all a by ourselves....
Arnold Exp. leader
18 October, 2011
Tagnak Holiday Resort - from special reporter Jan:
As usual, this morning we were woken up by the sherpas serving morning tea.
You can hear the sound of the tray with mugs from far away. It's one of the
finest moments of the day.
Also as usual it was very nice weather in the morning. Yesterday we had to
climb a 'little more' than expected (optimist Arnold called it 'only going
down'). We were anxious to experience today's trip from 3500 to 4200m. This
time it was not quite as easy, but we had a nice path, gradually ascending
along a river with great views. Today and the following days we will make a
half turn around Mera Peak before we sprint up to the summit.
Within an hour from the first of our group arriving at Tagnag, everyone was
here. We had a rest in the sun, which really felt like we were in some summer
resort. We are going to stay here for two nights. Tomorrow we will be
acclimatizing, resting, washing, showering - just as one wishes.
Beside that we're a quite a strong group right now and also a group of people
that creates a good atmosphere, with animated talks during all meals, from
breakfast to dinner. Mostly English is the common language, but sometimes you
can hear Finnish, German or Dutch too.
It's a good life here in the mountains. This evening we are even sitting
around a warm wood stove! So bye-bye for now from this holiday resort.
Now a few words to my Dutch friends:
Alles goed hier, zoals jullie hierboven kunnen lezen. Er is geen
telefoonverbinding of internet, dus via mijn blog berichtjes verzenden lukt
een tijd niet. Maar goed, zo heb ik via een omweg toch een bericht kunnen
Jan van den Bos
17 October, 2011
After another early start we hiked to Kote. In the beginning the rout zig zags
along the hillside from Zetra, before it drops down to the forest. Before
dropping down we got our first view of our objective, Mera Peak. Although this
peak is known as a 'trekking peak' it's a massif giant at the end of the Hinku
The forests first consists of rhododendron and bamboo trees, but later giant
ancient pine trees. The path continues down until reaching the Hinku River.
Along side the river is the small village of Kote, a small oasis! Here we also
resupply the expedition with fresh vegetables and meats.
Tomorrow we will continue to Tagnag at around 4300 metres.
Arnold Coster, exp. leader
16 October, 2011
In the night Charkateng cleared up and we got treated with clear views in the
morning. Our staff woke us up at 6:30 am with tea and coffee. We packed our
duffles and as soon as our porters got a hold off these, they were already on
their way! These people are amazing carrying 30-50kg on their backs, very
essential for a successful expedition.
Today we had a clear view of our caravan of porters, because the route goes
straight up the Zetra La. I think the group is strong; we all made it up to
the pass in a few hours. We had great views of Cho Oyu, the mountain we
summitted with our other expedition team just 13 day before. After a small
lunch break we descended down to the small settlement of Zetra where we will
spend the night.
Tomorrow we will descend to Kote and we are really in the Hinku valley. The
Hinku valley is green and beautiful, I am looking forward to that.
Arnold Coster Exp. Leader
15 October, 2011
Last night we had our first night in tents, from now on these will be our
homes. After a good breakfast we headed up to Charkateng just a few hours
walk. The trail goes up fairly steep and we walked in the clouds most off the
time. Charkateng is located at around 4000m, just before the Zetra La pass.
Tomorrow we will cross the pass and walk into a new valley until we reach Mera
Peak. It was just a short walk today, so I don't have much news.
We are having an easy start, so we can save energy for later!
Arnold Coster, Expedition leader
14 October, 2011
This morning it was an early and slow start. We left our hotel around 5:30 am
to go to the airport for our Lukla flight. Lukla is a small, but busy mountain
village at the Everest trail. Many tourists start their mountain adventures
here. It has a tiny airstrip on the hillside and the flight specially the
landing can be very exciting.
The problem is that they only fly when there is good visibility. This morning
started off foggy, so we had to wait a couple off hour's at the Kathmandu
airport before we finally could fly to Lukla. After this everything when
Kaji our Sirdar, already arranged the porters we need for our trek. We had
lunch and moved on to our first camping place just below Chutanga at around
3200m a couple of hours walking from Lukla. Here we pitched our tents and have
our first night out in the mountain.
Tomorrow we will move on to Yak Kaharka at 4000m, this way we can split the
altitude jump over the Zetra la pass in two.
All members are fine and healthy; we are all eager to go to higher elevation.
Arnold Coster, Expedition leader Baruntse
Baruntse Team Roster:
Arnold Coster (leader) - Netherlands
Mikko Wuokko - Finland
Stef Wolput - Belgium
David Smith - UK
Jan Van den Bose - Netherlands
Alan Barclay - UK
Markus Staehlin - Switzerland
Andrew Pendleton - UK
Ms. Viviane Cotes - UK
Takeshi Ogasawara - Canada
Daniel Newton - Australia
Ms. Noora Sotaniemi - Finland
Ms. Mia Graeffe - Finland
Erich Bonfert - Germany
Richard Bryars - UK
Steven Barton Etchen - US
Jaco du Preez - South Africa
Robert Krueger - US
Mera Peak Team Roster:
Ms. Andrea Devoe - US
Terry Schuck - US
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