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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Trip report for Mera Peak Expedition in Nepal led by Dom Rudd and Domi Sherpa in November 2015

Photo: summit day on Mera Peak
Our Mera Peak Expedition in November 2015 was led by Dom Rudd and our Nepali Sirdar Domi Sherpa. The climbing Sherpas were Sonam and Lakpa. Tenzing joined as a trekking guide and our cook was Parbat Rai.

In this group we had seven climbers coming from UK, Germany and Canada. The first day of the trip was October 31st and everyone met up on morning of November 1st for Dom’s trip briefing. I also enjoyed meeting the group and attending the briefing. On the afternoon most of the group spent time in Thamel buying last minute items and also picking up rental gear for the trip as well as taking some time to explore some of the good restaurants and coffee shops.

On morning of 2nd the group took the flight into Lukla and after lunch started the walk to Puiyan where they stayed the first night of the trek. For the first few days of the trip there was low level cloud however there was no precipitation so the group did not get wet while walking. The six day trek into Kothe went well and by the time the group got to Chunbu Kharka the weather cleared up and experienced mainly sunny weather with wonderful views for the rest of the expedition.

On November 9th the group arrived as planned to Tagnag at an altitude of 4,360m. We include two nights at this cluster of lodges for acclimatisation and also include rope training in the morning and then followed by an acclimatisation walk in the afternoon. Domi and Sonam set up a fixed rope on grass slopes behind Tagnag and the group got all of their own climbing gear set up then had a demonstration and practice session on ascending and descending a fixed rope. These mountaineering skills are required for the steep final summit slopes on Mera Peak where fixed rope is placed by the Sherpas to protect this section of the climb.

On November 10th the group moved up to Khare (Base Camp) and on the next day they walked up to the glacier for further mountaineering training. The feedback from the group after the trip was this was a tough and tiring day to walk up to glacier especially this year as snowline was so high. In previous years we were able to do this training lower down near the disused tea shop however this year the snow line was high so it was a long walk from Khare. With future trips we will take this into account as it should be possible to do mountaineering training on the day moving up to Mera La. Also many members of our Mera Peak groups already have these skills and an acclimatisation walk from Khare might well work better for them before the climb.

Throughout this expedition we received weather forecasts from Michael Fagin at and we sent these onto Dom by text to his satellite phone and during our regular phone conversations. As mentioned earlier the weather was fine and sunny from Chunbu Kharka however on the forecast before their summit attempt we received a strong wind warning. I have copied an extract of Michael’s forecast weather below:

"The jet stream and strong winds in the upper levels will be near our region through Wednesday. Some of these strong winds will mix down to our summit level and bring some strong winds at times from Saturday through Tuesday. Then on Wednesday we start to have a decrease in winds. A tropical depression will be forming in the Bay of Bengal by Tuesday and Wednesday but not expecting any issues for our region."

It is essential for the group’s safety to have professional weather forecasts during an expedition to Mera Peak. It is also helpful for the leaders, Dom and Domi, to receive this information as can use to plan the timing of summit day. The forecasts were for stronger winds on November 16th compared to 15th so in their position it was not worth delaying their summit attempt by one day.

For all of our treks and expeditions in Nepal we use Mountain Hardwear Trango 3.1 tents owned by The Mountain Company. These are three person domed tents where there is plenty of space for two people sharing a tent plus gear. More importantly these tents are incredibly strong and are designed for use on expeditions to the highest mountains. I have used Trango 3.1s on expeditions to Everest, Makalu, Broad Peak and Kanchenjunga. As long as these tents are well anchored they will survive almost any storm.

Five members of the group set out from High Camp at 3am on November 15th and continued until about 6,000m when the decision was made to turn back due to high winds. Everyone in the group understood and supported this call as it was clearly too windy to proceed safely. After getting back to High Camp they continued down to Khare later that day.

This group had a day in hand as they had not used up their spare summit day so the decision was made to stay one extra night at Khare. I gather everyone had a good walk up the moraine ridge above Khare with wonderful views on a sunny day. However the winds were blasting the summit of Mera Peak with white plume visible certainly not a viable summit day!

From Khare the group descended to Kote for the night and then ascended up to Thuli Kharka. The next day crossed Zatra La pass where there was some snow at the top so fixed ropes were placed for the top sections. From speaking to the group, the feedback received was everyone really enjoyed the days walking back from Khare to Lukla and I gather were some of the highlights of the trip. This group had a positive attitude to this expedition and refreshingly were not only summit focused.

We used SPOT gps tracker for this group, for each night on trek Dom checked in sending a gps signal to us so we could track this group's progress: click here to see the way points overlaid onto a map for Mera Peak Expedition

I would like to thank Dom and Domi for their leadership of this group and Sonam, Lhakpa and Tenzing and the rest of the Nepalese crew who as ever worked exceptionally hard throughout this expedition.

Our next expedition to Mera Peak will be in April 2016 and Dom has confirmed would like to lead our November 2016 departure. Please get in touch soon if you would like to join one of these groups

Roland Hunter

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