Sharon and I are safely back from Nepal, chilling out for a few days in Bangkok, defrosting from another great trip.
We were so lucky to have an amazing group of people for this expedition, people who actually respected the country for it’s amazing natural beauty and the warmth and generosity of the locals.
It was certainly hard work and everyone knew they had to put in the effort, as even trekking to Mera Base Camp is tough, with considerable elevation gains and long descents along the way. Reaching above 4500m whilst crossing the Zatra La on day 3 set the first challenge, and with the luxury of having a rest day in Chutanga, which allowed us to climb up to 4400m, everyone managed to cross the pass without any issues.
We were faced with challenging weather, from rain and heavy snow falls to baking heat, but at no time did anyone flinch, complain or falter. In fact, it was the complete opposite, and people took on the journey with vigor and a smile.
Arriving in Mera Base Camp, we had a day to acclimatize and test our skills, learning basic rope technique, including ascending safely and rappelling. A few of the guys were already proficient, whilst for the others, this came naturally giving Anggelu Sherpa, Sharon and I the confidence that the team could navigate the mountain.
Our first push involved a solid climb to the Mera La, with a number of steep, slippery, scree covered sections. Unfortunately Marty, who had a slight chest infection, suffered during this phase, and with Sharon, made the wise decision to head back down to Base Camp and rest. It was hard to see Marty retreat, knowing she had trained so hard and had been strong up to this point, but it is not a good idea to ascend when feeling off. Marty had reached a great height on the mountain, and her resilience and humour were a highlight for us all.
After a chilly night at the Mera La (5350m), we headed off early for the straightforward march along the glacier to High Camp (5800m). By this stage, there was a nice trail which had been set, steering us through some fairly heavily crevassed sections. By the time we arrived, there were a number of climbers patiently waiting for the early morning departure for the summit, so finding a flat tent site was now our mission.
After refuelling and getting in a few hours sleep, Anggelu, Mark, Karen and I started the long slog at 1.30am. As we climbed higher, I noticed a rapid drop in the temperature, now at -25 degrees, with a slight wind making the journey pretty uncomfortable. I knew that this would be a tough day for Karen, having to face the elements in the darkness. After having climbed above 6000m, the conditions became too great, and Karen, along with Mark made the decision to head back to the relative warmth of their sleeping bag. I was disappointed but knew it was the right choice and we all commenced the down climb.
Karen is without doubt, apart from Sharon, the toughest woman I have ever met, and I felt so proud of her achievements. Mark, who was still strong and climbing well, wanted to be with Karen, making sure she was fine back in camp, and had no problem giving up his own summit aspirations. They are an amazing couple, and I look forward to many more trips with these guys.