I am one very lucky woman.
Freely admit it 🙂
I have just returned from my 2nd Big Adventure in the hills this year, with the one and only White Magic Adventure Travels.
In June I did the Panpatia Col trek, where I was very below par, performance-wise, and it showed.
But my just-concluded climbing trip to Mera Peak in Nepal saw a re-energised me, and I loved every single moment of this tough, demanding trip.
Mera Peak, for all it is touted as a trekking peak, especially by Nepalese websites, is one tough, long trip, and it should not be underestimated.
An easy walk it is not.
We were 5 climbers (with 2 others sadly dropping out just a matter of weeks before) and of the 5, 3 of us were repeat WM clients.
The 2 who dropped out were also repeat clients, by the way.
We flew from Kathmandu to Lukla to start the trek/climb.
Actually, let me rephrase that.
We drove 5 hours in the middle of the night from Kathmandu to Ramechhap Airport, a place I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Ramechhap is a very small, provincial airport which now handles the many Lukla flights, and it is a dusty, disorganised, soulless place.
The flights were seriously backed up/cancelled/delayed – you name it, we had it…our pilot was sick, apparently.
So we wasted a precious day in this dustbowl, overnighted in a bit of a flea-pit (though, amazingly it did have wifi) and eventually flew the next morning to Lukla.
From Lukla onwards we camped, walking with our team of expert guides and sherpas, and a big crew of porters. Sanjeev Rai, with whom I climbed Banderpoonch last year, led the trip. We had a lovely local guide, a quiet, soft-spoken man called Chhewang Sherpa – a double Everest summiteer to boot!
Dorje Sherpa and Gumbu Sherpa were too wonderful. They would break camp after our slow departure, quickly overtake us, then shoot ahead to set up the next camp. And always with a smile and an encouraging word.
We slowly ascended and descended our way through stunning scenery, to the higher reaches of the mountain, and it was only after Khare (5000m) that we encountered snow, as we made our way to Base Camp.
From Base Camp, we inched our way up to High Camp (5800m) from where we were supposed to summit.
But it was not meant to be.
Blizzard-like conditions at High Camp, with ferocious winds tearing at our tents and heavy snowfall meant that not one single climber, from any of the groups there, even attempted the summit.
Obviously we were all disappointed, but (as is always the case with White Magic) it was a case of safety first.
To have tried to summit in such dangerous conditions would have been beyond foolish, so when Sanjeev Rai, our WM guide, came to tell me at about 12.30 in the morning that things were going to be delayed, I guess I knew, realistically, that our summit was not happening. So I ignored the howling winds as best I could, and snuggled ever deeper into my sleeping bag, resigned to my fate.
The next morning, when I saw a collapsed tent, brought down by the strong winds, I said a silent prayer of thanks.
Part of the appeal of the summit of Mera Peak is the amazing view of the surrounding 8,000m+ peaks, but the mountain was not ready to share this view with us, so we trudged back down to Khare, all feeling disappointed, but everyone relieved that we got out of such a dangerous situation safely.
I absolutely love camping, so there were no grumbles from me about tents and sleeping bags, though I know some of the others would have preferred to stay in the ubiquitous tea houses that were there at every night’s halt, right up to Khare.
I never felt cold – I have THE best sleeping bag in the world, my friends – and our portable loo was probably cleaner than the teahouse loos, so I had no desire to change the sleeping arrangements.
Our food was cooked by our own kitchen staff and boy oh boy, did I luck out, with a cook who is quite clearly as much of a potato-holic as I am 🙂
Tea or coffee served in your tent to wake you up.
3 hot meals a day.
Afternoon tea and snacks.
Popcorn and soup before dinner – we were well fed, and Devi Ram even produced delicious pizzas. Too good.
Every single member of the crew was smashing and hard working and beyond kind and always cheerful.
Sanjeev led by example, fighting off a bout of fever, and constantly switching flawlessly from English to Nepali to Hindi.
As I did on Banderpoonch, I felt safe with this young man at the helm.
A summit would have been wonderful.
No point denying it.
But this whole trip was fab, and the views all along the way were absolutely stupendous.
I paid my own way, as always on WM trips.
I had requested a personal porter, for whom I paid (obviously) and the wonderfully kind Pemba Sherpa certainly made my trip way easier, since I only carried the lightest of daypacks.
We 5 climbers ended up taking a chopper down from Khare to Lukla, which was brilliant – we all paid our way.
7.5 minutes vs a 2 day hike…
Then 3 of us – all senior citizens – managed to snag a 2nd chopper ride in as many days, down from Lulka to Kathmandu, thus avoiding even more delays and the awful 5 hour drive from Ramechhap.
Great end to the trip.
This was my first experience of travelling with WM outside India and despite a few hiccups, I would 100% recommend this trip.
Just pray to the weather gods to be kind, that’s all.