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mera

Update from 12,000ft

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Update from 12,000ft

Day 5! The team is doing great.  We are currently in Kote, a small village in the Hinku Valley.  Yesterday was a long, long day - nearly nine hours of walking with 10,000ft of vert (6,000ft up & 4,000ft down).  Tara and Cat crushed it and were ahead of the group for a big part of the day. 

Tara and Cat during one of the trek's early days

In addition to enjoying beautiful (steep!) trails and a bit of wildlife - monkeys and a deadly snake - we also got to distribute a few small gifts to local families that we've met along the trail.  Cat and Tara have been carrying toys and coloring books to give to the kids, and I brought along a few solar lights from LuminAid - all of which have been a huge hit.  It's amazing to see the joy that these small gifts can bring, and a privilege being in a position to give.  

Mingma explaining how LuminAid's solar rechargable lanterns work

We are now about five days from being in position for a summit bid, and are enjoying our last couple days of teahouse lodging and home cooked meals before we move into our tents and break into the freeze dried rations from Backpacker's Pantry that we brought along.  If things continue as they started, we look all set for a smooth climb on summit day: everybody is moving well and excited to be out here.  The weather has been decent, and we're all keen to get on the mountain!

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Mera Peak: the route

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Mera Peak: the route

"Wow, really?  You are really going to climb MERA?" - that's a reaction that I get a lot these days.  Now I agree that Mera Peak is a big objective (it's 21,247ft tall after all!), but I also know that most folks hear Mera and think I am talking about Meru, subject of a powerful mountain film by the same name that came out in 2015 after Conrad, Jimmy and Renan completed their badass route up the Shark's Fin.  

Conrad Anker on Meru.  Photo: Jimmy Chin

Conrad Anker on Meru.  Photo: Jimmy Chin

So, yes, we're going to climb Mera and, no, it's not the same as Meru nor does it have anything to do with sleeping on a portaledge at 20,000ft or climbing terrifying mixed pitches that are disintegrating as you're moving up them.  

Mera Peak is a beautiful mountain with an imposing rock face on its east side which is how it first presents itself during the approach trek.  To climb Mera, however, we will pass under the steep East Face and access the mountain from Mera La on the glaciated and less forbidding north side. 

Below the east face

Below the east face

There are two common ways to start out the trek from Kathmandu: either by flying into Lukla and crossing a 14,000ft pass on the very next day, or by driving by jeep to Salleri and approaching on a more gradual, longer foot journey - which is what we are doing.  

The approach from Salleri to basecamp at Mera La meanders through valleys, across ridges and passes for roughly ten days, which allows plenty of time for acclimatization.  

The intended approach from Salleri (and return via Lukla).  There are many options to get from Salleri to Mera La - this is just one of them. 

The intended approach from Salleri (and return via Lukla).  There are many options to get from Salleri to Mera La - this is just one of them. 

The last teahouse settlement below Mera La is Khare at ~16,000ft.  From there on out the route heads onto the glacier, with two camps established on the way to the summit.  All in all, the trek clocks in at somewhere around 50 miles (one way) with 30,000ft of ascent - though GPS in these mountains is notoriously unreliable, so everyone's measurements are different.  But that's part of the fun of being out here! 

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'tis the season...

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'tis the season...

.... to go climb something!  It's October, and that means that this year's big mountain expeditions to Nepal and the Andes are about to kick off.  In just a couple days, we (myself, Tara Miranda and Kathy Parsons) are off for an all-female climb of 21,247ft Mera Peak in the Solokhumbu district of Nepal.  

Nepal is one of my favorite places in the world, and I can't wait to share it with Tara and Kathy, an ultra-running, peak-bagging mother-daughter team from California.  We're leaving the US later this week and are set to convene in Kathmandu on Sunday, October 22.   Per the usual, I'll be posting blog updates and photos here while there is connectivity, and also maintain our live GPS track once we're on the trail; in addition, my our lovely basecamp manager (aka boyfriend extraordinaire) Paul will keep my Instagram updated as regularly as is feasible.  

High up on Kusum Kangru, a technical peak just across the valley from Mera Peak

I'm particularly excited about this trip not just because it's Nepal and because I get to climb with two generations of the same family (which I just love: my own mom came to Kilimanjaro with me last year and it was a phenomenal experience for both of us), but also because we get to make a small contribution to the local Sherpa community as well: we've got two dozen solar lanterns from LuminAid and four sets of sweet glacier travel gear from CAMP USA on board, all of which we are going to gift to local climbing Sherpa and teahouse families out in the mountains. It may be a small gesture within the grand scheme of things but I'm super excited that we get to contribute beyond the dollars that we're spending as visitors in this amazing country. 

Now, if you're itching to get out there yourself... ;) How'd you like to go climb Aconcagua after Christmas! One spot is still open, just putting it out there.  In the meantime though, wish us good weather and happy trails - and I'll check in as I can.  

Kathmandu's Swayambhunath Stupa (Monkey Temple)

A little high altitude jog (ha...) in front of magnificent Mera Peak

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