climbing, hiking, travel

Step, Step, Rest, and Breathe

September 20

We left around 8ish in the morning from Khare, all of our gear for a high altitude adventure packed up and ready to go, crampons, ice axes, helmets, harnesses, horribly heavy ice boots, food, snacks, warm clothes, tent, cooking supplies, rope, carabineers, prusik, ascender, all the essentials. And every time I’m so impressed at home much porter can carry. Simon had this massive load and made it all the way to High Camp with just sneakers and over the shoe crampons, he’s insanely strong and possibly one of the sweetest people I’ve met. Wish I were able to speak the language so we’d be able to talk.

We hiked up to Base Camp where we visited the day before, then kept going until we ran into the Mera La Glacier. We stopped to gear up; crampons, harnesses, then the three of us got tied together. Astani took the lead, me in the middle and Simon at the back. As were were heading off the American couple we had met a few days before were coming off the glacier after having summited Mera. They said it was awesome, views like they had never seen before, which of course made me more excited than I already was. They had summited around 6 am or so after leaving High Camp at 2am.

Best view of the glacier we had all day.

They headed back and I took my first few steps on a glacier. It was awesome, and then it rapidly wasn’t. The boots I had were horribly heavy and were far too big and loose, so to compensate I tried to tighten them. Which only resulted in a massive pressure point on my shin with every step. I also fell a few times before we had even gone 100 meters. And then there was the whole matter of moving uphill in high altitude. Ten steps then break. Ten steps then break. It was horrible. My feet felt like they weighed about 50 pounds each and it was so cloudy and rainy and you couldn’t see anything (which probably helped because if I saw how far I still had to go, forget about it).

Moments like that I just had to tell myself just to get up to the next mound of snow then take a break. And it’s all of 10 steps but when you get there you’re so out of breath as if you had just sprinted a mile. It was during this climb I was finally able to relate to those mountaineering and climbing documentaries where the climber says you have to make a choice between pulling your mitten back on or taking that next step. The lack of oxygen forces you to make choices, if you pull that mitten back on will you be able to take another step?

What most of the day looked like and worse

There’s a high chance it’ll be another 10 minutes before you can get your breathing slow enough to do either. But when you do stop and get your breath back it’s a glorious thing. Those first few steps you feel revived, full of energy. Positive thoughts flood back in, your feet and legs feel light. And then you go a few more steps and your feet weigh more, and you can feel the oxygen seeping out of your thighs. And it’s all fuck this, I’m dying. I never want to move again, then mercifully, another break. And this goes on for what seems like hours.

And then finally, oh thank god, we reach High Camp. Right after I told myself this was it.

Only to add to the lack of fun was a dog who followed us up from Khare. Her endless energy seemed to be stemming from my own lack of energy. She’d bound up the hill like it was nothing, nipping at your gloves, running zigzags while I focused on left, right, left, right and the orange rope in front of me. The dog was definitely mocking us. We called her MP.

High Camp, where the world drops off

High Camp 5780 meters.

Conditions: cold, foggy, raining.

Morale: low but improving

If someone had given me a million dollars to keep climbing I’m pretty sure I would have turned them down. Reaching High Camp was a glorious moment of the day. Since it was slightly pissing down rain, the guys hurried to get the tent set up. I tried to help but I think I got more in the way than was helpful. Pretty much they just strapped the tent on a semi flat area and called it good. Stuffed all the bags and everything inside and we climbed in after. We had a packed lunch, pancakes, egg, and cookies. Pretty good after wanting to stop moving forever. And tea made from melted glacier.

Hanging out in the tent, drinking hot water and tea

Hung out in the tent, drinking tea and water. I felt incredibly tired, but apparently napping in altitude might give you more of a headache. So napping was out of the question. Went to the bathroom cliff, being a hiker and a kayak guide kind of immunizes you to shit. And thankfully because there were literally piles of it. Seems like in that altitude no one has the privilege of solid shits. Pretty great view though.

Heard some other English speakers, so went to talk to them for a moment. A few were from the same group who were helping the first double amputee get to the top, his name was Henry and was from Nepal. And now after successfully summiting, he has permission to try for Everest. Pretty amazing.

There was also a guy from the States there, this was also his first big mountain, but he’d gotten some experience back home as well. No one seemed all that interesting in talking to me, but listening to them was cool. I love outdoorsy people so much. Although they did think that for a first mountain Mera was ambitious, said most people do the Everest Base Camp trek. Sometimes I think it’s unfortunate I’m not like most people, but then sometimes I do.

High Camp was surrounded by glacier mountains

Had dinner after, noodle soup and potatoes, more hot water. Weird how plain hot water is delicious when it’s cold.

Went back to the poo cliff then got things ready for our 1am wake up for the summit! Slept like shit, but it was very cozy with 3 in the tent.

Bad quality photo for an amazing quality view
Managed to capture a sunset, not nearly as beautiful as it was in real life

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