On arrival you will be met by a representative of World Expeditions and transferred to your hotel. You will meet your group leader and a trip briefing will be given in the late afternoon at the hotel. There are numerous preparations required before we embark on our expedition including a clothing and equipment check of all members by your guide, and distribution of gear (sleeping bag, down jacket and kitbag) and climbing packs (ice axe, crampons and harness). This evening welcome drinks are held in the Hotel with other World Expeditions clients check with your guide about details.
This morning a group meeting with gear check will be held and at this time any necessary items will be hired or purchased. A group sightseeing tour has been arranged, taking in the key attractions in and around Kathmandu. If time ds not permit, the tour can be taken after the expedition when there is a full day at leisure in Kathmandu. Notwithstanding, the hotel is centrally located and a short walk from shops, cafes and other features of interest.
An early start to the airport to catch the 45 minute flight to the STOL airstrip at Lukla. It is a memorable flight, with marvellous views of the Eastern Himalaya. Our crew and porters assemble, loads are sorted and after a cup of tea, we are soon on our way down a trail below the air strip to the river at Surke Khola, which brings us adjacent to the racing glacial waters of the Dudh Kosi. Our route takes a southerly direction along old trade routes, a trail of farm settlements growing subsistence crops such as millet, corn and buckwheat and then as we trek higher, into stands of oaks, maple and rhododendron.
We follow the main trail briefly before turning up a path that leads into the forest and traverses around many ridges to the valley of the Kari Khola. Although our camp elevations are similar for the last days, we are undulating over two major ridges, the Chutok La (2945m) and the Khari La (3080m). As we approach Pangum, set in the base of a small bowl like valley immediately below the Pangum La, we travel through forests of rhododendron, pines and oaks. This is a little known trail used only by the local families and apart from a couple of small settlements along the way we see little evidence of human activity. Pangum is a very old settlement little changed, with a new gompa and expansive views out over the valley.
We climb the half hour or so to the Pangum La (3175m) and our gateway toward the Hinku Valley, and now start to head eastward and then in a northerly direction. Today is a solid descent to the Hinku River of at least 900 metres depending on which path we take, and then a climb up to our camp high on the other side near the Surke La. We are once again traveling through a mix of terraced slopes containing grain crops interspersed by undisturbed forests of the upper temperate zone; maples, rhododendrons and fir.
Climbing up to the Surke La (3085m) we now follow the spine of the Surkie Danda ridge northwards towards Mera and the Hinku and camp part way along at a yak herders clearing or 'kharka'. These next few days are far from teahouse and trekkers trails and should be some of the finest Himalayan wilderness trekking of the trip.
Continuing along the ridge, we climb higher and higher over knolls (lumps in the ridge) of 4000 metres and then 4500 metres. The terrain has now elevated well above the tree line and is grassy slopes and rocky outcrops and cliffs, where birds of prey may be seen flying overhead such as Griffon vulture, lammergeier or eagles. We then descend to a camp set near a series of five lakes, Panch Pokhari, set beside the river of the Chunbu Drangka.
This is a good time in the program to have a rest day and a lovely natural setting to explore further.
Our route now contours around many ridges on the eastern side of the Hinku, descending lower into forests of rhododendron and scree. Our campsite is on a pleasant grassy patch, on the higher bank of the rocky riverbed.
A short steady climb up to the pass of Zatrwa La (approx 4600m), and then another 45mins or so onto another pass which is a little lower and our last before the long descent. The terrain and countryside is spectacular, with expansive views to the south and west; to Karyolug and Numbur and rows and rows of foothills. Initially it is a steep descent over rock slabs, snow and ice, and then steep pastures down to the rhododendron forests which show the first signs of permanent farming activities. It is a long way to the relatively steamy environment of Lukla, so take your time, but maintain your pace or it will be a very long day. Most people don't need too much encouragement on our last day's trek, with the thought of cold drinks and so on and a chance to put your feet up.
After an initial meander through the forest and beside the river, the path then winds up through thick forest of birch, rhododendron and pine, seemingly forever. It is not long before we break out of the forest, to small shrub like rhododendron and then above the tree line altogether as we traverse around numerous ridges to our last camp at Chetrabu, or Thuli Kharka. It will be a solid seven hour day winding our way up to camp but we are also trekking fit now and have established a steady trekking pace that makes it manageable. In clear weather much of Mera Himal can be seen and remote valleys leading up to its south side, a small reward for our ascent.
Retracing our steps we follow the pastures and juniper meadows for a couple of hours before dropping down to the river bed and walking through the boulder strewn path to Kote. Kote is a large collection of timber huts that have spilled out on to the river bed and very much a 'half way house' for porters and trekkers going to Mera.
Feeling tired and exhilarated by our adventure, we pack up and descend the two hours to the permanent settlement in the valley and a climb party prepared by our cooks.
We are now in the Hinku Valley proper, and cross over by way of a yak herders bridge and join the main trail. The first settlement we pass is the busy village of Kote, primarily servicing the trekking groups that come through for Mera. As a result of the tremendous washout of boulders and debris, the trail follows the riverbed mostly, a good trail among rounded stones and silt. We gain our first views of dramatic peaks of the valley; Kusum kanguru to our left and an unnamed peak over 6700m that stands directly before us. The path then weaves up on to the pastures on the left hand side and pleasant easy trails through to Tagnag. Today we also enjoy our first views of Mera, initially at the confluence of the Sanu Drangka above Kote, if the weather is clear we see the dramatic south face, and then on our final approach into Tagnag. We are now among mountains and starting to prepare for our climb.
All going to plan and the weather on our side, we will move up to a rock and glaciated camp just off the Mera La saddle at approx 5400m. Plastic mountaineering boots are usually worn from base through to the summit bid and return. Whilst they feel clumsy they are perfect for the job, providing warmth, protection and stability for the variable terrain including loose rocks, snow and ice. Another camp is set half way up the long north slope of the mountain, at about 5700m near a rock knob. Although it is a shorter distance here, it can be difficult in poor conditions and you are at altitude and is harder and further than it first appears.
The summit bid will commence early in the morning (anywhere from 2 to 5am) from this high camp, and take around 4 to 6 hours to make the summit. Whilst the distance dsn't look far, we can assure you it will be hard work, and all the preparations and a positive, tempered attitude will pay off here. It is usually necessary to rope up for much of the summit approach due to crevasse hazards along the route. The route can vary depending on the conditions of the season but usually skirts around a major shoulder in front of us to the back side of the mountain and then traverse in a fairly straightforward approach to the summit knob. As the light comes, we enjoy incredible views across to Baruntse (7129m), Chamlang (7319m) and Nau Lekh (6360m) with Makalu (8481m) looming behind. Further to our left is Everest, Cho Oyu and in the distance on a clear day, Kangchenjunga. Please note that due to the unstable nature of the northern summit knob, it is highly likely that we will ascend the central summit (6461m) of Mera.
The exact schedule will depend on many factors, including the weather, condition of the route and condition of the members. Our contingency of equipment and experienced staff and a time buffer, gives us a fair amount of flexibility to achieve success for all who have worked hard from the beginning of the expedition. The day will be long, and this is where all the training beforehand, the trek approach, and the right attitude will combine to give you stamina and confidence to be part of a sound team, with optimum chances for the summit.
A steady approx 4hr climb out of the valley and up through lateral moraine and grassy culverts to our last camp below the snowline. Enroute we will be able to glimpse the remains of the Lake (Sabai Tsho) that has caused so much damage. It is directly fed by some massive, almost vertical glaciers and it is suspected that there was an enormous avalanche of ice into the lake, and subsequently, a wave that broke through the loose rocks forming the wall on it's far side. A day is set aside for further preparations for the climb, rehearsal of using harness, crampons and axe, and travelling roped up etc. All members will not travel up on to the mountain and glacier without being briefed and skilled beforehand. Whilst the route itself is fairly straightforward, there are objective hazards and good basic technique and awareness of changing conditions is vital for every individual. Your guide will supervise the entire proceedings on the mountain, from the route taken and timings, and equipment required (we only take what we need for the climb, and the rest of your gear remains at base) through to people's fitness (mental and physical) to proceed. This means that the guides decision is final; he or she is responsible for everyone's safety and well being throughout the expedition, and no compromise will be made on these aspects.
Tagnag is a location to have an acclimatisation day and we will prepare and check our climbing gear also. There are many good ridges and slopes to trek up for a few hours and spend valuable time acclimatising ourselves at these greater heights. We aim to gain at least 500 metres following a ridge behind the village as a side excursion on this day. There are views of peaks towards Kusum Kanguru and across towards Mera.
All going well, we will fly out of this small mountain airstrip on a very spectacular flight back to Kathmandu. On arrival, we will be met and transferred to the Radisson Hotel where there is no fixed program for the rest of the day. You can relax or shop, explore as you please.
Today is a contingency day allowed for inclement weather, and or poor conditions on the mountain. People not wanting or able to continue on to the summit bid on the mountain are able to stay comfortably at our base camp in a grassy hollow with easy short walks possible and mountain views all around. One or two of our staff at least will mind the camp along with the porters.
The trip concludes after breakfast with a transfer to the airport.