July 15, 2008
Lorne Haveruk is a member of Landscape Ontario, instructor for winter seminars, Landscape Trades columnist and owner of DH Water Management Services in Toronto. He is also a mountain climber.

In May, Lorne, along with a guide and party, began the trek to the summit of Mera Peak. At 6,476 m, or 22,476 ft., the mountain is officially the highest of Nepal’s peaks open to trekking, rising south of the famous Mt. Everest. Bill O’Conner, author of The Trekking Peaks of Nepal, wrote, “Mera Peak is a chance to venture into a little visited and as yet unspoiled region of Nepal where the hillsides are still densely forested and a need to be self-sufficient is essential.”  

“You need to be able to focus on the task at hand, which is step, step, and another step for days on end — in my case, 17 days,” says Lorne. “Mountain climbing is a mental game where focus is key to success, especially as one gains altitude and breathing becomes difficult. This usually occurs around 10,000 ft.”  

Trekking is either up or down

Trekking in Nepal has two directions, either up or down. One hardly ever walks on a flat surface. Along the way the climbers stayed in mountain lodges. “Pasang (cook), Gage (assistant cook), Andon (a very strong Sherpa and cook’s helper), plus up to four other porters would leave after I departed camp. They would always pass us along the trail and be at the next lodge or campsite with tea, cookies, hot soup and hot lemon juice waiting. Tents were set up, beds were rolled out and all we had to do was stumble into camp and drop on our beds,” remembers Lorne.

High Camp at 5,800 m (19,025 ft.) is a spectacular site, located where a section of Mera Glacier is forced to break off and crash 500 m (1,500 ft.) to the glacier below. Walls of blue ice make for one of the most glorious viewpoints in Nepal. The summit is within sight, as long as the low lying clouds do not rise, which they seem to do daily in the late morning.

At high altitude the sun’s rays are extremely strong and can burn unprotected skin in minutes. Even highly protected skin can burn if creams are not applied repeatedly throughout the day’s climb. It is a steady steep climb for five hours to reach the south summit. Protected by about a 60 degree snow slope with open crevasses, it will swallow you up should you make a mistake.

Lorne remembers reaching the summit, “I have been climbing off and on for the past 30 years, and have never seen the unbelievably breathtaking views we beheld in Nepal that morning. The skies were an incredible deep blue. The clouds hung like suspended cotton puffs far below. The notorious winds that have occurred in the Himalayas in past years were non-existent. It was beyond a doubt, one of the best days ever to scale a high altitude mountain in Nepal.”