As long as I can remember, I have been mesmerized by mountains. I grew up in Pennsylvania and Illinois but spent summers in Vermont. We always climbed a few mountains in the summer and I would dread the time when we had to leave and return to the flatlands. I promised myself that I would someday live there permanently.
When I was in my early 30s, I made the move to northern Vermont, about 50 miles from Canada. I spent more and more time in the mountains as my children became increasingly independent. I took up rock and ice climbing, in addition to the hiking and skiing. Most weekends you would find me in the White Mountains of New Hampshire; my favorite mountain was the fierce and sometimes deadly Mt. Washington. It is the highest mountain in the northeastern United States and holds the record for the fastest wind speed recorded at 231 mph.
It was during this time that I began to seriously consider a trip to Nepal. I had a friend that owned a climbing equipment store and guided several trips a year to Nepal. I remembered watching a TV special on Everest when I was a little girl and becoming enchanted at the idea of climbing it, I desperately wanted to see what the Himalayas were all about – getting that amount of time off work however was a big challenge, so I put the idea on the back burner for the time being.
In the spring of 2016, I visited my friend with the climbing store and we discussed a potential 4-week trip to Mera Peak. Mera Peak is not a particularly technical climb but, at 21,247 feet it is considered one of the highest trekking peaks in Nepal. I was beyond excited at the prospect of finally making my dream a reality. So, I took the plunge! I requested the necessary time off work, started planning every single aspect of the trip and more importantly, began my training regime.
There were fourteen people that signed up for the trip and, in mid-October, we boarded the plane for Nepal. After several days of travelling and layovers, we made it to our camp and settled in for the night. The next morning, we met the porters and sherpas and our journey began on foot. The trail was muddy and, in spots, very precarious; we crossed washouts and areas where, one false step would prove deadly! Some members of the team had become so unwell with altitude sickness, we had to take time to acclimatise so we stopped early for the day.
After a week or so, we were above the timberline, Tangnag and Khare at approximately 16,000 feet. From Khare, we headed towards our base camp at Mera La, this was a very long day and one of the most challenging for me. About midday, we arrived at the Mera Peak glacier. I had never been on a glacier before and was a little intimidated. Conditions were perfect, I strapped on my crampons and off I went. There was an extremely steep section that was quite scary but after a cup of tea and some soul searching, I finally reached the top!
The next day was spent on the glacier, moving to a higher camp at 19,000 feet. This was a long day as well and challenging at that altitude. After a brilliant day of weather and climbing, it was decided that we would make our bid for the summit the following day.
We set out, the sun creeping up over the Himalayas and our guide led us through the crevasses on a well-marked trail. From high on the Mera Peak glacier, six of the eight highest peaks in the world are visible. It was truly incredible to look across at Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse, the views were spectacular, I couldn’t believe I was standing in the middle of the Himalayas, staring at the beast that is Everest – we reached the summit 6 hours later.
That night we had a celebration dinner with our sherpas and porters and said our thanks and goodbyes. I felt so conflicted as it was exciting to be heading home to my family, but I would miss the harsh beauty of Himalayas and my miss all the new friends I made on my journey. The Himalayas was an indescribable experience and a lifetime dream come true.