Mera Peak Expedition April 2018


Mera Peak is a mountain within the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas. It stands proud at 6476m at its true summit (Mera North). There are two other summits Mera South (6065m) and Mera Central (6461m). Trekking companies take you to Mera Central rather than Mera North unless otherwise specified. Mera Central was first summited in May 1953 by Col. Jimmy Roberts and Sen Tenzing. Mera North was first summited later in 1975 by M. Jolly, G. Baus and L. Honills.

The summit view has got to be one of the main draws of climbing Mera peak, with five of the worlds highest mountains visible (Everest, Cho Oyu, Lhotse, Makalu and Kangchenjunga). It is classed as a trekking summit which gives the impression of an easy hike, but as with Kilimanjaro there is no such thing as an easy hike when it comes to altitude. It gets its name “trekking peak” as it does not require a lot of technical work, however a good amount of Scottish winter mountaineering knowledge is certainly advantageous.

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There are two seasons for trekking/mountaineering in Nepal these are post monsoon (Mid-September to November) and pre monsoon (March to May). The main trekking season is the post monsoon season with highs of around 20C in Kathmandu, with mostly clear sunny days. However night time temperatures can get rather cold (-15C). The pre monsoon season is my favourite season as its warmer and the rhododendrons are out in full bloom, however there is a risk of rain and snow.

The snowline starts above Khare at Mera La and High Camp, making nights a lot cooler. As with most summit days it is a very early start and so the temperatures will be extremely cold and therefore the best equipment is needed to avoid cold injuries such as frost bite and then snow blindness for when the sun comes up. Tempertaures can get as low as -25C with the addition of wind chill.

To get to most of the popular treks in the Himalayas you have to fly to Lukla (Tensing – Hilary airport) aka the world’s most dangerous flight. The airport opened in 1964 and was paved in 2001. With an increase in tourism and therefore increase in flights the safety has increased with 2 way control to Lukla to ensure the weather is good to land. If it isn’t then the flights don’t run or they turn around if they have taken off. I will say I am petrified of flying and I have done this flight twice now!

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Lukla is in the Khumbu district, the airport itself is on a small ridge. The flights are all normally very early in the morning. The airport in Kathmandu is packed with eager tourists waiting to get into the Khumbu valley and beyond.  The views are spectacular along the way, you pass quite low over ridges through the valley before you do a near vertical drop before landing, as you frantically look for where the hell the pilot plans to land the plane. Then out of nowhere a small strip of tarmac appears. The runway itself is only 527m x 30m with an 11.7% gradient, which helps you slow down upon landing as at the end of the runway you are greeted with a large brick wall. There is only one attempt at landing due to the twin otter planes not being able to take back off again to turn around.

Picking the company

I did a lot more research this time while choosing my next trip and who to go with. I suggest that personal research is done for both Nepalese companies and UK companies as all have pros and cons. Contact them and discuss experience and expectations of the trip, most will be happy to go through everything with you. Nepalese companies tend to be slightly cheaper as they do not have any UK guides.

Equipment

There is a lot of equipment needed and its not a cheap hobby to get in to. I would say if you have no equipment currently or very little you need to budget a couple of thousand to get decent equipment, or you can hire some of the equipment from companies, or buy second-hand online from outdoor groups on facebook. I had a lot of help from my local shop – The Climbers Shop in Ambleside, who were amazing and helped me with a lot of the kit. Here is a list of things I took:

  • Sleeping bag – you rely on this for a good nights sleep, and it needs to have a good temperature rating. I went for the Mountain Equipment Iceline – by far one of the most expensive sleeping bags on the market but it has a good nights sleep temperature rating to -30C (rated with person wearing thermals). It is highly breathable and rain resistant which is great especially when you get condensation in your tent at night. One of my favourite things is the inner pocket so I can store batteries etc at night without losing them. It also has a waterproof stuffsack. It Is overkill for Mera Peak but I sleep cold.
  • Sleeping mat – I took my therma-rest that I used on Kilimanjaro – mistake as a few nights I felt the cold through the mat. A down mat would be more suitable.
  • The down jacket – Mountain Equipment Expedition Jacket which was for High Camp and Summit.
  • Insulated jacket, keeps you warmer if its slightly wet out and takes up less space.
  • Insultated body warmer
  • Waterproofs
  • Shepee – mentioned this when I did Kilimanjaro.
  • B3 Mountaineering boots – you can hire these from most expedition companies.
  • B2 Boots are advised and on a few days were needed
  • Socks – essential that you have very warm socks and you can layer them on the colder days.
  • Mitts – must be goretex and warm for the summit day
  • Glove liners – extra layer of insulation
  • Thick Gloves – I have a couple of pairs of gloves that are warm and with the addition of the liners will be good for anything upto summit day.
  • Tent light – found this to be a pain on Inca Trail and Kilimanjaro using head torch to find things so I bought a little lightweight lantern to hang in the tent.
  • External power packs.
  • Bluetooth speakers and phone – on acclimatisation days after a few hours hiking you can get bored so having something to listen to is good for spirits.
  • Thermals – I have a light pair of thermals and some Rab powerstretch trousers which are warm and fluffy.
  • Fleece lined trousers
  • Trekking trousers/shorts
  • Fleece jumpers.
  • Camera and spare battery
  • T-shirts
  • Walking poles – protect your knees
  • Ice axe
  • Crampons – need to fit B2 and B3 boots.
  • Mountaineering Harness
  • Helmet
  • Selection of carabiners and ropes etc – specific to your trip and if you need them or if they are provided.
  • Hat/balaclava
  • Sunglasses – cat 2 to 4, I got polarizing, photochromatic lenses for ease
  • Goggles – protect eyes against spindrift etc.
  • Snacks – its always nice to carry biscuits or sweets to share.
  • Passport photos – minimum 2 for visa.

The Expedition

The company I chose give you 100L non waterproof expedition bag. Not much room in the bag for expedition gear and fresh clothes for after the trek. I struggled with packing and as always I pack on the day I travel. The bag had no give and the large down jacket, sleeping bag, helmet, crampons and mountaineering boots took up half the bag. Some of this equipment would be taken out of our bags and put in a separate bag for later on the mountain giving us more space on the expedition.

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Eventually I managed to stuff most things in my expedition bag and put the rest in my backpack. When I got to the airport they weren’t convinced that my backpack would fit in the hand luggage container (it wouldn’t) I had to take a few things out to cram it in. My suggestion is get a bigger expedition bag that gives a bit of breathing space for packing and make sure its waterproof.

I booked my international flights separately as I wanted to fly with Etihad and have a few extra days  in Kathmandu before the trip, plus it was cheaper to not book through the company. I set off Wednesday night and got to Kathmandu early evening on Thursday.

When I landed in Kathmandu I had to go through the visa process. After the hassle I saw some people having I would advise to get a visa before you fly as it just saves a lot of time and effort. The quick way while there is to fill the forms in as you get into the terminal. The other option is to use the automatic machines which take your photo for you. The queues were incredibly long for this though and it cost more.

Kathmandu is a very vibrant city with lots of wonderful people, many shops selling mostly everything you could ever want. Lots of mountaineering shops, some official, some not so much! But if you just want cheap tshirts etc they will suffice. It is not any cheaper going to the official shops in Nepal, they are just as expensive and in some cases can be more expensive.

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I decided to go to monkey temple (Swayambhunath) while I had some free time. Its quite far away from the centre and costs about 500 rupees in a taxi from the hotel one way, and a bit less from cabs on the streets. After the earthquake the temple was ruined and they are still in the process of rebuilding, however this does not mean its quiet. It was packed! Not the quiet place I remember from last time. Be warned there are a lot of steep steps to get from the bottom to the temple.

The night before the trip was to start, I had to head towards the Summit Hotel which is where the rest of the group were staying. If you stay in Kathmandu the best place to stay is in and around Thamel. The hotel was owned by Summit Treks who are the Nepalese company our UK tour company use for Sirdars, Sherpas and porters etc.

We had a quick meeting about what to expect and what to pack, our UK guide went through our gear to make sure we all had the correct equipment. I had brought up my ice axe, crampons, helmet, harness and boots to go into the overall gear bag which would be carried separately to our day to day things as we wouldn’t need them till higher up on the mountain. We had a group meal and then I headed off back to my hotel in Thamel

Day 1
Kathmandu to Lukla (2840m) and trek to Poyan (2800m).

It wasn’t a great nights sleep last night, I was worried about the flight and the expedition. I packed up the remaining stuff I had lying around and headed back to the Summit hotel.

We got checked in at Kathmandu airport and sat in the departure lounge. Our flight was due out at 7:30am, but the airline was late with the first flight and so that had a knock on with ours. We ended up leaving at 8:40am. The flight was pretty smooth, I was extremely nervous but had one of the people on the trek and the hostess chat to me and calm me down a bit. The views were spectacular out of the left side of the plane, all overlooking the Himalayas. The right side just had the valleys which were beautiful but a stark contrast to the mountains.

After our arrival in Lukla, our bags were picked up by our porters and taken to the teahouse where we would be meeting our Sirdar and Sherpas. One of our Sherpas was a young woman named Bhumeda, who had summited Everest and was promoting environmental issues with high altitude climbing.  Our Sirdar was a guy named Fu, a great guide and lovely person, full of energy and always in high spirit.

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We had a quick tea in the teahouse and headed off towards our lunch spot which was around an hours walk away. The route follows down past Lukla runway which gave some great views of the planes taking off and landing. There were a lot of steps down which seemed to go on forever, but the views were amazing and the weather was fantastic. The lunch stop was in a nice little teahouse and we were greeted with cordial, and the food was unexpected – beans and chips.

After lunch we started to head towards our camp for the night in Poyan, the path was pretty steep for around 90 min and we were met with a lot of yaks and porters coming in the opposite direction. In the afternoon it started to rain on and off so the porters and sherpas decided it would be best if we stayed in teahouses for the night to save our stuff getting wet. We arrived in Poyan at around 4:30pm. The area was beautiful and the teahouses were pretty impressive, little twin huts with an “ensuite” toilet. The main teahouse was nice with large fire in the middle of the room. We had some tea and I chilled out in here while my room mate had a sleep.

We all sat around and chatted until dinner was served at 6:30pm, vegetable broth followed by sausage and potato, washed down with hot chocolate. We all had an early night to try and catch up on lost sleep from last night.

Day 2
Trek to Pangkongma (2846m)

Didn’t sleep all that well, had a headache in the middle of the night, lay awake for ages until I could be bothered getting up and taking paracetamol. We were woken up by the porters with a cup of tea at 6am. Packed our stuff up with difficulty and headed towards the main teahouse for breakfast – cornflakes and warm milk. The views from the teahouse were pretty amazing, there was quite a few clouds around but you could see the Mountains through the breaks in the clouds.

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We headed off up hill for 600m, the path was being built along the way, but it was nice and easy going. The views were getting better the higher up we went. Fu kept calling them big hills as they were below 5000m. The walk was at a steady pace until after the first stop. I fell behind the group as usual as my pace is a lot slower than mostly everyone elses, but I had Bhumeda to keep me company for most of the way. I caught up again just before the dinner stop. I really wasn’t that hungry but managed to eat a few potatoes and bread, we filled up our water bottles and headed out again.

It was a beautiful day but really hot down in the trees, there were a lot of drink stops on the way down to try and keep us hydrated. The last bit of the trek was steep uphill to the campsite.  I was downbeat with my progress uphill but Fu was happy with my progress, letting me know that although I am slow I have a good consistent pace. A couple of the girls on the trek had waited for me near the top to walk in with me which was a nice pick me up.

When we arrive in the lovely little village a few of the hikers decided it would be nicer to stay in the teahouse instead of camping, and we got the rooms for 200 rupees each (£1.50). We all hung out in the teahouse and I brought in the hobnobs I had packed to share out.

Day 3
Trek to Nashing Dingma (2600m)

Up at 5:30am, and up to lots of sunshine after heavy rainfall last night, so a good choice to stay in the teahouse. The views were spectacular outside our rooms. I packed up my stuff and headed out for breakfast.

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We headed out at 7:30am towards a monastery which was close to the village and up 200 steps. The monastery was beautiful and had great views, there was a festival on so there were a lot of Buddhist monks present. We stayed here for around 15 min and headed off towards out next camp at 3600m. The weather was hot and sunny in the morning as we headed through the forests, it was really beautiful even though you couldn’t see the mountains. Some of the steps were pretty steep towards the top of the pass, when we got to the top we were greeted with cloud covered mountains.

The walk from here was gentle Nepali flat and was really nice and a great break for the legs. We had a quick chocolate break where we could see our campsite across the valley but we had to descend 1300m to our lunch stop, before climbing back up to the other side.

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We headed down which was hardwork on the legs. I managed to stay pretty close to the lead group but I did start to have leg issues on the way down. Lunch was pretty good and very filling, not the best just before a more or less vertical 700m trek. 

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We set off towards camp and we all more or less stayed together on the way up as everyone had stuffed their faces at lunch. The heavens opened not long after we started ascending, we made out way to a little hut and took shelter and chucked on our waterproofs. The rain subsided a bit and we started to head off again, however the heavens opened and it chucked it down, with no shelter we kept plodding along – the waterproofs were soaked and it started to seep through (waterproof jacket not so waterproof in the downpour). We took refuge under a overhanging rock for around 30 minute. Fu decided that we couldnt stay here all day so we set off again when the rain eased up. After about another 20 min Fu had had enough and pulled us into a locals house. They greeted us warmly and gave us hot drinks. We gathered some money together to give to them as a thank you.

We set off again and this time the sun had come out. We walked for another hour uphill through the treeline and to the campsite. The porters and Sherpas decided on teahouses again to give us chance to dry out clothes off.

The place was really lovely and the teahouse where we would be dining was large and had lots of windows to enjoy the views. We had a great night in the teahouse, playing cards and listening to the music I brought. It passed the time quite quickly until dinner came out. For starters we had popcorn, followed by mushroom broth, and then potatoes and carrots for me – pasta for the rest. We all disappeared off pretty early that night to get good nights sleep.

Day 4
Trek to Chalem Kharka (3600m)

Another early start this morning, but I had had a good night sleep. Had a long breakfast and chill out while we waited for the Mera and Island peak group to set off before us. The sun was shining and the beginning of the walk looked like we were walking through the lost world from Jurassic Park, it was so green and open it was absolutely stunning. The walk started off quite gently but then we started to head up hill again. The morning sun was beating down on us and so it was really warm and humid in the forested section. There were lots of Rhododendrons starting to bloom which was lovely to walk through.

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I was at my usual place at the back of the group but there were a few more taking it slow today. By the time we were approaching our lunch stop it had started to rain which was becoming the norm for this trip. We dropped down into a little dip which opened up onto a wide flat area where there was a little hut. We gathered around and were welcomed by our usual hot cordial by the porters. The heavens opened and we were told to go inside the hut which was the local ladies house, we could see her outside wandering around in the rain holding a chicken. The lunch today was hot dog sausages and bread.

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We waited around in the hut for longer than what was intended to try and wait out the rain but it wasn’t happening so we got all out waterproofs on and headed off uphill again. The rain was on and off for most of the afternoon. It was really miserable, I had my head down and let the other guys do their usual thing and walk off ahead while I progressed at my own pace. When I caught up to them I didn’t need the break so I carried on. I walked on my own with Bhumeda behind me for about another hour or so, the weather had started to improve slightly but it didn’t last long. The group caught up with me just before we started to ascend up to the campsite – or again teahouse site as the weather was too bad to camp in.

There were a couple of buildings one new and one old (shed), we got in the new build. My bag had still not arrived by the time we got there and the weather was awful, the mist had come in and you couldn’t see anything. My bag arrived after another 2 hours and it was soaked. I had to dry a few things out – thankfully I had enough dry bags in to keep most things dry. (Which is why your own kit bag is better than those given to you on expeditions). We had food (vegetable pizza) and went to bed.

Day 5
Trek to Chunbu Kharka (4300m)

Bad nights sleep, had a headache and felt dizzy – probably more dehydration than anything else, but I didn’t want any breakfast though I did eat some porridge. Today was going to be a long and difficult day with an ascent to 4300m. The weather was good to start with and the trek up from camp was pleasant. We saw a Danfe (Himalayan Monal) bird, which is similar to a pheasant but with colours of a peacock.

We had a rest stop at the foot of a large pass which we would be walking over, it was covered in snow and the clouds had started to form over the pass. It was a long slow hike up and over the pass, I was struggling with a headache still and I was having a hard time. I cried as I walked, wanting to go home and give in, but my feet kept going. It was a tough day but I knew I would get there at some point. It felt good to let the emotion out as I was walking on my own anyway. I caught up with another member of the group and walked with them for a while. We got to what looked like the top of the pass, but it was a false summit.

We had a little break and set off again. It was flat for a little bit then it started to get steeper again as we approached the top of the pass. You could hardly see anything at all. My feet had gotten wet through walking in the snow all day. The mist was thick and you could see hardly anything in front of you. I got to the top of the pass and the snow thickened, it became quite slippy underfoot and the ground started to slope downwards rapidly.

I caught up with the group pretty quick who were stood around having a break. Apparently through the fog there was a beautiful Lake where there were Tridents dotted around for worship. We continued on together and I stuck with the group all the way. There were a few occasions where I almost slipped over, but it was a fun afternoon. About 20 min before camp the porters came out to meet us to give us a hot drink which was needed.

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We got to camp, it was foggy and snowy. It looked really desolate. One of the people in our group was suffering with altitude sickness and went to bed, our UK guide went off to look after her while we had lunch. I had a bit of a headache and took a couple of painkillers, put on a big coat and headed off into the group dining room, where a few of us played cards. Before dinner our guide brought out his ipad and we had a quiz night. It is a real great way to pass time and relax.

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Day 6
Acclimatisation day at Chunbu Kharka

A well needed rest day today. Resting at a higher altitude aids acclimatisation for the group so although we are knackered and struggle when walking it will work better in the long run. We were up at 7am so we had a slight lie in. Its nice in the morning to not have to pack all your stuff up.

We headed outside as it was a beautiful sunny morning, we watched as the other group set off towards Khote. It was such a lovely morning that the porters decided it would be nice to eat breakfast outside instead of inside the dark dining room. After breakfast we had some time to do some washing down by the river.

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We headed out for an acclimatisation walk up above the rim of the valley we were in. I wasn’t really in the mood for hiking with the rest of the group so I set off before the rest of them and eventually they overtook me. I ascended over 100m and stopped.

I sat at this altitude and enjoyed the view. I saw a Pica which is a rabbit cross hamster type animal. I stood around taking pictures and ascended a bit more to get a good view of camp and then headed back down again and sat with the others who had decided not to head up.

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We had lunch outside on the sheet with the others enjoying the sunshine, but as dinner came and went the clouds started to roll in and the temperature dropped pretty quick. We all headed in to the dining room and sat around, some read and others played cards. I brought my music out to listen to. We had another quiz night which was a success again – mainly because we won! After dinner some headed off to bed. I brought my boots and clothes in that hadn’t dried in the sun and sat by the fire with them. I hung them up above the fire and headed off to bed pretty soon after.

Day 7
Descent to Khote in the Hinku Valley (3550m)

Up at 5:30am this morning and ready for 6:30am breakfast and 7:30am departure. After breakfast while others were getting ready I set off on the same route we used for acclimatisation yesterday. I almost made it to the top before the others caught up. The view was spectacular. You could see all the way over to the lake we passed the other day.

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Over the ridge the snowline started. The Sherpas and guides had decided that ice axes and crampons would not be needed but there was still a fair amount of snow and steps that needed to be cut in for us to descend safely. It was nerve wrecking but amazing at the same time. I really enjoyed the descent. Once we got out of the snowline we had a break, the entire view was amazing. We were starting to get into the mountains now and each day would bring us even better views. We stayed here for over half an hour and had a group photo.

We continued down the valley towards our lunch stop which would be in the warmer air. The descent seemed to go on forever, but the further down we went the warmer it got. The porters had picked the most beautiful spot for lunch. It was in a forested area with a slight opening in the trees. Food was as usual really good, we filled up on food and filled up our water bottles and headed out for Khote.

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After dinner there was a beautiful walk through the trees and then a descent down towards the river where we had another break. We carried on along the river and then crossed a little bridge into Khote. It was a long hard day.

The tents were all set up for us as the weather was much better. The teahouse was lovely, it was a new, with a large open area, it was pretty warm inside and the fire was lit early afternoon. We met a lot of other hikers doing Mera peak. I headed off outside and a couple of Sherpas were pointing out a large mountain in the distance which was coming out of the clouds – Mera Peak, which stood a huge 3km above us.

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The WiFi in the teahouse was good and so I managed to get in touch with friends and family back home. It was good to chat to them over facebook. Sometimes you need that extra support that some hiking teams don’t give you.

Fu had arranged to have chicken flown to Khote for me after the message that I didn’t eat pasta was not passed on to the porters in time. It was amazing, everyone loved the evening meal and were really full after. I headed off to bed with my tent mate, there were a fair few dogs hanging around which were really cute and friendly.

Day 8
Trek to Tangnag (4360m)

Up at 6am this morning after a great nights sleep. The sleeping bag was slightly frosty this morning. Packed up our stuff which was a bit more difficult with the two of us in a tent, especially with one stressing out. We headed into the teahouse for breakfast and set off to Tangnag at 8am. The views today were amazing, the sun was shining and the further up the valley we went the more the Himalayas opened up. The walk was pretty flat for most of the way, a slight slope every now and then but it wasn’t too difficult. We arrived at the lunch stop pretty early but it was packed so we headed out onto the grassy area above the river.

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After lunch the hike was pretty tough going, probably because I was stuffed from eating too many hot dogs and chips. We continued on following the river up the valley. The clouds started to cover the higher mountains around us. We arrived at camp at 2pm, so it was a pretty short day.

The tents were already set up for us, so I dropped my bag in and set up my sleeping mat and bag, while it was still light and dry. Headed into the teahouse for a hot drink and biscuits. We stayed in the teahouse for most of the day, it got really cold we had to beg to have the fire lit by offering to pay more money. It was still a bit chilly so I grabbed my down jacket and sat in the corner playing cards. We had another quiz night before dinner. Headed off to bed as we had an acclimatisation walk tomorrow.

Day 9
Acclimatisation day in Tangnag (4360m)

Rest day in Tangnang thankfully. Didn’t sleep well at all as the porters from a few groups decided to have a party outside our tent last night until the early hours. Probably had a good 5 hours sleep so not in the best mood in the morning. The lead Sherpa was not overly impressed with the porters behaviour. Had an early breakfast at 6:30am, and set off for our acclimatisation walk. I just wasn’t feeling it today, I was tired and moody. Once we started to ascend the hill near camp my throat closed up and I was struggling to breathe. It felt like I had a lump in my throat that was cutting off oxygen. I had a word with our UK guide who was pretty blunt bordering on rude with me, saying if I was struggling now he wasn’t taking me any further. It’s not like we all don’t have bad days in life, especially at altitude on little or no sleep. I didn’t need the hassle with him and I think one of the Sherpas felt the tension and told the guide to head on and he would walk with me on my own. I sat down with Eddie – the Sherpa, and we had a chat about the walk and that he was happy that I walk as slow as possible as we were not in a rush to get anywhere and the quicker we did it the more bored we would be back at camp in the afternoon. This was really helpful and very nice of him to do this and gave me some confidence.

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I continued to plod on at my own pace and stopping and starting as usual and caught up with the others while they were having a long break. They continued on upwards and I had a little rest here and admired the views. It was a walk along a wide ridge upto a weather station which was around 5000m asl. Most of the group wandered off to the top of the hill which was up and along the ridge. A few of us sat by the weather station and relaxed a bit and then headed back down to camp.

The walk down was pretty steep and slippy, few times I almost went over. Not far from the bottom of the hill the others caught us up and we walked into camp together.

We got back to the teahouse just before lunch where we were greeted with hot orange juice, followed by food. I felt a lot better in the afternoon after some fresh air and food. We had a chilled afternoon where our guide and Fu the Sirdar gave us all a demonstration of a PAC bag (Portable Altitude Chamber) which is used when someone is in serious trouble with severe AMS, HAPE, HACE etc. One of us got in the bag, it was zipped up and pumped up with a foot pump until the pressure dropped to 2500m which would help with any high altitude issue.

Sat in the teahouse for the rest of the afternoon, played cards, chatted and had another quiz night before dinner. Had our usual hot chocolate before heading off to bed.

Day 10
Ascend to Khare (4900m)

Up at 5:30am and packed our stuff up and headed out for breakfast which this morning was cornflakes and hot milk. It was a lovely sunny day and quite warm. It was a lovely walk along the river for the first bit and then up a quite steep incline to a glacial lake with lots of little balancing stone monuments around. Not sure how anyone has the patience to do that especially during a hike. We spent about 30 min here taking photos and admiring the views.

One of the dogs that joined us in Khote was walking with the other group and then joined ours. After the break the walk was quite steep for a short while and then levelled off and we continued to walk along the riverbed. We had another stop along the river where we spotted what looked like a weasel running along the other side of the river. It was a beautiful walk up the valley which opened up into a floodplain, up in front of us was Khare about another 300m above us. We sat down and relaxed in the sun, the dog was really friendly so I had a few cuddles with him, and gave him some food.

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The walk here to the village was pretty steep but it was only around an hour. We could see Mera La glacier and lots of snow covered mountains surrounding it. It was a nice day to just relax and admire the views. No one was rushing and everyone seemed in high spirits. We arrived in Khare at 11:30 and headed into our teahouse for lunch. Got all our tents sorted out and unpacked sleeping bags.

We got all our climbing gear out and tried on harnesses, B3 boots and crampons. Then trying to put crampons on with gloves, and then we had a race between all of us to see who could do it the fastest. A few of us headed out to go and find the bakery. It was pretty expensive but nice and warm in there, with wifi.

In the afternoon we played cards, and chilled out in the teahouse, looking at maps, discussing the route etc. Didn’t eat anything for dinner as they had only cooked pasta, which I am getting bit fed up with as I told the UK company I didn’t eat it and I am needing the energy more now the higher we get. Headed off to bed at around 8:30 to read a book I had downloaded on my mobile.

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Day 11/12
Rest days Khare

It was a cold night last night. We were up at 6:30am for a 7am breakfast. The dog slept in our toilet tent last night. I felt awful as I know my dogs wouldn’t be able to cope sleeping out in the cold and snow, but these dogs are used to it. I took a few extra bits of bread from breakfast to give to the dog. We headed off out of the village up onto a ridge that sits above Khare. I just plodded along at the back with Eddie, stopping and starting as usual. Only took about 1hr20 to get to the top point. The views were amazing and we spent a while up here. You could see all down the valley towards Tangnang, up over the Mera La glacier and the summit of Mera Peak. We could see groups heading up and over the glacier which looks pretty steep.

We headed off back down towards the teahouse where a hot juice was waiting for us. The other group had set up ropes to practice using ascenders and abseiling with B3 boots and mitts on. They finished up and we had a go on it. The clouds were coming in and it was getting pretty cold. The practice was good, my massive mitts were not good for using ascenders on, so I had to come up with a way to wear mitts and gloves without limiting movement, so it was a good practice session for that. It started to snow a bit so we packed up our stuff and headed into the teahouse for lunch.

We had a discussion about the weather situation and our summit attempt and the guides had decided to stay in Khare one more day as there was quite a bit of snow forecast over the next day or two. Sat with our large down jackets on in the teahouse as it was freezing as the woman refused to light the fire. A few of the group headed off down to the bakery. We played cards and had dinner (pasta again so I missed out on food yet again). Fu did get me some plain rice which was at least something to eat.

The following day the idea was to walk to base camp along one of the routes. But as soon as we headed out of Khare and up I realised I was drained and had no energy at all. Probably due to lack of food for 2 nights. One of the guys from the group had some protein bars in his tent which he told me to go and help myself to, which I was eternally grateful for. Got back to camp, one of the porters came out and gave me some strong juice and I sat with Eddie and ate one of the protein bars. I didn’t want the day to be wasted so I asked Eddie if he could take me on the hill we went up yesterday so I could at least get something productive done. We headed off up the hill and I got to 5100m which was better than nothing.

I got back into camp, chucked my bag in the tent and wandered down to the German bakery to have some food. I knew we were heading up to base camp tomorrow and I needed to have something to fuel me. I had a cheese pizza – I went for something that was least likely to give me food poisoning. There were quite a few hikers in there who had attempted Mera peak the day before and said it was a nightmare as there was a lot of fresh snow making it hard to walk through. I headed back to the teahouse and everyone looked knackered out. The porters had prepared chicken and chips for us, which I tried to force down after being full from the pizza I just ate.

We had a general chat after lunch about what was to expected over the next few days as we head up to base camp and high camp. Headed back down to the bakery again where it was nice and warm. It was snowing again by the time I left the bakery and headed back to the teahouse and sat round the fire reading for the rest of the night.

Day 13
Trek to Mera Peak Base Camp (5100m)

Early morning start, breakfast first and then to the tents to pack up stuff. We had to fit 2 peoples kit into one kit bag. I just packed the kit for the summit and my sleeping bag, and had everything else on. My tent mate was moaning I had taken up most of the space in the bag. We set off later than normal to head to base camp. The hike takes you up and behind Khare on a ridge, the other group were just behind us. Up on the ridge we watched the helicopter come in to take one of their members back to Kathmandu as they were suffering from altitude sickness.

The snowline started just above Khare. There were a couple of us at the back struggling along a narrow path to get up and over the rocks along the route. I don’t really remember the path much as Bhumeda was dragging me up and over at some speed my head was going a bit fuzzy. I think they were trying to get us to speed up but it wasn’t helping much with acclimatisation as I couldn’t catch my breathe and when I tried to slow down and take a second I was being dragged along again. It was nice that she was trying to help but perhaps if I had taken my own time I wouldn’t have had the headache. The base camp the guide had chosen to use wasn’t really a good base camp, there was no room for a mess tent and it was incredibly rocky and uneven. The other group went passed us, up and over Mera La to the other side where they would set up camp at 5300m. We were using tents that had been left there by other teams. We now had to share a tent between the three of us, to save space and also for warmth I suppose. It took a lot longer to set up mats and sleeping bags as there was hardly any space. I felt sick and had a massive headache which I have not had in a while. We ate lunch outside in the cold and then headed off back into the tents. One of our team was feeling a bit light headed and decided to head back to Khare as he didn’t want to risk his health.

A few of the guys headed off to go practice snow skills on the glacier but most of us weren’t feeling up to it so just sat in. I borrowed some cards off the lads to pass the time. We got served dinner in the tents which was good and I ate most of it. My headache was now gone thankfully and I was fully hydrated.

The most annoying thing about 3 in a tent is having to climb over one another to get to the toilet. It is hard work sharing with people you don’t know as tempers are more fragile at altitude and we were not enjoying the time together.

Day 14
Trek to High Camp (5800m)

It was another early start, I didn’t really stay hydrated through the night due to the difficulties trying to get out to go to the loo so I had a banging headache. I didn’t fancy breakfast as they were serving muesli and bread. It wasn’t altitude sickness or lack of appetite, I just wasn’t in the mood for it. I was told by the guide if I didn’t eat I wasn’t allowed to go to high camp as I wouldn’t get there. I took a piece of bread took a bite of it and made sure he saw me do it and then I threw it behind a rock.

We headed out of base camp and just before the glacier we kitted up with harnesses, crampons and ice axes. We would be heading over the glacier in teams. Two of us at the back would be roped to Bhumeda, 3 were roped up to the UK guide and the rest onto one of the Sherpas. It was really steep going at first so it was stop start.

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It seemed to take forever to just get up the first bit. We both made good slow progress on the glacier by having short breaks more frequently. When we got to the top of the glacier  we had caught up with the other group. Fu took over from Bhumeda and put me at the front as we headed on up the glacier to high camp. I was told to stop a few times as I was going too fast for the other person on the rope, so we swapped around. One of the other members in the UK guides team was struggling with dehydration just further on, as we caught them up Fu swapped us around. I was behind the UK guide now leading the other 2 girls on the rope. It was tough going as although I was usually slow I seemed to be alright on the glacier and moving faster than the others.

We carried on up the glacier which was becoming a bit monotonous, you couldn’t see where the clouds started and the glacier ended.

We eventually made it to high camp, both girls on the rope were really struggling to function. I got one of them into our tent where our other tent mate was already sat unpacked. I helped her get her mat and sleeping bag out and sorted while the guide helped the other girl. Both of them were now on Diamox and were not allowed to attempt a summit bid tomorrow. I felt pretty rubbish, it is the highest I have ever been and my head was pounding slightly. I took a couple of painkillers and drank as much water as I could.

High camp was pretty barren, but there were loads of tents there. Our toilet tent was quite far from where we were camping which was annoying as it was freezing cold and the path to it was rocky and narrow, with quite a large drop on one side. At high camp we had to use a bucket with a bag in it. Once the bag was upto a certain level it was to be sealed and replaced. However others in high camp were using our toilet and had not followed this procedure. As you can imagine it was not the nicest experience.

Stood outside for a bit while it was light as both girls in the tent were struggling and having a nap. The views from here were amazing. I took quite a few photos of the same thing just in case. Before dinner I headed back into the tent and sorted everything out for the summit bid that night. I crawled into my sleeping bag more or less fully dressed and waited for dinner to be brought to us. I stuffed it down as I was now hungry.

Day 15
Summit day Mera Central (6461m) and back to Khare (5100m)

Must have fallen asleep at about 6pm so I could at least have a few decent hours sleep before being dragged out at midnight to summit. Our guide came into the tent gave me some paracetamol which I took with the warm water the porters had left me, and had some porridge which I certainly did not feel like. I struggled to get dressed in the tent, and I put too many layers on under my massive down jacket. I was moving pretty slow trying to get my outer boot on over my inner boot which I had slept in to make sure my toes were warm from the start. Eddie came along and helped me get in the harness and crampons. We got roped up and headed out of camp. Unfortunately Eddie headed the wrong way and started to go back towards Khare on the glacier until someone whistled to him. We had to turn back and up which was demoralising.

Once on the right path I was slow. Exhaustion from the day before and altitude sickness were draining me. I had put too many layers on and I was burning up. I noticed the view around me as there was a full moon and Everest was lit up. I continued to make slow progress, my head was pounding and I started to feel sick. I had maybe been gone a couple of hours by now and not made much progress out of high camp. The path during daylight didn’t look as steep as what it felt now. I had a word with Eddie about my altitude sickness and unfortunately he had no idea about if what I was experiencing was normal or severe. I continued a bit further up but my headache got worse so I made the hard decision to turn back around and head back down into high camp. I was absolutely devastated to come so close. I got back to the tent and crawled into my sleeping bag and tried to sleep, but my sleeping bag was cold and I found it hard to warm back up again.

Eddie came to get me at 5am to watch the sunrise over the mountains. I felt a lot better now after more rest, which is sods law. We headed on out to where we walked earlier and looked back over to see Mount Everest, among several other 8000m peaks including Cho Oyu and Lhotse. It was well worth getting up for. The sky was a lovely pink colour and it was nice and calm. I took a load of photos knowing I would never try to climb Mera Peak again. I headed off back into camp after an hour where everyone else was getting up.

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The remainder of the group that didn’t attempt the summit due to altitude sickness (5 including myself) packed up our stuff and headed off down to Khare. Going down the glacier I could have imagined how much easier going up would have been if we didn’t have the clouds as the views were out of this world. We could see Everest for the most of the descent off the glacier until the clouds rolled in again as usual. We had a good laugh on the way down as most of us started to feel better the lower we got.

When we got to the steeper sections of the glacier towards base camp we had a go at abseiling. It wasn’t needed but we had the time and the energy to have a go at it. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. We got back to base camp in good time and some of the guys that summited were catching up with us having more or less run down the glacier.

The route from base camp to Khare was covered in snow, making crossing a bit treacherous. Eddie stayed with me helping me across some of the slippy sections. By the time we had crossed this bit we were a full team again as the summit guys had all caught up with us. They looked knackered. We headed back down into Khare together.

My tent mate decided to stay in the teahouse that night meaning I had a 3 man tent to myself which was bliss. A few of us headed down to the German bakery for hot chocolate and wifi. We had a good evening meal in Khare followed by cake and an early night for everyone.

Day 16
Trek to Khote (3600m) 

It was a really long night as most of us went to bed very early. I had the tent to myself and it was amazing, lots of space so I could take everything out of my bag and rearrange everything.

Everyone was more energetic this morning at breakfast after resting yesterday afternoon and an early night. We headed off down to Khote which was going to be a long day but easier as it was downhill. I strapped my leg up with so much kinesiology tape in the morning to ensure my knee made it all the way down with as little pain as possible.

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It was a lovely walk, very relaxing, everyone was more or less walking together and chatting. We followed the river down back the way we had come up. The weather was alright in the morning but just before the lunch stop it started to snow and rain on and off. We headed into a little teahouse for lunch, which I wasn’t really wanting. I hadn’t worked hard enough to work up an appetite from breakfast yet.

There was a lot of hot drinks on offer which we all took advantage of as the temperature was dropping the longer we sat in the teahouse. We were in no rush to set off in the bad weather so we relaxed a bit longer than usual.

By the time we left the teahouse it was snowing. The walk from the lunch stop to Khote seemed to take longer than from Khote to the teahouse on the way up. Due to the bad weather Fu had decided to check us into a teahouse for the night. The teahouse was pretty nice, we were all chilled out in the main room, a few people were having a few beers. As usual a few of us sat around and played cards until dinner came.

Day 17
Trek to Thulikharka (5400m) 

An early start today, the weather had improved massively, the sun was shining and it was quite warm. Today was going to be one of the toughest days, we have been on this trek for nearly 3 weeks and we were ascending yet again to get over the pass before we drop down into Lukla. When we seemed to start ascending we dropped back down to the river again, which was a bit disheartening.

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After about an hour of leaving the teahouse we started the proper ascent to get up the pass. I really couldn’t be bothered with today, I wish I had got a helicopter out of Khote, just to save 2 days of hard hiking. It was a really steep ascent and all of it was steps. It was a lovely walk, the views down were beautiful. We stopped off for lunch at a little shack. I was pretty hungry by the time I stopped. Cheese toasties, beans and chips. Everyone was loving it, definitely the best lunch we have had so far on the trip.

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Set off after lunch at a very slow pace as lunch was still heavy in my stomach. It was again another straight up section. The weather started to get worse and the snow started to fall. My hands were freezing. I kept pushing upwards, not stopping that often and we caught up with the others before the campsite. With awful weather again we were put in the teahouse. It was a pretty good teahouse as there was a large fire in the middle of the room downstairs and upstairs were the bedrooms.

We were all sat down around the fire, with one of the lads sharing his haribo tangfastics with me, which I was extremely grateful for. We were told we may need another day to get to Lukla as the weather was deteriorating rapidly and they were consider about the amount of snow on the other side of the pass. The other hikers were in the lodge with us had a few issues with frostbite which our guide and one of our team went to help out with.

Day 18
Trek to Lukla (2800m) 

It was our last day of hiking today, thankfully. There was some ill feeling within some of the group, me and my tent mate were hardly talking anymore, there were a few other group issues as well. The morning brought sunshine thankfully. There hadn’t been too much more snow since we headed to bed last night. After breakfast we headed off up and over the pass.

It was uphill straight away but we were all in good spirits. There was only another few hundred metres to ascend to get to the top of the pass and the views all the way up were fantastic. We got to the top of the pass and started to strap on our crampons. We split up into groups to get across the next few bits. There was another group that caught us up that had no crampons on at all and were attempting to get down in front of us. It didn’t work and our Sherpas had to help them along as it was steep and slippy without the crampons.

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We got across this section in a good time which Fu looked surprised at. Apparently the extra night was suggested as our guide didn’t think I would be able to make it to Lukla in the day. I was pretty miffed at this as although I was at the back everyday I wasn’t that far behind everyone at the end of the day. Fu mentioned this in front of a few other members who looked a bit shocked that this was suggested.

We took our crampons off and threw them in the bag for it to be taken down to Lukla. I am not sure why we took our crampons off here as the journey down was still pretty snowy and extremely slippy.

We got to our lunch stop at around midday, we could see Lukla from our lunch stop but it was still a fair few hours away, but the view was beautiful, it was really warm and we were surrounded by trees.

We headed off down again after lunch through the Rhodenedrum forest, the further we descend the warmer it gets. We started to cross rivers again via suspension bridges and started to see small houses dotted near the path. We got to Lukla at around 3pm, the first sign was the noise of the planes still coming and going which is unusual in the afternoon in Lukla.

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We headed to our teahouse and got into our rooms, a new luxury arrived in Lukla – sit down flushable toilets. Amazing! We changed our flights as we arrived in Lukla a day earlier than what our flight was booked for. No one wants to stay in Lukla longer than what is needed as its just a gate way to the mountains, with a few touristy shops and bars. We all wanted to get back to Kathmandu to have hot showers and clean clothes!

We got together and put tips in an envelope which was going to be split out between the porters and Sherpas. We were also asked to give any gear which we didn’t need to the Sherpas and porters.

A couple of us headed into Lukla for a bit of a wander round, I wanted to see how much it had changed since I was there last. Turns out, quite a lot, the entire centre was now paved and there are more shops and bars now.

We headed back to the teahouse, where I had a glass of wine and we had fried chicken and chips for our last meal altogether. I started to come down with one of the colds that another team member had had, some stayed out with the porters a bit longer and the rest of us headed off to bed.

Day 18 to 20
Lukla

It was cloudy and I knew full well we wouldn’t be flying anywhere today. We had breakfast, sat in the teahouse for a few hours while they decided to tell us that we weren’t flying out and that we would try again tomorrow. We could hear helicopters taking off and heading out but it was still too dangerous for planes. We headed off out to a café in town and had a few drinks and they put on some movies for us, there was also free wifi in the café. Quite a few of us stayed down there all day and night and ate there as well, even though the porters offered to feed us back at the teahouse.

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Another day in Lukla, got up and the weather was great first thing. We were stood outside the teahouse for quite a while as planes were coming and going. We headed down to the airport and sat around waiting for ages. By the time we were coming to get out luggage checked in the runway was quiet and everyone noticed that flights had stopped coming in. I headed outside and the clouds were gathering in the valley. We had some talk about getting a helicopter out of Lukla at our own expense, but it was $300 each which was a lot of cash and not everyone had credit cards on them. We were told if we chose to get a helicopter out then we would be on our own and had to sort ourselves out as we would be leaving the tour. Our guide was on the phone to the UK tour company while we were in the café in town, and we were told that they would get us a helicopter out tomorrow if needed as international flights for some hikers were the day after.

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Another morning spent in Lukla airport with a fine morning to start with and we headed off out to the airport again. We checked our bags in and flights were coming and going. We were on the 3rd wave of flights to leave that morning. The first and second came and went and then it all fell silent again. You could see people getting really annoyed with the situation, we were stuck in Lukla again and if we didn’t get the promised helicopter out that afternoon most of the group would have to rebook their flights out of Kathmandu.

Our guide was on the phone to UK travel group, it took a while to get through to them to try and sort out what was going to happen. The news wasn’t good, they said they would try arrange a helicopter but we would have to pay for it ourselves. Something we wanted to do a few days before but weren’t allowed to do if we wanted to stay within the group. One of our group members took it upon himself to talk to the tour company on everyones behalf to try and get us out that day.

Most of us got our bags from the runway and headed out towards the teahouse again. A few of the Sherpas came down to meet us to help us take our bags back to the teahouse. When we checked in I got a room to myself. We had a group team meeting trying to get what our situations were and what we wanted to do. The general consensus was that the UK tour group should pay for the helicopter out that afternoon to ensure we all got our International flights. People were getting really angry and there were some nasty remarks flying around towards other people in the group for no reason at all. It was a horrid situation and really ruined the end of the trip.

We all headed down to the café, the atmosphere was really horrid. Our guide joined us later to tell us the news of the fact that they had booked us a helicopter for tomorrow morning and rebooked the flights that were booked as a package, but it was at cost to us. Some of the group had a bill of £450. For the ones that had booked own flights later on we just had the bill for the helicopter. I stayed in the café and had several glasses of wine and read for a bit. A few went back to teahouse for food and then they came back down later and we went out for drinks in the Irish bar. We were annoyed at how we were treated and felt that the end of the trip had soured the rest of the hike. We headed off back to the teahouse, I sorted my bag out yet again, got rid of the stuff that I wouldn’t be needing and headed to bed.

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Day 21
Lukla to Kathmandu (1400m) 

We were up early again, stuffed breakfast down and carried our bags down to the helicopter pad. We had no idea what time our helicopter was due so we had to just stand and wait. Our contact in Kathmandu kept saying the helicopter had taken off, but its only 50 min flight and we were still waiting 2hrs later. People were getting more and more annoyed at this delay. It was starting to get close to our Sunday night flights at this point.

The first helicopter arrived at about 1:30pm and those with flights out that night were put on the helicopter. I got in the front as I am not a fan of helicopters, I like to see whats going on. The pilot was great, he was talking through flying and what the weather had been like over the last few days. Apparently its been on of the worse pre-monsoon seasons he has seen. We arrived in Kathmandu at 2:30pm, got our stuff and a minibus was waiting for us to take us straight to the hotel. I was lucky enough to be offered one of the girls rooms so I could shower and change before I had to head back to the airport. I grabbed a couple of glasses of wine and gave one to the lass who lent me her room. The other lot of the group were not too far behind us.

The shower felt amazing, it was great to get clean and put on clean clothes. I repacked my bag for the airport, thankful it was the last time I would be doing it for a while. I got all my stuff in the pack dragged it out of the room and put it near reception. I went to go find some of the lads and we went to go and eat in the hotel. I could have eaten loads. The food was amazing! I had a more wine and sat by the pool with them.

We got to airport in good time, checked in, and got upgraded to business, where I enjoyed a few glasses of champagne and slept. It had been a very busy day. Got to Abu Dhabi got a bit of food and then headed back to Manchester to drive home and sleep.

 

Looking back it was a good trip, some days were harder than others and it was soured by the last few days. You always take a gamble going on these trips getting put with people you just don’t get on with. This was one of those trips unfortunately. I did get on with the majority and we had a good laugh. It did put me off doing anymore expeditions but the longer it has been since the trip and the more I talk to other companies I have got my passion back, and I am off to the Pyrenees in January and Anconcagua December 2019. Different challenges and more physical as it is not serviced by porters. I am looking forward this side of the challenge as although not a technical climb it will be a completely different experience.

Just remember if you are having a bad day, you won’t be the only one. Be as relaxed and open as possible and look at it as once in a lifetime. There is no need to be rude and bad tempered as this can then have an effect on the rest of the group. Its a team effort and everyone should be there to support each other!

 

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