If the first six days of the walk were the starter the next six are the main course - we are now getting ready to climb Mera Peak.
|Jack the American mountain man|
At Kote we share some time with an American called Jack who has just walked down from Mera having climbing nearly to the top and the skied down the glacier. He walked up without a guide and a permit and managed to fall down a crevasse before he decided it was too dangerous. He was still carrying his skis when we met him - a real outdoor sort of guy.
Leaving Kote was a bit of a wrench. The camp site, just outside a tea house, was the best so far, a lovely setting in a tight valley with a nice warm place to eat dinner. The night time views along the valley to Mera Peak were spectacular with the snow on the mountain side reflecting the light of a half moon in a clear sky. To cap it all I had a really good night's sleep the result, perhaps, of dropping down to 3,500 metres.
The weather this morning was perfect, absolutely clear blue sky, the best conditions on the trip so far. The weather seems to have changed to match the scenery and we are now in the middle of the big mountains.
|Pointing out Mera|
Today's walk to Tangnag took us straight up the Inkhu Khola valley, flat bottom and full of the debri of a retreating glacier. Given the weather it's a perfect walk. Directly ahead of us we can see Mera Central and Mera North. Our route takes around their back and all going well we will climb Mera Central next Saturday morning and, if we have time, Mera North as well. At the moment they look massive and reaching the top seems like a fantasy.
After a while we loose sight of Mera and the near perfectly shaped mountain of Kyashar dominates the view. Still feeling full of energy I grabbed the chance of scrambling up a large rock and posing with Kyashar over my right shoulder. Only Marc the Frenchman had the nerve and the inclination to follow me and I'm not sure if Jangbu was impressed.
|Me and Kyashar|
It's a deceptively tough walk up the valley. It doesn't look as if we are climbing at all but the difference between Kote and Tangnag is 700 metres and at this altitude you can't help but notice that sort of climb.
The side of the valley to the east is spectacular and high up, behind the impossibly perched snow shelves and tiny glaciers sits, out of sight, Mera North. The summits in front of our secondary target on Saturday morning don't even have a name.
We have a rest at a little monastery on the west side of the valley, it's still sunny but I give a trip around the tiny building a miss and instead stare at the mountain opposite hoping for an avalanche, I'm rewarded with a couple but to be honest they're only small ones.
My legs are getting heavy as we approach Tangnag and a porter arrives with hot orange squash and biscuits. The clouds are beginning to gather but the sun still dominates the sky and I lie flat out on the grass and let its warmth and the sugar in the drink do their work.
Approaching Tangnag we see the spectacular damage caused by the collapse of the natural dam that had been holding back the Sabai Tsho Lake. Testing my amateur geography knowledge here but I think the lake was formed behind a terminal moraine which in turned was formed by the retreating Sabai Glacier. The size of gash in the moraine is enormous and collapse covered the old village of Tangnag in rubble although fortunately all the inhabitants had been evacuated. The lake of course has now largely disappeared.
Tangnag is a tiny place and the fact we are going to hire some of our climbing gear here had given me potentially false hope about a sleeping bag. Actually manage to find a couple a bags in a little shop but don't look any better than the one I have already. Decide to talk to Jangbu about the bags and we go together and have a look. He doesn't think they're any good and insists I have his. He has the Exodus Five Season. I feel terrible but in the end agree with him and accept his unbelievably kind offer. I feel guilty and foolish - I should have sorted this out properly in Kathmandu.