4/7/2018 Lukla (2,840m)
By James Holmes
From Khare, we departed for Mera high camp (~5,800m). The plan was to summit the peak and then collect snow samples for black carbon research on the descent. Setting off in the dark, the team successfully reached the 6,470m summit shortly after sunrise, although several team members chose to descend early, feeling the effects of the altitude. The summit was windy and cold and offered our first views of our next objectives, Everest and Lhotse, towering above in the early morning sunlight. Ram Kaji and Chris led collection of the snow samples on the descent, and James pitched in below high camp. Back in base camp, John processed the data. The information will be brought back to the U.S. and analyzed to determine what pollution is in the snow, where it comes from, and its effects on accelerated glacial melting. Anecdotally, we noticed the filters appeared fairly dirty, despite our expectation they would be clear with the near-daily afternoon snows. John remarked that the Mera glacier had receded by hundreds of feet in the last 10 years, making it considerably more difficult to access the ridge for the climb. While climbing, we encountered regular patches of deep blue glacial ice exposed to direct sunlight - not good signs for the longevity of this glacier.
From Khare, we retraced our steps to return to Lukla and the Khumbu Valley. It snowed for two days while getting back over the Zatrwa La pass, making the route finding difficult in whiteout conditions. As we neared Lukla, the snow turned to rain, and the vegetation that was covered 10 days ago was now in full bloom - bright reds, pinks, and yellows all over the hillside. It was a welcome return to the Khumbu.
Mera glacier with exposed blue glacial ice
Everest & Lhotse with snow whipping off
The ridge to Mera summit