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Table of Contents "On the road to Kabul and other short stories of treks"

Snow blind on Mera Peak, October 1998

Mera Peak (middle). West summit (middle left) 6486 m, Central summit (middle) 6476 m. View from the South.


Rokus stumbled along hitting rocks all the time on the narrow  mountain trail as he could not see. He was snow blind, his eyes fully taped up by a French doctor as they got burned two days ago on the Mera Glacier. We still needed two days to reach Lukla at 2700 m and had to cross a steep, 4900 m pass.

Mera Peak

Mera Peak is a 6476 m mountain in the Everest region and famous as a Trekking Peak. It is the highest mountain in Nepal that is so easy, basically a walk-up along the Mera Glacier, but only when the weather is fine.

Mera Glacier, just before Mera La Pass (5400 m), towards the left. View at Mera Peak.

Mera Glacier, view at Mera Peak.

When the weather turns to snow showers, it can be very bad. At this altitude you could get a meter of fresh snow in two days covering the numerous glacier crevasses as Jeroen and Bram found out in fall of 1999. An easy three hour trip from High Camp at 5800 m to Khare at 4900 m, turned into a 12 hour snow plough adventure.

Mera Base Camp at Khare at 4900 m has a few very simple tea houses, basically four walls of piled up rocks and covered with a blue plastic tarp.


High camp is on the Mera Glacier at 5800 m near Rocky Ridge. A single camp can be set up at the “eagles nest”, a rocky part next to Rocky Ridge with a km high shear drop and a splendid view at the valley leading to Panch Pokhari and the Amphu Lamptsa Pass East of Mera Peak.

Rocky Ridge Camp, view to the North East at Baruntse.

Rocky Ridge Camp, view South. Mera glacier dropping off. Mart sheltering under an umbrella against the fierce midday sun.

Rokus was very keen in trying to summit the top of Mera Peak, his last and only chance he felt as he was already 55.

Summit day

Nobody managed to sleep last night in the Rocky Ridge High Camp at 5800 m, it is simply too high. Everybody had headaches and most of us used  pain killers to fight it. I also took Diamox as it is know as a medicine against high altitude sickness. At high altitude the oxygen exchange through the arteries malfunctions by leaking fluids in the lungs causing a cough and brains causing a headache.


We got up at 2 AM but it took two hours to get ready, only to get up, have breakfast and put on the gear. The crampons gave a considerable delay.


We left in two groups of 5 having a dead calm weather of -10 Celsius. In the morning there is more oxygen in the air as the morning air is still cold, I have been told. This is the main reason why we get up so early, not to reach the top at sun rise as this is just a bonus.


At 7.45 AM my group reached the top but not after loosing one person as we went too fast. The last hour we stopped every minute to recover but the going was very easy, a gentle walk-up. Only the last 30-40 m to the reach the snow-covered cone of the 6476 m central summit were steep.

Snow covered cone of he central summit of Mera Peak.

It is a special feeling to stand so high and see the nearby (15 km) pyramid of Everest towering so high above the Nutpse.

Top of Mera peak, view North to Nuptse (middle left), Everest (highest pyramid peak middle) and Lotse (right of Everest).

We stayed only 5 minutes, a howling wind at -12 to -15 Celsius made the top a no picnic area. In the far distance we saw Rokus and his group. They were 1 hour behind but were going steadily.


On the way down Tsiring, our Sherpa climbing guide said he forgot his sun glasses and I gave him my second set. The sun was now out an although slightly covered up by a haze and a few clouds, the light was still very strong, enhanced by glacier reflection.


Rokus reached the top at 9 AM and was very happy.

Rokus with Phurba Sherpa on Mera Peak.

Going down, he was very tired and had trouble finding the clearly marked trail due to high altitude sickness causing a loss of sense of orientation. Rokus did not pull out his sun glasses as the weather was now increasingly cloudy. He finally reached base camp at 2 PM.

The next morning

The next morning Rokus complained about burning eyes and said that possibly they got burned as he did not wear sun glasses yesterday.


Later that day, back in Tangnag, the pain increased and a French doctor looked at his eyes. He took a drastic measure by taping up the eyes immediately. Several times a day eye drops would be applied and the doctor recommended Rokus should keep his eyes from getting any light.

Rokus with eyes taped up, trying to eat.

We still had two days to go before we could reach Lukla. The first day was hell. Rokus couldn’t walk, stumbling over the rocks on the uneven mountain trail. We tried to have him carried by a porter but carrying 85 kg uphill was even too much for them. They would only last for 5 to 10 minutes and Rokus position on the back was very uncomfortable. Walking and stumbling was better. With beaten up feet, and 5 hours later we finally arrived in the camp before the 4900 m pass.

Rokus carried by porter on the mountain trail.

The next day we would cross the pass and this would be a10 hour day. I estimated that at 12 AM we would be at the pass and take another 5 hours to go down to Lukla from 4900 m to 2700 m.

Last day camp at 4500 m, early morning frost on tents, view at Tangnag.

Rocky approach to the 4900 m pass to Lukla. Rokus in blue.

As the weather was a bit cloudy and Rokus felt a lot better he decided to take off the bandage and go for it. I agreed, this was the only way to make it back in time to Lukla.


Rokus left ASAP and was always in the front that day. He reached Lukla at 4 PM and quickly covered up his eyes.


The next morning we took him to the doctors assistant in Lukla and got more eye drops. Rokus kept on complaining that his eyes were very sore and had sticky lime on his eyes. He wondered if it would ever heal.


Rokus had burning eyes for the next six to nine months when it finally healed.


Being snow blind or more precisely, to have a sun burn of the eyes is no joke. Always use sun glasses and to help others, always carry two in case someone looses a set.