One of our most challending expeditions is the trek to Mera Peak, the highest trekking peak in Nepal. At 6,476m, it’s one of the highest trekking peaks in the world, and our 23-day trip is a serious feat. Most people start their trekking adventures with peaks like Kilimanjaro or treks to Everest Base Camp. But Rachel Kiernan decided to start with Mera Peak, summiting Mera Peak in 2018 as her first international trek. She told us all about her experience on our new podcast…
Had she hiked before summiting Mera Peak?
“I’d only hiked in Ireland before that, and once in Canada, but that was only slightly higher than Carrantuohill. So it would be pretty similar, height wise. But that was it! I’d done the Four Peak Challenge, and walked from Galway to Dublin, too.”
How did she train?
“I was hiking regularly enough, maybe once a week. For summiting Mera Peak, I had to go out for longer treks and work on breathing techniques. I’m a qualified yoga teacher as well, so I was implementing yoga as I went. I was researching altitude, too. Yoga was a massive help at altitude – I was doing deep belly breathing, so I was getting more oxygen into my body. I was working on meditation and visualisation too.”
How was the Mera Peak experience?
“Even though you’ve seen the itinerary, it doesn’t express how magical it is. The experience alone, going to Kathmandu and exploring that, is so different to Ireland. What I loved about the expedition is that there were only 9 of us. I loved the way the group was so small, and we’d gone off the beaten track. It was only us, the locals and our Sherpas. We were like a little family! Reading books, playing card games, sitting by the fire, talking about different experiences. We had no mobile phones, very limited WiFi, no electricity.
I really loved the sense of camaraderie between us. If someone was having a bad day, you cheered them on. And if I was having a bad day, someone else would help me to keep going. I loved the back to basics element. I didn’t have a clue what was going on in the real world for three weeks.”
What was the toughest part?
“I had two tough moments. The first was when I was unwell with stomach issues, that was only our second day. I hiked all day without food, only drinking sips of water. I wasn’t in my usual rhythm and that was tough. My really bad day was the second to last. We were in no mans land in my head, psychologically, because we had summited, then got down to 5,000m. But then the middle day we had to get to this tea house so we could get on for the final day. After lunch, I was just like “Are we ever going to get to this tea house?” I was really just fighting with myself mentally. And the minute we got into the tea house, I just burst into tears. That was my worst day, because psychologically I had done what I was supposed to do, which is summiting Mera Peak. But then you have to get back down! That was a mental aspect, rather than a physical one.”
If you want to hear more about Rachel’s toughest challenges, her experiences with mountain rescue training and the Irish hike that she completed on crutches, you can listen to the podcast here.