Q. How can I best train / prepare for climbing the mountain?
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The 360 Expedition physical training programs have been devised to be expedition specific. Use these as a guide but also feel free to contact us for individual advice on how best to incorporate a suitable fitness program with your own lifestyle.
If you are struggling from day one then you will not enjoy the rest of the trip. Physical preparation does not have to be Herculean: concentrate on cardio-vascular exercise during the week by taking short runs when time allows and try to spend at least 2 weekends a month going on long duration walks ( longer than 6 hrs) carrying a rucksack of around 10kg.
This kind of regime will not only prepare your body for carrying minor loads but will harden your body against the big days on the mountain itself. In addition it will help break in your boots and get used to your equipment. In combination this will pay dividends when you reach Mera Peak because even though you can’t train for altitude your body will be ready for arduous days and you will be familiar with how to best use your equipment, both adding to you being able to enjoy and appreciate the mountain all the more. Please also see the recommended training program for the Mera Peak trek.
We would also recommend attending one or more training weekends such as those provided by our UK partner The Fresh Air Learning Company. Check out www.freshairlearning.com for details. They are also happy to run bespoke events for groups which we will join in with too.
Training weekends are great - in particular because the participants can meet each other and start to build each other's confidence before you all head out. They're also useful because we can show you the sort of training you should be doing in the months before you leave. We can also discuss clothing and kit and help you make cost effective choices before you spend too much money. We will also discuss what it's going to be like, and cover off health issues such as how to manage the effects of altitude, heat and cold; and the importance of nutrition, hydration and hygiene. We try to balance relaxed instructional sessions with spending as much time out of doors walking and talking. We ensure the weekends are great fun and that you head for home clear about the expedition and confident that you will have an awesome time.
Q. How many snacks should I bring with me?
You should bring enough snacks for the first few days and only your favourites as you will be able to buy most additional snacks en-route and this can help save on weight. You will also be provided with one choccy bar a day by your leader so bare this in mind when packing snacks.
Q. Does the 15kg porter limit on the trek include climbing gear (boots, crampons, axe, slings and karabiners, hard hat etc.)
No – your climbing gear is not counted in the 15kg porter limit. Your 360 leader will check your gear with you before you depart for Lukla to make sure that you have everything that you need. At this time, your climbing gear is separated out and you will be reunited with it at base camp. The baggage allowance on the Lukla flight is also 15kgs but please remember you are also carrying a day sac which you can stuff a few goodies into.
Q. Can I contact the others on the climb? How about the guide?
You can always call our offices and one of guides will contact you, generally about 1 month before your trip departure we mail a list of other team members to you.
Q. Are there any entry or Visa requirements?
All foreign nationals need visa's . They are easily obtained at the border (airport) and cost $40 for everybody. We recommend that you contact your nearest Nepali embassy (call 360 for details) to avoid queuing, unnecessary delays and potential clearance problems.
Q. What if I arrive early or depart late? Can you arrange extra night lodging? Is there a single room option for this expedition?
We are happy to make any arrangements scheduled outside of the trek dates: these may include personalised tours, extra hotels rooms, private airport pick-ups or arranging private rooms. Please indicate that your requirements on your application form and we will contact you with the relevant arrangements.
Q. What is the best air route to my destination?
Detailed flight information will be sent to you upon registration. We are ATOL licensed and ensure the most direct route with a reputable airline.
Q. Are there any inoculation requirements?
Inoculation requirements change quite frequently. Please contact the 360 Expeditions office for up to date advice.
Q. What happens if I get altitude sickness?
There are different types of altitude sickness. Although our acclimatisation regime ensures that everybody enjoys the best possible chance of getting high on the mountain, altitude-related problems can happen. The most common of this is high altitude sickness. (AMS- acute mountain sickness)) Symptoms for this generally include headaches, nausea and vomiting. In all this sounds quite dramatic but generally this is just the process your body naturally goes through to adjust to the higher altitudes and the reduced partial pressure of the atmosphere. For some people the acclimatisation process takes a little longer then others. For our guides this is all part and parcel of ascending a 6,000m peak and although we asses each clients personal situation carefully we also further consider the compounding affects of dehydration brought on by excessive vomiting and loss of appetite.
AMS might sound frightening but our guides are fully trained (and highly experienced) in helping to relieve your personal symptoms and provide advice on how to best proceed. HACE and HAPE rarely occur on Mera Peak and our guides are fully trained in recognition of the onset of these problems and will deal with them at the first sign of their development.
In most cases AMS can be avoided by following guidelines:
• Drink lots of water
• Walk slowly
• Stay warm
• Eat well
We recommend that you familiarise yourself with the various affects that altitude can cause. During your pre-climb briefing, we describe altitude sickness to you in detail, and advise you how to cope with it. The most important thing is not to fear it, but to respect it and to know how to deal with it and more importantly tell your guides how you feel. Our guides have seen every condition that the mountain produces, and they will always know how to deal with problems.
Q. How cold can it get?
The temperature at the top of the mountain can vary widely. Sometimes it is only a degree or two below freezing, but climbers should be prepared for possible temperatures as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius, especially in conjunction with wind chill.
On the trek expect cold mornings (sometimes frosty). An afternoon rainstorm is not unusual at the lower altitudes.
Q. Is it possible to rent equipment before I go?
It is possible from our local ground crew but we advocate the use of personal equipment whenever possible. This is particular important for the use of boots and high altitude clothing.
Q. What happens if there is a problem on the mountain?
All our guides are in communication with each other by phone and radio. In the vast majority of cases of emergency rescue the problems can be attributed to slow acclimatisation or altitude and if so the solution is immediate descent to lower altitudes. Our local crew is very experienced in dealing with any problem that may arise. Our guides are either doctors or posess the highest standard of wilderness first aid qualifications and can handle any emergency to the highest level of competency without assistance if necessary.
Q. What happens if I need to leave the expedition early?
If a climber needs to leave early arrangements can be made with the assistance our 360 Guide. Additional costs (transport, hotels, flights etc.) will be incurred by the climber but our guides will be able to assist in every detail of your departure.
Q. What will the meals on the expedition be like?
All meals on the mountain are of the highest possible standards. In fact considering that our cooks have to produce the best possible meals in a wilderness setting using only the most basic of facilities (kerosene stoves) the meals they produce are nothing short of miracle. The meals are always fresh, nutritious and varied. We ensure that dietary preferences are always met and that the best local ingredients are used.
The underlying aim is to provide a balanced nutritional meals packed with carbohydrates to refuel hungry bodies and to replenish stores for the next day of activity.
On top of well balanced meals clients are provided with coffee, tea and snacks upon arrival into camp. The morning wake up call is usually accompanied with a cup of tea or coffee in your tent.
Clients are invited to bring along any of their favourite snacks and goodie bags from home as they are expensive to buy once on the trek. Concentrate on high energy food-stuffs such as Jelly Babies etc to give you that little boost on an arduous day.
Meals on the trek in and at base camp will include fresh fruits and vegetables. Light weight nutritious foods are prepared higher on the mountain.
Q. How often is fresh water available for replenishing during the day?
Before leaving camp in the morning you will fill your water bottles or camel bladder. If this runs low you will have ample more water to replace it with. For most walking days water can be replenished at the lunchtime site. In Nepal water and soft drinks can be bought at some of the lodges encountered on the route.
Q. Where does the drinking water come from?
For the first day bottled drinking water will be used. At the higher camps we will use locally sourced drinking water from streams or springs. These are usually fresh being topped up from melt-water above or by rainfall but we also increase their purity by treating the water with purification chemicals and by boiling it. We always ensure that our drinking water is 100% bug free.
Q. How warm does my sleeping bag need to be?
Sleeping bags should be rated within the -20 C comfort zone. From the first camp upwards it is not unusual to experience frosty nights and a good night’s sleep is important to giving you the best chance to climb this mountain. Ensure you get a sleeping bag that has this temperature rating at this comfort zone rather then as its extreme zone.
Our guides take sleeping bags rated to well below -20C to ensure that they are warm at night. A 3 - 4 season sleeping bag can be enhanced by using an inner silk or fleece bag (or similar). The idea is to be as comfortable and warm as possible for the night and henceforth to ensure plenty of sleep for the arduous days ahead. Some clients have found the use of a “Bivouac bag” to increase the warmth of their bag.
It is important to remember that down sleeping bags work by your own body heating the down that's inside the bag.
Once you have warmed up the bag the down will retain the heat and ensure that you sleep at a temperature that's your own body temperature. For best results it is best to wear as little as possible when inside your sleeping bag. Our guides will often only wear a set of thermals in their bag. It is important for the bag to trap the heat. By wearing multiple layers of clothing your clothing will trap this heat and your bag will not function properly.
Q. Are down jackets necessary?
They are highly recommended and are worth their weight in gold on summit day.
Our guides wear them on all evenings from the first camp up. A layer system comprising of several layer of base layers, fleeces, jumpers and a thick coat will suffice on most summit nights prior to the high camps but nothing beats the efficiency of a good down jacket (especially when topped with a waterproof layer).
Q. What do the porters carry? What is the correct porter weight?
Your porter bags should be off a soft material “duffel bag” or rucksack variety and should not be a suitcase or hard bodied metal case. Furthermore they should weigh around 15 kg when packed for the trekking phase of the trek. On all our Mera peak treks we have found this weight to be ample and usually every body can plan to take only enough clothes and equipment needed for the mountain. Please bear in mind that on top of your load, porters will also have to carry a share of the food, kitchen equipment, camping equipment and their own survival gear.
Inside the porter bag should be a change of clothing, your clothing for higher up the mountain, a sleeping mat (thermarest), sleeping bag, personal toiletries etc. (see equipment/clothing list). Also take a pair of light shoes to wear at camp at night (crocs etc.) and consider bringing a book or playing cards.
Q. What is the best type of footwear to use for the trek to base camp?
You will only be using your plastic boots for the mountain phase of this trek. You will not be wearing them on the trek to the base camp. All the mountain hardware (plastics, crampons, ice axes, ropes and snow stakes etc.) are brought directly to the camp by porters and placed in separate bags when we reach Lukla. We will not see this equipment again until we reach the base camp.
Because of the huge variety of terrain encountered on the trekking phase it is very important to wear the right footwear. Trekking boots should be sturdy, waterproof, insulated against cold temperatures and offer adequate ankle support. In addition it is highly recommended that your boots are well worn in to prevent the formation of blisters. A range of suitable boots are on the market and further advice as to which brand names are available can be found online or at your local gear store.
Q. What clothing should I wear on the Mera peak trek?
We advocate the beg, steal and borrow principle for first timers: instead of buying brand new stuff that may never get used again. The cost of equipment is usually a major deterrent for people coming onto trips in the first place.
Our guides usually start the trek wearing long, lightweight trekking trousers and wicker (non-cotton) shirts. Long trousers are recommended as a deterrent to insects, stinging plants and to act as sun protection. Shorts can also be worn on the initial few days of the trek as the temperature is usually warm. Ensure that you apply sun protection frequently.
The prevailing conditions on the trek will dictate what you will wear: if it is cold when you leave the camp in the morning then wear your fleece. As things warm up take advantage of the zipper system which most trekking clothing have and open and /or close the zips to adjust to your own preferred temperature. If you get too warm then take a layer off.
On summit day it gets cold and temps of -20 C are not unusual.
Typically our guides wear 2 sets of base layers (long Johns), a thick fleece layer (top and bottom) and then on the legs waterproofs whilst on the upper torso a down jacket is worn. As the wind picks up near the summit ridge our guides will put on their wind proof layer to ward of the wind-chill. On their hands they'll wear a thin layer of fleece working gloves over the top of which a thicker set of ski gloves or mittens is worn.
The equipment list will advise as to which recommended brands you should consider using.
Their heads are covered by a thermal “beanie” hat or a thick balaclava and the hood of their down jackets. On their feet the guides wear one thin sock and one thick sock.
Sunglasses are worn for most of the trek in as well as suitable sun-hats. On summit day our guides wear snow goggles.
Plastic boots are essential for climbing 6,000m peaks. They should be double boot with a soft inner and hard plastic shell, the basic model would be Scarpa Vega's or La Sportiva Spantiks. Temperatures high on the mountain are usually well below -20 and only plastic boots can withstand such conditions. Ensure that you have tried the boots on before you leave home and that you can wear a thin and a thick pair of socks in them and still be able to wriggle your toes.
Crampons are worn for a majority of the time you spend on the glacier and for the actual summit day itself. Your crampons should preferably be of the easy “heel clip” variety (rather then the strap systems which are fiddly). It is not necessary to use specialist technical climbing crampons as standard 12 point all round crampons such as those from Grivel will do the job very well.
Over the top of your clothing you will wear a climbing harness and you will be attached to a rope for some of the day.
Waterproofs are needed on hand at all times. Mera is a huge mountain that creates its own weather system. It is not unusual to be caught out in an afternoon rainstorm low down on the trek. Waterproofs should be Gortex material or similar. On summit day they are used as an invaluable wind shield to protect you against the effect of wind-chill when a strong wind blows.
Q. What gear will I need?
Please review the equipment list. While all items are required there may be times when some of the items on the gear list may not be used (such as warm weather or changing conditions). The gear lists are created by the guides to ensure climbers be prepared to summit in any conditions.
Q. How much will my pack weigh during the trek?
A daysack is worn by the climber at all times during the trek. The content of this is mandatory and should include: a fleece (for when taking breaks or weather changes) a full set (top and bottom) of waterproofs, sufficient water for the day, snacks, camera equipment, personal medication and a head torch.
Your day-to-day rucksack will weigh no more then 3 – 4 kilo's and a rucksack of around 30 - 40 L capacity will more then suffice.
This rucksack can be filled to brim with extra stuff when checking in at the airport. Our guides put their down jackets or a thick fleece and a pair of mountain socks in this bag so as to free up space in their hold luggage.
It is important that your day sack has an adjustable waist belt to transfer the weight of your daily load onto your hips and from here onto your legs so that strongest muscles do most of the carrying. Another handy feature would be a compartment in which to fit a platypus or water bladder.
Our main luggage will be carried from camp to camp by porters,
Our initial check in luggage should be around 22kg.
Q. Will I have to share a tent on this expedition?
Most altitude related symptoms manifest themselves at night. We therefore recommend tent sharing from the onset of all our Mera expeditions. Tent share is always organised according to similar sex and where possible age groups. Obviously if climbing this mountain with a friend or partner then you will be able to share tents, and if you’re a group we’ll ask you to make your own arrangements. If you have joined the team by yourself then it is highly likely that you will be sharing a tent with your pre-assigned room buddy unless prior arrangements have been made.
We use high quality 3 man tents to be shared between 2 people to provide extra space for your comfort.
Q. How many climbers are on this expedition?
Rarely more than 12. Typically a group has between 6 to 8 climbers.
Q. What is the best time of year to climb in Nepal?
The best time to climb the Nepali 6,000m Peak is March to May and September to November. The later time frame is generally clear but colder with snow conditions more stable. The usual weather patterns which came with great predictability are changing however and it is not unusual to experience short spells of weather which is unprecedented.
Q. Where do I meet my Leader?
Your guide will meet you at the airport. Look for someone wearing a 360 logo.
Q. What is the guiding team composed of? How many guides? Climber to guide ratio?
Our 360 guides are some of the most experienced in the business. They spend many months a year climbing and trekking in Nepal and have established a close rapport with our ground crew.
Most trips have a 3:1 ratio. Our 6 person teams depart with one 360 expedition guide. This ratio also includes local crew (climbing Sherpas). Generally, your accompanying 360 leader will be in charge of the expedition and he/she will be assisted by the local guides. For the actual mountain phase (as opposed to the trekking phase) we adhere to the 3:1 ratio to allow us to look after you properly.
Q. How fit do I need to be for this expedition?
Climbers are expected to be in good physical condition. The better your physical shape the more you will be able to handle the demands of trekking to the base camp and then climbing the peak. Having a good level of fitness will allow you to enjoy the expedition all the better and increase your chances of reaching the summit. Summit day can be up to 12 hours long.
Q. What is the skill level of this climb?
While technical skills are not necessary, it is strongly recommended that climbers have a basic grounding in the use of crampons and ice axes. Although billed as Nepal’s highest trekking peak the nature of this expedition is more akin to a mountaineering expedition then a trekking holiday. The mountain is covered in snow and quite a lot of time is spent climbing a glacier.
Q. Will we have a training weekend before we go?
Training weekends are great - in particular because the group can meet each other and start to build each other's confidence before you all head out. They're also useful because we can show you the sort of training you should be doing in the months before you leave. We can also discuss clothing and kit and help you make cost effective choices before you spend too much money. We will also discuss what it's going to be like, and cover off health issues such as how to manage the effects of altitude, heat and cold; and the importance of nutrition, hydration and hygiene. We try to balance relaxed instructional sessions with spending as much time out of doors walking and talking. We ensure the weekends are great fun and that you head for home clear about the expedition and confident that you will have an awesome time.
We have a training partner in the UK that runs a programme of pre-expedition training weekends around the UK. Check out www.freshairlearning.com for details. They are also happy to run bespoke events for groups which we will join in with too.
Q. What additional spending money will we need?
The amount of money you will need depends on how many presents you wish to buy or if you want to purchase soft drinks on the trek. As a basic rule of thumb $200 USD should be more than adequate for any expedition spending. Nepal is a relatively cheap place and when indulging in the local custom of haggling goods can be bought for excellent value for money. Your 360 leader will be happy to point out the relative bargains, suitable prices and where to get find the best value for money. The only cash you'll need to consider taking with you on trek is the local crew tips that are presented to them before we fly from Lukla. (See local tips and tipping.)
Q. You advocate taking a small first aid kit, what should it have in it?
We advocate a little bit of self-help on the trek. If you have a blister developing for example then please stop take off your boot and treat it before it becomes a problem. Your own first aid kit should contain: A basic blister kit, band-aids, sun-protection, your own personal medication (sometimes your porter might get to camp after you and if he is carrying your medication you may not be able to take it according to the regime you are used to), basic pain relief (aspirin and Ibuprofen,) a personal course of antibiotics if prone to illness etc. Foot powder in your socks every morning is great for preventing blisters. Generally the best approach to take when packing your first aid kit is to include such basic medications as if you would on a family or personal holiday.
Your 360 expedition leader and/or a local porter (we call the ambulance man!) carries a very comprehensive first aid kit which contains a wide range of supplies and medications. They are fully trained to use whatever is needed for any emergency that may arise. We advocate keeping this in mind when packing your own first aid supplies and keeping your own FA kit as compact and light as possible.
Q. Money.... am I correct in thinking we only need to take American Dollars with us?
American dollars are readily recognised and are easily converted to the local currency. Upon arrival there will always be a bureau the change at the airport. Generally these provide a better rate of exchange then your hotel. For most situations when buying gifts or small goods such as drinks or snacks etc. the use of small denomination US ($) dollars is not a problem. Getting change for a $20USD bill when buying a $1 USD coke will be a problem. Larger bills are good for tipping your porters at the end of the expedition and a sufficient amount should be carried with you. Your 360 leader will advise you in the pre-expedition brief as to what is the correct amount to take on the trip with you.
Q. Do we need a travel adaptor for the plug sockets in the hotel or are they the same as UK?
The voltage is 220v / 50Hz like the UK. Rectangular or round three-pin plugs are used. It is possible to recharge your electronic items and batteries for a small cost at all the lodges.
Q. Do I need to take Malarial drugs?
The Malaria protozoa generally do not survive over an altitude of 1,500m so once we have started the trek malaria poses no threat. (Lukla is at 2,700m)
When visiting the lowland regions of Nepal or going to India it may be advisable to seek advice about if and when to take the malarial prophylactics. When visiting these places the chances of contracting malaria can be reduced by standard precautions such as sleeping under mosquito nets, applying insect repellent and wearing long sleeve shirts and trousers.
We advocate you visit your local doctor before departure to get the latest advice, MASTA Travel Health clinics, or many larger local hospitals have travel clinics.
Q. What clothing is suitable for when we come back from the mountain?
Kathmandu is at a relatively low altitude and daytime temperatures are warm. When in Rome do as the Romans. Shorts and T-shirts are fine to wear during the course of the day. Evening wear generally tends to be casual with long trousers and casual shirt appropriate for all hotels and restaurants. Nepalese are generally quite conservative in their dress code and are generally well dressed despite their situation in life. Your town and party clothes can be left in a safe lock up at the hotel and do not need to be taken up the mountain.