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The First K9 Ascent of a 7,000-Meter Himalayan Peak

We don’t want to hear about the time your dog did a fourteener. Mera, recently renamed Baru, made the first canine ascent of Nepal’s 23,389-foot Baruntse in November 2018.

n November 9, 2018, a dog named Mera became the first of her kind to reach the summit of Baruntse, a 23,389-foot peak in Nepal’s Himalayas, located just south of Mount Everest. The peak, often overlooked as it lies in the shadow of some of the tallest mountains in the world, is a steep, challenging climb in its own right. Other than a brief human-aided zip line down a short section of fixed line, Mera made the ascent completely unsupported.

“I am not aware of a dog actually summiting an expedition peak in Nepal,” says Billi Bierling of the Himalayan Database, an organization that documents climbing expeditions in Nepal. “I just hope that she won’t get into trouble for having climbed Baruntse without a permit.” According to Bierling, there have been a few cases of dogs at Everest Base Camp (17,600 feet) and some who’ve followed teams through the Khumbu Icefall up to Camp II (21,300 feet), but this is perhaps the highest-recorded elevation ever reached by a dog anywhere in the world.

Mera, age unknown, is a 45-pound Nepalese mutt who appears to be a cross between a Tibetan mastiff and a Himalayan sheepdog. She possesses an extraordinary level of confidence relative to her small frame. Though slight, she’s lean, with muscles likely honed by years of travel over rough mountainous terrain in the Khumbu Valley. She has soft, close-cropped black fur, with legs and a snout dipped in golden yellow, small ears that flop forward, and kind eyes.

Mera embedded with a team from the Kathmandu-based Summit Climb, led by Seattle-based mountain guide Don Wargowsky, in the tenth day of its monthlong expedition. The group had seen her a few days before in the Nepalese town of Kare, but she seemed aloof. The team members were descending from a successful summit of Mera Peak (21,247 feet), the first mountain they had climbed on their trip before heading to Baruntse, and were just above the fixed lines at around 17,500 feet when Mera (you can see how the humans decided on her name) came bounding toward them. She passed about 30 climbers on the way up, all of whom could’ve been persuaded to give her food or attention, but she crossed a glacier with a crevasse and beelined it for Wargowsky.

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