Conquering the Peaks – Scaling Mera Peak and a Ph.D. Proposal

Devi is seen reaching the summit, with her arms extended in the air in their climbing gear. Snowy mountain terrain can be seen in the background with a clear blue sky.

By Devi Kandel, Lecturer in Adult Nursing


In this blog, I am going to embark on a metaphorical journey, drawing parallels between my summiting the majestic Mera peak, earlier this year, and the strenuous task of crafting a Ph.D. proposal!

My desire to summit Mera Peak first crept in when I was trekking to Everest Base Camp in October 2022. I went back to Nepal in May 2023, after visiting Singapore to work collaboratively with MDIS as an international stakeholder, to widen networking, learn about different cultures, and get to know the BSc Nursing students in Singapore.

This journey has helped me to become more resilient and flexible to new environments. I experienced the vulnerability that comes with a potentially insurmountable challenge: facing towering mountains demanded my determination, resilience, and unwavering spirit. Sometimes though, mountains also manifest as intellectual and academic challenges that push us to new heights!

Devi Kandel is seen smiling with two of her colleagues behind her, also smiling.

The Ascent Begins: Preparing for the Climb – you cannot do it alone

At 6476M Mera peak demands careful planning and preparation. The same is true when embarking on a Ph.D. proposal… it requires meticulous groundwork.

Until 14 May 2023, I was not sure that I was actually going to summit Mera. But before setting foot on the mountain I was aware that I had the necessary skills, such as climbing gear, and the knowledge to face the demanding terrain. As part of my preparation, I went to the gym every morning to develop my physical skills, and walked almost 10-15 Km every day with Dr. Liz Adamson and the rest of the team when I was in Singapore. ​​​​​​​

My guide, Minga D Sherpa, helped me to develop some climbing skills and gave me all the support I required along the way. I have taken my guide’s advice: such as positive mindset, drinking plenty of water along the way, doing deep breathing exercises every morning, trusting the process and facing the challenges as they arise. I could prepare the physical fitness and strength, but nobody knew how my body was going to react to the high-altitude sickness. Similarly, crafting a Ph.D. proposal calls for extensive research, delving into the existing literature, speaking with relevant people, finding guides or mentors in the field, and honing the skills necessary to undertake the research journey. It just shows that gathering well-recognized expertise is so important to achieve the greater good and to ultimately make a difference in our community.

The power of collaborative learning and working is a crucial part of the research process, which I have experienced at two major events at Edinburgh Napier University (ENU); inter-professional learning (IPL) week and the Teaching and Learning Gathering. Similarly, speaking with my mentors, supervisors, friends and my senior/experienced colleagues helped me get in the mindset and plan for writing a Ph.D. Proposal. It just demonstrates that the skills I have learned while climbing a mountain, and the skills I am learning from my mentors at ENU, are interchangeable and transferable.

Devi Kandel is seen at the front of the image whilst her colleagues stand behind her, smiling. Water can be seen at the back of them along with buildings across the water.

The Challenging Terrain: Facing Obstacles – the best-laid plans

Mera Peak, with its steep slopes, invisible crevasses, and unpredictable weather, presents climbers like me with an array of challenges. For example, at the beginning of our journey the weather forced us to pre-maturely ascend to high camp ahead of the planned date, which then led to altitude sickness due to the lack of acclimatization.  Likewise, the journey of a Ph.D. proposal is not a straight journey. In both cases, setbacks and re-routing are inevitable. The weather conditions may impede progress, just as the researcher may encounter dead ends and unworkable plans, but the progressing despite the challenges, recalibrating strategies and pushing forward, are fuelled by an unwavering determination to overcome any hurdles.

Members of the group are seen on their ascent. Snow is on the ground, with a mound seen behind them along with another two people in the shot, and a blue sky. One member has their hand in the air.

The Summit Push: Striving for Excellence

As I approached the summit of Mera Peak, exhaustion seeped into my bones as I was suffering from altitude sickness at the high camp and doubt perhaps clouded my mind. Similarly, when crafting a Ph.D. proposal, despite the culmination of countless hours of research and analysis, self-doubt can creep in. But it is during these moments that the true essence of the journey reveals itself. The ability to dig deep, draw from the well of inner strength, and pursue excellence becomes vital.

The mountain terrain is seen in the background, with both snowy mountain tops and a rocky ground beneath the group member, standing on one leg, with their arms in the air.

The Summit Moment: Triumph and Reflection

Reaching the peak of Mera in May was a moment of pure triumph—an overwhelming surge of emotions that validated the effort I had invested in this journey. Similarly, as the Ph.D. proposal takes shape, completion will offer a significant milestone in my academic journey. It will be an opportunity to celebrate the dedication and perseverance that brought me this far. At the same time, reflection helps one understand the personal growth and transformation achieved through the process. However, the submission is only the start of the PhD journey!

The group is seen during their ascent with snow on the ground. They are wearing jackets and climbing gear, and one member is holding a sign.


For me, the climb up Mera Peak and the journey of crafting a Ph.D. both demand unwavering dedication, resilience in the face of challenges, and the willingness to push beyond perceived limits. Just as reaching the summit of Mera Peak rewarded me with breath-taking views, submitting a well-crafted Ph.D. proposal opens a door to opportunities in a world of knowledge and intellectual discovery. I am embracing the peaks that lie before me, for the promise of growth, accomplishment, and the realization of my aspirations. The ‘climb’ is as important as reaching the summit, as the real destination is to truly find myself.