Mera Peak - Map, Climbing Tips and Information

Standing at 6476m, Mera Peak is higher than any mountain in Europe, Africa or North America. At its summit there is less than half the available oxygen present at sea level. Classified as a trekking peak, it is a technically simple climb that represents a significant challenge to anyone wanting to experience the excitement of a high altitude expedition.

Mera Peak is suitable for novice climbers as the difficulty is not in the climb itself, but in dealing with the effects of altitude. 


Can you see yourself here?
Can you see yourself here?

Basic Information

As a novice the most sensible way to approach a serious climb such as this is via an organized expedition. Mera is in a remote location and it is only in recent years that any form of permanent building has existed near the base camp. Although it is possible to include parts of the busy Lukla to Everest Base camp trail, the mountain itself is on the other side of a significant ridge. 

A common route heads east of Lukla, over the ridge then following the valley of the Inkhu Khola river towards Khare (see the links section for a topographical map of the Khumbu region).

If you can pull yourself away from the awesome view of Peak 41, the trail moves up onto the glacier to Mera La (La means pass). The Mera glacier is the highway to the summit, and the staging camp will be set somewhere along its length. There is a small outcrop of rock on the eastern side that is a popular high camp.

Following the (hopefully successful) summit bid, one of the more interesting routes returns to Mera La but rather than returning to the west goes down the other side to the remote Hongu region.  Once descended to the valley the path heads north towards the lakes around Panch Pokhari.

This is a beautiful area with numerous mountain lakes nearly completely surrounded by a wall of snow and rock. It feels like being inside a giant cauldron, and apart from the way you came in, it seems there is no exit.

There is a way out but it means crossing one of the spectacular Himalayan passes. Unless you return from Mera via the same easy route on the western side, there will be one of the high passes for you to negotiate.  Which one will depend on the amount of snow present and the weather. Crossing the pass can include much more intense climbing than Mera itself.

The way out of Panch Pokhari, Amphu Labtsa (also known as Amphu Lapcha) is one such pass. A spectacular knife edge ridge near Baruntse, it has elaborate tiers of snow and ice to the south like an oversized wedding cake.  The northern slope (to the left in the picture below) is long, steep and iced up as it is frequently in shadow.

Amphu Labtsa is the pass most commonly crossed for expeditions climbing both Mera and Imja Tse (Island Peak). Mera is often climbed first as it is technically easier, although Imja Tse is lower at 6189m. In fact, Imja Tse is only a few hundred metres higher than Amphu Labtsa which is at 5845m.

Once over the pass the base camp for Imja Tse is not far to the west. For those not aiming for 2 summits, the path moves along just north of the majestic peak of Ama Dablam to join up with the Everest trail. There is the chance to make a detour to Everest base camp or return to Lukla via Namche Bazaar.

Amphu Labtsa Pass

Photo courtesy of www.traverseline.co.uk
Photo courtesy of www.traverseline.co.uk

Choosing a tour operator

The easiest way to organize your expedition is to use one of the many international operators.

Chose a reputable company with a history of successful, safe summits. A good way to choose an operator for Mera is to go with a company that also has expeditions to 8000m peaks. This is a serious logistical undertaking and and only serious companies offer these trips.

Also look at the experience of the tour leader and guides. These should be named people for each trip and have a brief summary of their previous expeditions.

The problem with international operators is that they have to make their profit in the currency they are based. Making a couple of thousand Nepalese rupee won't cut it. This means they are expensive.

For those with a (serious) adventurous streak, it is possible to arrange a trip to peaks such as Mera from Kathmandu. The tourist mecca of Thamel is full of operators willing to take you where ever you want to go. This is much cheaper but brings into play many variables relating to quality and safety. Sitting in a little office in Thamel, any question you ask will be greeted with an enthusiastic reply and reassurance - its all good, very safe, no problems.

This doesn't come under the heading of playing it safe (or sensible) but not all local operators are dodgy. Many international companies outsource the actual expedition to local companies. I met one American who was 3 days late arriving in Nepal and whose friends left without him. He managed to arrange his own trip - just him, with three Sherpas to guide, cook, porter and support. He reached the summit and was well acclimatized as his personal trip was extremely flexible. When you are the boss you rest when you need to rest.

This type of trip is more for someone time rich but money poor and you would need to accept a greater level of risk. It would take a while to organize on the ground and there may be some waiting before the trip sets off.

It is also wise to have all of your gear organized before arriving in Nepal. Very convincing counterfeit products are all over Thamel. Just because a sleeping bag looks identical to the original North Face product doesn't mean it will work as well. Rather than make a dangerous mistake, you are better off buying certified products from discount outdoor stores at home.

Mera summit at sunrise. Everest can be seen just to the right of cameraman's companions

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