Mera Peak and Island Peak
Mera Peak and Island Peak expedition
This is a strenuous mountain expedition to the Nepalese Himalaya to climb the famous trekking peaks of Mera Peak (6461m) and Imja Tse (6189m), a three week trip that offers two high mountains which are both achievable for someone with good alpine skills up to PD/PD+.
Mera is the highest so-called trekking peak in Nepal. The Nepal Mountaineering Association designates peaks as 'trekking' not by their technical grade but by the cost of the permit and therefore their popularity. Mountaineering peaks like Everest and Ama Dablam cost many thousands of dollars for a permit, whereas the more more popular trekking peaks cost a few hundred dollars per person to climb.
Both mountains offer different challenges. Mera is high but has few objective dangers like crevasses, whereas Island Peak (known in Sherpa language as Imja Tse - tse means peak and imja means island - is almost like a mini Everest in terms of it's challenges. In fact the route we use is the same as Hillary and Tenzing used back in 1953 in preparation for their successful Everest climb. There is a headwall which is a little like a mini Lhotse Face, a narrow ridge to the top like the SE Ridge on Everest, and a short section of broken seracs and crevasses a little like a mini Icefall.
Previously we might have crossed from one mountain to the other over the Amphu Lapcha Pass but that is largely impassable now due to the impact of climate change. Either snow- loaded slopes or dry slopes with danger of rockfall. So we now trek to Mera first and then cross into the Khumbu valley over the Zetra La and continue up to Island Peak on the Everest trail.
Mera Peak is in the Makalu Barun National Park on the edge of the Khumbu region. At 6476m this is the highest of Nepal's trekking peaks and offers fantastic views from the summit including Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Makalu, Ama Dablam, Chamlang and Baruntse. This peak is not very technical but still requires members to be roped together.
Island Peak is a more technical peak which requires the use of roped travel across crevassed terrain and a climb on fixed ropes up a headwall to an airy ridge. The headwall can be dry which means ascending on mixed rock and ice, and it is important to check the anchors especially if the descent is in the afternoon. This is a classic climb graded PD+/AD- depending on conditions, and is obviously at high altitude so acclimatisation is important.
Island Peak is at the top of the Chukkung Valley and is accessed by walking up the valley from Dingboche or the more interesting route which crosses the Khumbu Glacier at Lobuje and the Kongma La for an overnight camp below Pokalde Peak before descending into Chukkung village.
Crossing the glacier on Island Peak and heading towards the headwall which has fixed to ascend onto the summit ridge which is narrow and exposed to the summit.
Fitness, experience and terrain
Climbers should have experience of moving on a climbing rope and using fixed lines, and be familiar with multi-day high altitude trips. It is a physically demanding expedition but offers a truly amazing experience of some famous 6000m Himalayan peaks. For a detailed look at the kit required, check out our Nepal kit guide.
The best preparation for this trip is training in a way that best replicates the demands of the trip. Concentrate on cardio-vascular fitness such as running, swimming, cycling, rowing and also some specifically-targeted body-weight or free-weight workouts such as squats, calf raises, planks in combination with low-intensity long period fitness like hillwalking with a pack of around 10kgs.
The terrain is very varied. A lot of the paths in the main valleys are very pleasant and easy, some are in cultivated farmland areas and others are quite high and open. Shorts and Tshirts and a day pack and some nice weather will be enough for some perfect mountain days.
Mera Peak is not technically demanding but it is high and a long summit day, and you are of course open to the elements. Take care with hydration and maintaining a slow manageable pace. The snow route itself is not steep but it is a big day out and will sap your strength. You will need to be comfortable moving on a man rope, clipping in and maintaining an efficient pace and a safe line. Also be familiar with walking on crampons and being able to self arrest with your walking axe. We use a high camp for this peak so experience camping on the snow and keeping warm, dry, hydrated and well fed is important to ensure you're in the best shape for summit day.
Island Peak is a classic Himalayan 6000'er and requires multiple skills on mixed steep ground. Initially negotiating the paths in the dark up to the snow line is not too difficult but there is a lot of loose scree and switchbacks in and out of the rocks and cliffs. Once at crampon point, the journey continues on man ropes across glaciated ground with large crevasses. There are ladders in place and the route is normally easy to follow, but confidence and competence on a rope is important. Make sure you are familiar with your harness and tying into a rope, and moving safely in a team. Crossing ladders is not too difficult but it does take a bit of nerve and balance, there are handlines to help and it's important to clip into one of these.
The headwall to the summit ridge of Island Peak is 300 metres ascent between 40 and 55 degrees and takes about two to four hours depending on how busy it is, the weather and how efficient you can move on fixed lines. The route is not difficult, there are plenty of shelves and rest points, plus there are lots of anchor points to cross, first with your safety karabiner and then with your jumar. This routine is very important, you should make yourself a cow's tail before summit day, which is essentially a jumar and a locking karabiner on two slings or pieces of rope attached to your harness. Make sure their length is enough to keep a slight bend in your arm. When climbing, always ensure the jumar and the karabiner are attached to the fixed line, and always move the karabiner above the anchor point before moving the jumar over.
At the top of the headwall the summit ridge extends a further 250 metres to the small and shapely peak, and this is quite exposed and airy with amazing views looking back towards Ama Dablam. The fixed lines are still in place, but it is important not to lean back on the rope. Use the jumar as a safety device, not something to 'jug' up the rope. Be mindful of other people coming down, there is very little space (if any) for two people to cross each other so communicate and decide who goes first.
The summit itself is small, only room for about five people comfortably, and it is a truly remarkable spot with a panorama view of some of the great peaks of the high Himalaya. Everest itself is not visible, because Island Peak is close up to the vast and dramatic south side of the Lhotse/Nuptse wall, scene of many a famous winter climb by the great Polish super climbers in the 1970s.
Coming back down again you will feel the tiredness but it's vital to be completely alert. The first section back down the ridge is exposed and at the top of the fixed lines you will need to abseil down the headwall. The initial section is the steepest and there are quite a few anchor points every 30 metres or so. This is a single line abseil with no top roping so it's important you are competent and confident in abseiling (or rappelling) by yourself. Again, make sure you use a safety karabiner on the line as well, and make sure you move it across to below the anchor before moving the descender device you are using. Make sure you don't descend on a rope with someone else on it, and always check the anchor points before carrying on. If you are coming down in the afternoon then the sun will have warmed the slope and it's quite possible that anchor such as aluminium bars or screws will have worked loose from the ice. It is absolutely vital that you personally check each anchor yourself and make your decision before descending further, and communicate to the guide if you feel uncomfortable or unsure about anything.
Note that the fixed lines on Island Peak are not normally kernmantel ropes, they are quite thin polypropylene ropes which can easily ice up in the morning. This means that the toothed cam of a jumar might slip along them. Always check the line as best you can and when you move over the anchor points just check the cam isn't iced up.
There might be two up lines, and two down lines. Inevitably if it's busy there is a lot of chat from people, some looking to overtake for example. Keep to the principles of not having multiple people climbing on a fixed line and putting undue pressure on the anchor. Communicate clearly and don't shout or get annoyed!
- Large duffle bag or rucksack & liner
- 45 Ltr day pack
- Stuff sacks, various sizes
- Down jacket with hood
- Waterproof jacket and trousers, goretex or equivalent (softshell)
- Trekking trousers and shorts, Tshirts, shirts
- Fleece or woollen tops
- Base layer tops and bottoms
- Thin socks and thick socks
- Warm hat, buff/balaclava, sunhat
- Liner gloves, warm gloves, mitts
- Sunglasses Cat 3 UV polaroid
- Mountaineering boots graded B1 or B2
- Trekking boots and hut shoes
- 4 season sleeping bag (comfort temperature -10C) and compression sack
- Thermarest or thick foam sleeping mat for camping only
- Walking poles
- Head torch & spare batteries
- 2x 1 litre drinks bottles
- Pee bottle (optional)
- Wash Kit and first aid, towel
Items available for rent either from Adventure Alternative or from local shops.
Mountaineering Harness - preferably alpine style.
Descender - with gloves it's best to use something easy to hold and manage your descent like a figure of eight
Ascender - this is a jumar and with gloves or mitts it's best to have the one with a handle. Take some prussik loops as an addition in case jumar fails or is lost.
Karabiners - take at least four locking karabiners
Slings - take at least four slings of average size, 120cm
Crampons - you will benefit from front points and make sure they are sharp because the ice on the headwall can be hard
Walking Axe - do take a leash as well, at least for using on the headwall where people are below you
Personal first aid kit contents
Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Throat Lozenges, Antihistamine tablets, Loperamide tablets, Prochlorperazine tablets (for sickness/nausea)
Ciprofloxacin tablets (general antibiotic; prescription required), Acetazolamide tablets also known as Diamox (altitude prophylactic; prescription required)
Antiseptic Wipes, Adhesive Plasters, Blister Plasters, Zinc Tape
Sunblock Cream, Lip Salve, Insect Repellent, Water Purification Tablets, Rehydration Sachets
Personal Medication as required, eg. Anti-Malarials, Asthma Inhalers, Insulin, Epi-Pen etc
Latex gloves, Crepe Bandage, Hydrocortisone Cream
Whilst it could be -20 on an early morning start or on the summit, it could also be +20 or more with strong UV in the valley. It is likely therefore that you will leave the tent in the morning in maybe; mountain trousers, baselayer, warm mid-layer, soft-shell, down jacket, windproof layer, two hats, gloves and over-mitts. By the time you return in the early afternoon you may be wearing just mountain trousers, thin long sleeved baselayer top, sun hat & sun glasses with everything else stuffed into your daysack.
Makalu to Everest Traverse itinerary
The following gives a general outline for the trip with options 1 or 2 depending on which peak is climbed first.
Option 1 - Mera Peak and Island Peak
|1-2||Arrive in Kathmandu, preparation and sightseeing|
|3-14||Fly to either Lukla or Paphlu, trek to the Barun region and climb Mera Peak|
|15-19||Cross the Zetra La and trek up to Chukkung|
|20-22||Ascend Island Peak - two summit day options and back to Chukkung.|
|23-25||Descend back to Lukla along the Khumbu Valley.|
Option 2 - Island Peak and Mera Peak
|1-2||Arrive in Kathmandu, preparation and sightseeing|
|3-7||Fly to Lukla, trek to Dingboche|
|8-10||Trek up to Chukkung and onto Island Peak BC for rest and acclimatisation|
|11-13||Ascend Island Peak - two summit day options and back to Chukkung|
|15-17||Descend Khumbu Valley, cross Zetra La and trek to Mera Peak BC|
|18-21||Ascend Mera Peak - high camp and two summit day options, back to Khare|
|22-25||Trek out via Bupsa to Lukla or Paphlu.|
Mera Peak and Island Peak cost £3,495.00
- Airport transfers
- Internal flights or transport to and from Kathmandu
- Accommodation in lodges or tents
- All meals except additional hot drinks and boiled water
- Climbing permits
- Sagamartha and Barun National Park Fees
- Sherpa guides (English speaking, first aid certficated)
- Staff evacuation insurance
- Group climbing gear, such as fixed lines and anchors, tents, cooking equipment.
- International flight to Kathmandu (~£700.00)
- Accommodation in Kathmandu - we can book this for you. There are options from our guesthouse to luxury hotels.
- Meals and drinks in Kathmandu (~£50)
- Personal costs like additional drinks/snacks (~£50)
- Trip Insurance (~£80)
- Visa ($90 for 90 days)
- Discretionary Tips (~£100 per climber)
- Personal climbing equipment and clothing
A deposit of £100 is required on booking to secure your place and we ask that the remaining balance (trip price minus the deposit) is paid in full 6 weeks prior to your departure. When you book with us you're given your own secure online account which you can access 24/7. Through this account you can edit your booking, add flight, health, insurance and dietary details and also make interim payments. We make payments as flexible as possible and you can choose, if you wish, to pay a bit off your trip fee whenever it suits you.
You can book your Adventure Alternative holiday for as little as £100.00 and pay the balance in as many instalments as you like. Choose a scheduled date or contact us for private dates, a bespoke itinerary or more trip details.
- Duration 31 days
- Numbers 2 min
- Altitude 6461m
- Accommodation Lodges, camping
- Challenge Strenuous
- Climbing grade PD+