Overview

This is a strenuous guided 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+.

Both mountains offer different challenges. Mera is high but has few objective dangers like crevasses, whereas Island Peak is almost like a mini Everest in terms of its objective 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.

The trip can be run in either direction, with either peak being climbed first - we can discuss which route would suit your team best and tailor our itinerary to fit your experience and preferences. Mera Peak is higher but less technical and if climbed first we can fast track back to Lukla and then ascend the Khumbu valley to climb Island Peak, or if you have enough experience after Mera Peak we can trek north up the Hunku Valley and cross the Amphu Lapcha pass at 5845m to enter Chukkung Valley and climb Island Peak, before returning south along the Everest trail back to Lukla.

MERA PEAK AND ISLAND PEAK ITINERARY SUMMARY

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

Days      Summary
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 Amphu Lapcha Pass* 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.
26 Fly to Kathmandu
27 Depart for home - best to allow an extra weather day

* This route above is dependant on the groups experience and is also weather dependent as the pass is challenging in terrain, requires good technical ability and reaches 5845m.

Option 2 - Island Peak and Mera Peak - This itinerary can also be done in reverse with Mera Peak first followed by Island Peak 

Days      Summary
1-2 Arrive in Kathmandu, preparation and sightseeing
3-8 Fly to Lukla, trek to Dingboche
9-11 Trek up to Chukkung and onto Island Peak BC for rest and acclimatisation
12-13 Ascend Island Peak - two summit day options and back to Chukkung
14-21 Descend Khumbu Valley to Lukla, cross Zetra La and trek to Mera Peak BC
22-25 Ascend Mera Peak - high camp and two summit day options, back to Khare
26-29 Trek out via Bupsa to Lukla or Paphlu.
30 Fly to Kathmandu
31 Depart for home - best to allow an extra weather day

CLIMBING MERA PEAK

The trek in to the peak provides a fantastic chance to enjoy all aspects of the Himalayan experience, from the lush green forests of the lower Khumbu region before crossing high passes and making your way up into the more sparse and rocky upper reaches. 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. As we near the northern approaches of the peak we pass steep glaciers plunging into spectacular lakes behind huge ridges of glacial moraine.

Mera Peak is not technically demanding but it is high at 6476m and has a long summit day, and you are of course open to the elements. You need to take care of your hydration and maintain a slow manageable pace. The snow route itself is not steep, but it is a big day out and it 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. You also need to 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. We have plenty of time on the walk in, which is stunning, to practice the skills needed. If you're unsure of your suitability do feel free to contact us for a chat on office@adventurealternative.com 

Mera Peak (2)
Advanced Base Camp on Mera Peak with sleeping tents and a cook tent set up for a few days on the permanent snow. From here the ascent is not technical but it is high and challenging.

CLIMBING ISLAND PEAK

The expedition not only provides an enjoyable climb but also provides some of the most spectacular scenery of the Himalayas in the Khumbu region. From the village of Dingboche Island Peak is clearly seen at the top of the valley as a pyramid of ice and rock. It was named by Eric Shipton because of its resemblance to an island in a sea of ice. The mountain itself is the extension of the South Ridge of Lhotse Shar separated by a col and the ridge rising to the south from this point leads to the summit of Island Peak.

The approach route follows the Chukkung Valley to Base Camp, from which the summit is a challenging 9 to 12 hour round trip depending on conditions. The route includes circuitous rocky paths and scrambles to the snow line, followed by a section moving in rope teams across glaciated and crevassed terrain and then a 300 metre headwall to the summit ridge. The headwall is fixed with a rope to clip onto, and this extends all the way along an exposed summit ridge about 300 metres long which is narrow and precipitous but not steep (see photo below). The top itself is quite small with only enough room for maybe four or five people to stand safely. 

Island Peak (2)
On the final summit ridge of Island Peak with Ama Dablam in the background.

After climbing the 300 metre headwall and ascending the exposed summit ridge, the view from the top brings the thrill of Himalayan mountaineering because of the spectacular 360-degree panorama of many of the highest mountains in the world. Seen from the summit, the giant peaks of Nuptse (7,879m), Lhotse (8,501m), Lhotse Middle Peak (8,410m) and Lhotse Shar (8,383m) make a semi-circle to the north. The views of Makalu (8475m) in the east, Baruntse and Ama Dablam in the south add to the 360 panorama.

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, but again we will practice this pre climb. 

Island Peak (12)
Crossing the glacier on Island Peak and heading towards the headwall which has fixed line to ascend onto the summit ridge which is narrow and exposed to the summit.

MERA PEAK AND ISLAND PEAK ROUTE MAP

makalu to everest traverse.jpg

TERRAIN ON THE TREK AND CLIMB OF MERA PEAK AND ISLAND PEAK

The walk starts by heading south from Lukla and our altitude certainly fluctuates as the path ascends and descends the valleys of the region. Underfoot we have well-trodden paths which at times can be rocky, slippy if wet and uneven in parts. Our itinerary uses and longer trek in to allow for really good acclimatisation and a shorter route back to Lukla after the climb.

On Mera Peak itself there will be scrambling at times on quite loose rock to below the snow line. Once on the snow the route can vary depending on local conditions at the time and if required you will be roped up in groups of three or four. The terrain is not difficult but it does require care and alertness. The route is normally well marked, and groups tend to follow a similar 'path'. The terrain requires no technical climbing, but you will need to use winter skills and equipment (axe, crampon) when on the snow, which you will practice on the trek in. 

Island Peak (Imja Tse) is similar to Mera Peak until you hit the snow line, which is done in the dark with a 4am start on the ascent and often requires the use of hands to assist. There are some steep drops and the path follows a circuitous route through the scree and bottom rock formations. 

From crampon point the route is on snow and there are numerous crevasses to cross and you will be roped up in groups of three or four on glaciated ground. Some of the crevasses are deep and there will be ladders to negotiate, which are not difficult but do require care and alertness. The route is normally well marked, and groups only follow one designated 'path' on the glacier because there is a danger of falling into slots or hidden crevasses if you stray too far.

At the base of the headwall you will move onto the fixed lines which need to be checked for their robustness. The anchors are normally strong and every thirty metres or so, but especially in the afternoon they can become loose. The lines themselves are normally polyprop (not kernmantel) and can get icy and slip through jumars. The gradient is around 40 degrees at it's steepest but averages less than that. There are plenty of places to rest for a bit, and the whole headwall of 300 metres normally takes about an hour and a half. Quite often you can find yourself behind other parties, which slows things down.

There are normally 'up and down' lines on the headwall, but people get confused and so it is important to check which line you are using and if it is clear, and to make sure there are not other people pulling on one anchor. Climb without hauling on the jumar, it is a safety aid and hauling back on the rope is generally bad practise. The route nowadays is normally hard ice so your crampons points need to be sharp, but you can also get soft snow with big buckets to negotiate. Pre-monsoon is more likely to be harder ice, post monsoon more likely to be soft snow, but much depends on the local weather at the time. 

Once on the summit ridge, the route is narrow and exposed and often busy with people. There is normally only one fixed line going to the top and only space for a small group of about five on the summit. You will need to negotiate with others on the route. There are a few steps which are more exposed and steeper than others, but the route is not difficult in good weather with little or no wind. Be careful with always clipping the safety karabiner across an anchor first before moving the jumar over. This is a very important safety manoeuvre to avoid ever being unclipped from the rope. 

The descent is tiring but extra caution should be given to the initial section of abseil from the summit ridge. For those with experience, it is an easy abseil and plenty of 'shelfs' to move to. Be careful that someone is not clipping onto the down line on the way up! Some people are very unsure about abseiling and can slow things down a lot. Sometimes it is possible to overtake at a suitable platform, but often there is tension as people get frustrated with slow progress, especially if it is getting late in the afternoon.

Once back on the glacier be very careful coming back in sunlight; the snow will not be as hard packed and the ladders may have loosened. Keep the man ropes taut and follow good climbing principles all the way. Keep to the route.

Mera Peak summit
Mera Peak Summit

ISLAND PEAK AND MERA PEAK ALTITUDE PROFILE AS PER ITINERARY OPTION 2

Island Peak and Mera Peak ALTITUDE PROFILE
Click the image above for a larger version

ACCOMMODATION ON THE MERA PEAK AND ISLAND PEAK CLIMB / TREK

Accommodation on the trek sections are in comfortable lodges run by local families. Each lodge has a central communal area with stove, while the bedrooms are unheated with two beds and mattresses, blanket and pillows. You will need to bring a sleeping bag. The lodges generally have showers which are powered by gas and some use the infamous ‘drop’ toilets, though most now have flush systems now. 

Food on the trek is very good quality, and a mixture of local Nepali / Sherpa food and western recipes. The local Dal Bhat or Momos are an excellent choice and burgers & chips are a common meal in the Khumbu Valley, however less likely on the trek to Mera Peak as this area is not as developed, nor busy as the main trail north of Lukla to Everest. You will find everything from beer to batteries to Mars bars available in the lodges and local shops along the trail a Nepal price guide can be found here

At Mera Peak base and High camp and also Island Peak base camp, we will be in mountain tents usually sleeping two persons per tent. You should bring a 4 season sleeping bag and also a good quality sleeping mat. For lower down you may wish to use a sleeping bag liner to sleep in an open zipped 4 season bag, so that you don't get too hot.

CLIMBING EXPERIENCE NEEDED FOR MERA PEAK AND ISLAND PEAK

Previous winter mountaineering experience is a bonus however the guides will offer training and practice sessions whilst you're trekking to the peaks, so you will have time to learn and practice the skills needed - such as clipping into a rope and walking safely within the group. This will mean being comfortable and efficient with equipment like crampons, walking axe, harnesses and karabiners and how to tie in safely to a man rope. Walking safely on a man rope on glaciated ground is all part of the experience. Previous experience on a high altitude trek is essential - so that you know how you adapt and acclimatise. A winter skills course is a very good idea pre trip however our guides will teach you and guide you, so do make it known to our team the level of your experience.

On the headwall, it will be necessary to use a jumar and safety karabiner attached to your harness to ascend (sometimes known as a 'cows tail'), and a descender to abseil back down again. This is not the place to abseil for the first time, so please make sure you have gained some training and practise beforehand. The abseil is on a single line and you will be completely self-reliant, it is not possible to top rope this section because it would take too long to set up, unless absolutely necessary of course. 

The crevasses are quite manageable and not too wide, but crossing ladders can be a disconcerting experience. There are handrails attached to snow stakes in the ground, but some people do find it difficult. The best option is to walk across with the crampons placed across the rungs of the ladder, but some people choose to go on hands and knees.

The headwall on Island Peak is not very steep but it looks more daunting from afar and face on. Once on it, you will find there are plenty of places to rest and stand on ledges. It doesn't seem nearly so steep or difficult. Many people opt to 'jug' up the ropes, pulling back on the rope with their jumars and essentially hanging their weight on the line. Sometimes a single line can have several people hanging off it, and this is dangerous. The anchors may have been put in place several days ago, and the rule is never to trust an anchor until you have either put it in yourself or have seen it with your own eyes. So therefore try to climb the route with your crampons points and axe, rather than hanging on the rope.

The summit ridge is quite 'airy' with steep drops off to the sides. Therefore you will need to be able to concentrate and keep your composure. This is not a place for people who suffer from vertigo or don't like precipitous drops. Experience of ridge walking will help and of course a confident attitude which comes from feeling comfortable on your crampons and using your axe. At this stage the guides cannot be alongside you, they will be either behind or in front on you on the rope so most of the work is being done by you alone. Knowing how to move your jumar safely across an anchor safely is vital. It goes without saying that the rule of always keeping clipped in applies here. 

In terms of training courses, some of the skills for Island Peak are different to what you find on alpine courses. In general the experience you will gain is invaluable of course, especially ropework and moving confidently and safely on glaciated ground. However, fixed lines are uncommon in the Alps so if you are doing a course there, or in other places, make sure to mention to your training guide that you would like some work on using jumars safely and abseiling on a fixed line without being top roped. 

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.

MERA PEAK AND ISLAND PEAK SUPPORT TEAM

From your first enquiry and in the build up to your trip you'll have direct access to experienced and professional guides and climbers for advice or to ask questions. Then, on arrival in Nepal, you'll meet Tsering, our operations manager in Kathmandu who organises all the staff, equipment, permits and hotel arrangements. He is also the main link between you and the UK office when you are in Nepal.

Tsering will introduce you to your trek and climb guides at the briefing in Kathmandu and will also talk guides regularly on the trek / climb when signal is available. He can also make arrangements while you are on the trek. You also have continued support from the main office in the UK. In the Khumbu region there is an opportunity to communicate since most lodges now have WiFi. We will always try our best to assist with any situation and of course we will provide you with all the advice and support you need prior to this trip. In addition:

  • You will travel with our qualified, time proven, guides who not only lead trekking groups but are experienced in high altitude expeditions.
  • Porters' health and welfare is constantly monitored by local and UK trekking group leaders.
  • All the staff in our UK office have been to Nepal and we are qualified mountain professionals so you can chat to people who understand what it's like to go up for the first time, before you go.
  • We provide insurance cover for all of our Sherpa guides and local staff in the event of an accident or need for repatriation.
  • Preparation information and support is available to help you plan.

We advise you to read our advice on altitude health and acclimatising safely.

You can speak directly with Gavin Bate about your proposed climb of Island and Mera Peak and have the benefit of somebody who has climbed the mountain many times and who will go through the whole expedition from start to finish. In the office you will find friendly and knowledgeable staff who will give you the time to discuss through all your preferences and questions.

Our company is properly insured and financially protected, so that your money is safe and you know you are dealing with a tour operator that is correctly set up to manage and run trips like this.

Mera Peak support team

MERA PEAK AND ISLAND PEAK EMERGENCY AND EVACUATION

Helicopter evacuations are the common way of dealing with an emergency in Nepal and there is a very established system for dealing with the logistics. It is obviously important to have travel insurance in place and to be clear on your destination and what you are doing to the insurance company. In the event of an emergency the initial job of moving a casualty will be the responsibility of the team itself and the guide and porters and anybody else nearby. The task will be to move the casualty to the nearest safe place and then to a point where an evacuation can be made. On a Himalayan peak this could be some distance and take some time. Bad weather is the most common reason for delaying helicopter assistance so it's important to acknowledge that there is a requirement for self-sufficiency and self-management in the mountains.

Horses are commonly used for assisted descent and they normally charge around USD$150.00 per day which needs to be paid in cash. A helicopter evacuation can be organised through your insurance company but there will need to be some direct communication with the insurance company to open a case and explain the circumstances. This will require you to have your policy number, name and address and the date on which you paid for the insurance policy. We don't normally carry a satellite phone because of the ubiquity of mobile phones now, but it may be necessary to walk some distance to reach a lodge where there is phone connection.

In the case of altitude sickness the best advice is not to take risks and descend. Further ascent can lead rapidly to the much more serious cerebral or pulmonary oedema which is incapacitating, so normally if you are feeling really bad then best to descend while you're still mobile. There is plenty of literature on acclimatising and using the appropriate drugs but even with medication you should still descend.

Incidents are very rare on Mera Peak and Island Peak and they are in a well supported region of Nepal with the Himalayan Rescue Centre located in Pheriche a short distance below Chukkung and there's other local clinics whilst trekking.

KIT AND EQUIPMENT FOR MERA PEAK AND ISLAND PEAK

Boots for the climb need to be of a type that will allow fitting of crampons. They also need to be warm and fitted well to your feet. There is a huge range of boots available, a lot of which will not be suitable for this climb. For Island Peak you will need boots graded at least B1 for crampon use. If you are planning on doing more mountaineering in the future on higher or colder routes it may be worth investing in B2 hybrid or B3 rigid Plastic boots both of which will also be suitable for Island Peak. Full 8000m triple boots are not needed for this climb but could be used if you already have them. The porters will carry your main bag up to a maximum weight of 15 kgs and cater for all the group needs, including assisting you if you need to go back down the valley. Unless specifically tenting, all accommodation is in lodges or teahouses which are very well equipped, warm and sociable. We have a more in-depth look at what is required for your climb.

 

  • BAGS - Large Rucksack or duffle bag ~80L (for a porter to carry) + medium daypack ~40L (carried by you)
  • SHELL - Top and bottoms
  • INSULATION - Warm layered system to keep you warm, down jacket for summit day, sun hat and warm hat
  • BASE LAYER - one or two thin layers to wick away sweat and to strip down to when it gets hot
  • FEET - Crampon compatible boots, trekking shoes and base camp shoes
  • HARDWARE - Crampons, walking axe, alpine harness, descender, jumar, 4 screwgate karabiners, helmet, 2 x 120cm slings, poles
  • SLEEPING - 4 to 5 season sleeping bag
  • EATING/DRINKING - Water bottles & favorite snacks for during the day, insulated cup, flask
  • WASH KIT AND MEDICAL KIT - To allow you to wash and manage minor first aid situations
  • ADDITIONAL - Sunglasses, suncream, lipsalve, camera, headtorch

RENTAL ITEMS

We have a number of items which you can rent for this trip and we will have them supplied to you in Kathmandu.

  • Mountaineering Harness
  • Descender, jumar, Karabiners, slings
  • Crampons
  • Walking Axe
  • Plastic boots or double mountaineering can be rented from the village in Chukkung.

Island Peak Summit!

The Summit of Island Peak, with Ama Dablam in the background

Bespoke Dates
Fixed Itineraries
Start Date
12/07/2017
End Date
14/07/2017
Days
2
Price
£1bn dollars
£1bn dollars
Start Date
03/10/2020
End Date
27/10/2020
Days
25
Price
£3495.00
Start Date
10/04/2021
End Date
04/05/2021
Days
25
Price
£3495.00
Start Date
06/11/2021
End Date
30/11/2021
Days
25
Price
£3495.00

Mera Peak and Island Peak cost £3,495.00

There are numerous route options available depending on your preferences and the groups abilities. The price show is a realistic guide price based on a team of 3 people and the in / exclusions below however the final price may be higher or lower than that shown depending on your group numbers and final itinerary.

INCLUDES

  • 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 certificated)
  • Porters
  • Staff evacuation insurance
  • Group climbing gear, such as fixed lines and anchors, tents, cooking equipment.

EXCLUDES

  • 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

Payments

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.

£3,495pp

Choose a scheduled date or contact us to set up private dates or a bespoke itinerary. The minimum deposit is £100.00 and the balance is due six weeks before travel.

Tours from only 3,495pp Dates & Bookings
Key Information
  • Duration 31 days
  • Numbers 2 min
  • Altitude 6461m
  • Accommodation Lodges, camping
  • Challenge Strenuous
  • Climbing grade PD+