Mera Peak (6461m) and Island Peak (6189m)
This is a strenuous guided mountain expedition to the Nepalese Himalaya to climb the famous trekking peaks of Mera Peak (6476m, 21,247 feet) and Imja Tse or Island Peak (6189m), with twenty five days in-country of which twenty three days to climb two 6000m classic peaks which are both achievable for someone with good fitness and alpine skills up to PD/PD+.
The standard North route on Mera Peak is high altitude technically straightforward ascent on glaciated ground with few objective dangers like crevasse. The main challenge is being well acclimatised and mountain fit, and this makes it a popular peak for climbers and adventurous trekkers. The summit has three peaks - North, South and Central - and the highest northern one at 6476 metres offers classic panoramic views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu and Cho Oyu as well as many other peaks in the Khumbu region.
Panoramic view from summit of Mera Peak (courtesy Wikipedia)
The North ridge of Island Peak involves a combination of scrambling, moving on a glacier and ice climbing, although the steeper sections of the route are now assisted with a fixed line and the crevasses have ladders spanning them. The peak is actually an extension of the ridge that comes off Lhotse Shar and even at 6189 metres (20,305 feet) is dwarfed by the huge south facing Lhotse Wall which is an overwhelming sight and blocks the top of Everest from view. First climbed in 1953 by Tenzing Norgay as a training summit for Mount Everest, the main summit was reached by Swiss climber Hans-Rudolf von Gunten in 1956 who then went on to make the second ascent of Everest and the first ascent of Lhotse. From Base Camp at around 5100m there is a scramble up to the top of a gully and the snowline after which crampons are put on for a section on glacier to the base of a steep headwall and finally an exposed ridge to the summit. During the season the route is normally fixed but the summit day is still demanding, in particular the abseil descent which is tiring at altitude and well into the day. Acclimatization is important and being mountain fit on the day.
Summary of the Mera Peak and Island Peak itinerary
|1-2||Arrive in Kathmandu on first day, second day preparing for trip, overcoming jetlag and sightseeing.|
|3 - 10||Fly to Phaplu and drive/trek up to Khare at 4659m over eight days through the solu Khumbu and the Barun Valley to reach the base of Mera Peak. Another option is to fly to Lukla and trek to Khare in the same number of days.|
|11 -15||Five day climbing period. Hike up to Mera La (Pass) at 5350m, then High Camp, summit and back down to Khare. Includes weather and acclimatisation time.|
|16 - 17||Hike down to Khote and cross the Zetra La to descend into Lukla.|
|18 - 21||Hike from Lukla to Island Peak base camp via Namche Bazaar, Dingboche and Chukkung.|
|22 - 23||Summit Imja Tse and descend to Chukkung or Dingboche. Added weather day.|
|24 - 25||Trek to Namche Bazaar and Lukla.|
|26||Flight to Kathmandu. One night in a local hotel. However due to weather delays it is best to allow for one extra day potentially waiting for a flight out of Lukla|
|27 or 28||Depart for home. The dates on the booking pages end on day 27.|
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
Climbing summary of Mera Peak and Island Peak
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
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.
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 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
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
- Walking Axe
- Plastic boots or double mountaineering can be rented from the village in Chukkung.
The Summit of Island Peak, with Ama Dablam in the background
Mera Peak and Island Peak cost £3495.00
The price shown is based on a team of 3 people. Discounts are possible for larger groups and there is a single person supplement of £750.00.
- 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 certificated)
- 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 or you can book yourself.
- 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 prior to your departure. When you book with us you're given your own secure online account which you can access 24/7 and make interim payments and add information. All bookings are refundable and changeable according to our terms and conditions.
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.
- Duration 25 days
- Numbers 2 min
- Altitude 6476m & 6189m
- Accommodation Lodges, camping
- Challenge Strenuous
- Climbing grade PD+