Mera Peak is usually, and perhaps incorrectly, regarded as the highest official trekking peak in Nepal. The confusion stems from its altitude and location being misreported by the Nepal Mountaineering Association. See the section on the real Mera Peak below.
In any case it remains a popular destination due to its easy standard route, which requires only basic mountaineering skills to achieve an altitude considerably higher than a European or North American peak. For many years the climb was Alpine Grade F (Facile / Easy), but due to recent summit block changes the final 30-40 meters has become Grade PD (Peu difficile / not very hard). See Recent Updates section below.
In addition the Mera Peak trek is superb. The Hinku and Hongu valleys are spectacular Himalayan wilderness.
From the summit of Mera one can see 5 of the 6 highest mountains in the world: Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Oyo. The standard route from the north involves little more than high altitude glacier walking. The ease of reaching this elevation may be its biggest danger but good weather and snow conditions are, of course, necessary for safety and success. The west and south faces of the peak offer difficult technical routes.
The first ascent was on May 20, 1953 by Col. Jimmy Roberts and Sen Tenzing. The region was first explored extensively by British expeditions in the early 50's before and after the ascent of Everest. Members of those teams included Edmund Hillary, Eric Shipton and Geroge Lowe.
(Jimmy Roberts (1916-1997) was probably the person who can take most of the credit for establising the trekking industry in Nepal in the early 1960's. He was posthumously awarded the "Sagarmatha (Everest) National Award" by the government in May 2005.)
The normal approach is to make your way to Lukla by land or air. Then instead of heading north towards Namche Bazaar and Everest, trek east towards the ridge of peaks that divides the Dudh Kosi from the Hinku Valley. Cross the Zatra La (15,000’ / 4600m) then descend steeply to the Hinku. Go north and east for for 2-3 more days to reach the Mera La (17,767’ / 5415m). The summit is now to the south and can be reached in one or two days of glacier travel.
Proper acclimatization is key to having a good chance of reaching the summit. Our group used the following camps with most members acclimatizing well. This schedule put us on the summit 12 days after leaving Lukla.
- Lukla (9,186’ / 2800’)
- Chutanga (11,115’ / 3400m) – 2 nights
-Tuli Kharka (14,436’ / 4400m) – after crossing Zatra La
-Tashing Ongma (11,489’ / 3500)
-Tangnag (14,108’ / 4300m) – 2 nights
-Khare (16,729’ / 5099m) – 3 nights
-Mera La (17,767’ / 5415m)
- High Camp (19,028’ / 5800m)
-Summit and return to Mera La
At the camps where we spent more than one night the extra days were used to climb about 2,000’ (600m) above camp, following the “climb high, sleep low” rule.
Spending the night at the high camp is highly recommeded, both for its awesome views, and for the higher success rate in reaching the summit. Nine of ten people in our group summited from the high camp. Another group of ten that we met had only four of ten summit, but they tried to climb from Mera La to the top in one day.
The return can backtrack, or better yet, you can descend the east side of the Mera La into the totally wild Hongu Valley. Trek north with the awesome precipices of Chamlang on your right to Panch Pokhari (Five Lakes). There you cross the Amphu Labsa, a difficult pass of 19,193‘ / 5850m. The amazing Lhotse south face is staring right at you. The steep descent takes you past Imja Tse (Island Peak), another popular trekking peak, to Chukung and then back onto the normal Everest trekking routes.