What can I tell you about Mera Peak? For starters, it’s located in Nepal; a tiny but mountainous rectangular kingdom squished between India and Tibet. It’s (deservedly) an incredibly popular destination for high altitude trekkers. And, from its summit you can enjoy stupefyingly good views of five of the world’s six highest mountains including Mount Everest. But what you’re really here to find out – and these are the clinchers – whether Mera Peak is really a ‘climb’ or whether it’s a trek? And, whichever it turns out to be, how hard is it to climb Mera Peak?
The answer to the first question is… (drum roll) …that Mera Peak sort of straddles the middle ground between a trek and a climb. I know; that answer is fuzzier than a bag of peaches, isn’t it? Let me make it a bit clearer. In the sense that you have to ascend Mera Peak to get to the top (well, duh!) it’s a climb. Also, there are bits where you’ll need to know your way around crampons and ice axes (you’re gonna be going toe-to-toe with glaciers, folks) but we’re not talking about the need for full-on ‘super-Sherpa’ skills here. Think of the ascent of Mera as a good, challenging high-altitude trek with a few minor climb-y bits included and you shouldn’t be far wrong.
OK, I get it.
So how hard is it to climb Mera Peak?
First thing you need to know is that, at an elevation of 21,247 feet (6476 metres), Mera Peak is considered the highest non-technical trekking peak in Nepal. For that reason, it might not be the best choice if you’re a first-time trekker. The good news is that, for the most part, you’re not going to be slogging up inclines that are steeper than 40 degrees. In fact the bit just before you reach the peak itself is the toughest (typical, right)? But even on gentler slopes, at this kind of altitude you’re going to become short of breath more quickly and your muscles are going to tire faster.
Endeavouring to improve your core fitness and lung capacity a few months ahead of your trip to Nepal will be effort well rewarded if it saves you from collapsing like some kind of asthmatic soufflé the moment you hit Mera Peak. (Note: Try going out and bagging a few decent hill climbs if you can; jogging to the chip shop and back really doesn’t count).
Don’t dismiss the possibility of altitude sickness either. Yes, this is something that we bang on about – but with good reason. Altitude affects everyone differently; symptoms can be anything from a mild headache to feeling dizzy or chundering up your aloo phing*. There are two things to note here: firstly, minor symptoms can be managed with suitable medications (and again, being fit and healthy helps) and secondly, if symptoms persist and get worse you absolutely can’t carry on. It’s not worth the risk, and your personal safety has to come first. *Google it.
Challenging aspects of Mera Peak
Obviously, we can’t tell you that trekking Mera Peak is a walk in the park. Unless your local park has a 78-mile long ascending path littered with glaciers and surrounded by extremely tall mountains. It all starts off nicely enough with an agreeable trek through verdant valleys that rise and give way to terraced farmland and gorgeous rhododendron forests.
Don’t be fooled by the hospitable opening; by day three of this monumental two-week trek Mera Peak will have its teeth into you (in an enjoyable way, of course). As I’ve said, the high altitude and thin air is the big baddie here, and to help you appreciate (!) this, the route chucks in a few challenges along the way. Hey – you wanted an adventure didn’t you? Well get a load of the Hinku Nup Glacier; even though it looks a pretty straightforward traverse you’re still going to be donning a harness and crampons and wielding your ice axe before you’ve made it to the next camp. Mera Glacier is even classier (sorry) and you’ll need to get up this beauty on the way to Mera Peak’s spectacularly-located High Camp. Hungry for more? From High Camp you’re going to trek to the summit of Mera Peak itself; this isn’t technically difficult but it’s going to test your little leggies – stamina is the key to getting past this bit. Oh, and depending on annual conditions, there could be a steep fixed rope ascent of the final thirty metres.
It’s conceivable by this point that you might be wondering whether climbing Mera Peak was worth the effort. Hell yes! If the conditions are right you can see India from up there. But forget India, you’re more likely to be boggle-eyed by the sight of the nearby mountains: Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu and, of course, Mount Everest. Stop for a second to take that in. It’s you. And you’re standing amidst a stunning panorama of the highest mountains on earth. You made that happen (OK, with our help). Wow.
And then, just as you’re contemplating your descent from this literal and emotional high point, and looking forward to hugging that first pint of beer/coffee/gin back in civilisation, Mera Peak has one last surprise up its sleeve: a traverse of the legendary – and phenomenally photogenic - Zatrwa La Pass.
Summing it all up
It’s always nice to have a quick run through and summary to round off with isn’t it?
So… you wanted to know how hard it is to climb Mera Peak in Nepal. In brief here goes. You don’t need to be a mountaineer to successfully summit Mera Peak, but there are bits where you’ll need to use basic climbing equipment, and the going might be a bit too much for a first-time high-altitude trekker.
And that altitude is a big thing to consider; you’ll need to be physically fit and have decent levels of stamina while also being mindful of the possible effects of altitude sickness. The ascent isn’t necessarily difficult but some stages can be long and arduous, and if you’re not a fan of glaciers this trek is unlikely to be your cup of Buffalo butter tea.
If none of what you’ve read so far has fazed you, then the trek to the summit of Mera Peak could be your next big – if not greatest – adventure. But there’s only one way to know for sure…