Trek and climb to Mera Peak

October 2007


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At 6470 metres Mera Peak is the highest point in the Nepal Himalaya which is accessible without expedition permits. You only need one of the cheaper and simpler-to-obtain terkking peak permits. The ascent of Mera Peak presents no technical difficulty and the view from the summit is acknowledged to be one of the finest in the entire Nepal Himalaya, encompassing five of the world’s 8000 metre peaks: Kangchenjunga, Makalu, Lhotse, Everest and Cho Oyu.

But even without technical difficulties you still have to contend with the high altitude of the mountain an allow sufficient time for acclimatising. The trek leading to the mountain base has several days set aside for acclimatisation walks above various camps at higher and higher altitude. This ensures that a reasonably fit person will be comfortable enough to make the final ascent to the summit.

Aside from good altitude acclimatisation good weather conditions will be an important factor in succeeding with the ascent of Mera Peak.
We were amongst the first groups to make a sucessful ascent in autumn 2007. Most of the earlier attempts were turned back by excessive snow on the summit.
Later in the year (from late November onwards) extreme cold and high winds often make it too uncomfortable and many people turn back at or just above high camp.


Day 1 - Flying from Kathmandu to Lukla

The quick way into the Khumbu region now used by 99% of the visitors to the area is to fly from Kathmandu to Lukla. The flight only takes about 40 minutes but it can be frequently delayed or cancelled because of fog at departure (not uncommon in the Kathmandu valley but it generally clears later in the day) or fog / clouds and general poor visibility at Lukla. When you see the short runway you will understand that there has to be good visibility to safely land and take off.
It is not always the case and people willing to travel by plane to these regions must take delays into account.

On days where the flying is OK you can get lots of flights arriving and departing in short succession. It seems chaotic but really runs like clockwork. This is especially the case if there is a backlog of stranded travelers to clear when the weather condtions turn good again. These planes can only carry around 20 passengers so you need lots of them (there are several companies now flying in Nepal) to transport several hundreds of trekkers (in peak season with flights cancelled for several days it can be even more than this).

We were in luck and even departed from Kathmandu on time which is a pretty rare occurence.

As we then had almost a whole day in Lukla we took a walk above the village then sampled the delights of the ever expanding "main street" of Lukla.


Day 2 - Lukla to Chutanga (3450m)

An easy day through the woodland above Lukla. A good trail leads through pasture to the edge of a diminishing forest of rhododendron and pine which covers the steep hillsides above Lukla.

After 3 hours we reach Chutanga where we will camp for 2 nights at an altitude of 3450m in order to acclimatise.


Day 3 - Acclimatisation day in Chutanga (3450m)

The next day you can walk up the hill (pretty much in any direction), enjoy the views, feel out of breath and basically give your body time to adapt to a higher altitude.

The weather is mild, occasionally cloudy.


Day 4 - Crossing the Zatrwa La (4600m)

Today is the first big walk of the trek: a steep 1300m ascent to the Zatwra Og then a short traverse to the Zatwra La pass proper. As you are still not acclimatised it is generally a hard walk, even if the conditions are good (no snow). Later in the year the Zatrwa La can get considerable amount of snow and you might need to use crampons and ice axes as well as install fixed ropes to safeguard porters. Under certain circumstances there can be a high risk of avalanches making this route too risky.

We had no snow at all and reasonably good weather (except for some fog at the top) but it was still a hard long slog up the pass, simply because of the altitude.

Once at the pass it is only a short steep descent to Thule Kharka (big pasture) where there are several basic lodges. We camped beside the lodges at 4250 m.


Day 5 - Descent into the Hinku Valley to Gotay (3600m)

A sunny morning gives us great views of the pass we left behind us (click on the bottom picture to enlarge - the Zatrwa pass can be seen towards the right of the picture and Thule Karka is just visible in the middle of the image, slightly to the right).
We traverse three ridges until we find ourselves high above the Hinku river. With a bit of luck you can then see the impressive south face of Mera Peak. On the day I was there it stayed hidden in a cloud.

From here a long steep descent on a narrow trail drops steeply through the rhododendrons and forests of moss-covered pines to the edge of the huge scar left by the devastating bust of a natural dam above Tagnag in 1998.











On the trail leaving Lukla for Chutanga



In the forest on the way to Chutanga


Camp in Chutanga



Hairdressing at camp


Walking above Chutanga



The Zatrwa La, a 4600m pass



Sagarmatha National Park visitors statistics



Aconitum violaceum


Way up towards the Zatrwa La



Looking back towards Chutanga and Lukla



A couple of tea shops halfway up the pass



walking up the Zatrwa La


Saussurea gossyphiphora



High above the Hinku valley



Descending into the Hinku valley


Panorama of the Zatwra La area

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