The wind is howling like a mad animal, making the tents shake in their bones. These are solid expedition tents and still, they barely hold up. Wind gushes are running at 80-100 km/h. I don’t want to imagine having to climb at night in this wind and cold. I am at 5800 metres altitude, in the high camp of Mera Peak, and happy I didn’t bring my own tent here, instead using Nepali expedition tents. I have just one cook with me, a young boy, whose English is as elaborate as the simple mountain food he prepares.
I feel the altitude pushing on my forehead and the cold piercing through my bones as I sip from my teacup. Cup after cup until I feel sick from so much tea. It is good for warmth and hydration, but I am just feeling too nauseated.
When I climbed Island Peak, I only stayed at the lower camp. Being less tall than Mera, you don’t need to sleep so high. However, you don’t get the great views either. Earlier, I was bewildered by the discreet romance of the sun kissing the forehead of Everest’s summit before going to sleep.
The access to Mera massif is more difficult than to the other, more popular, trekking peaks (Island Peak and Lobuche). While you can try and tackle one of the other two on your way to Everest Base Camp, Mera requires a detour to the lesser-known, wild, Hinku Valley. Access to the valley is either via a 4600 metre pass, two days after landing in Lukla (2800 metres), or by walking for at least four days through lush forests, on unbeaten paths. Neither of these is easy for the average tourist. However, if you want to see the true Himalayas, get (almost) lost in the forest, interact with locals and see the most amazing sunsets and sunrises over Everest, then, you should choose climbing Mera over the other two.
I would advise taking a guide for the trekking part, as the trails are more remote than the usual EBC trek. The permits and guiding up the summit can be arranged either in Kathmandu or in Khare, the base camp village. I arranged my tent and cook in Khare, as I was familiar with the Himalaya and I had also climbed solo. I do not advise to do the same, unless you are an experienced mountaineer.
The night in the high camp was a rough one. Sleeping so high always takes its toll on the body, even with proper acclimatising. I had spent two days in Khare (4900 metres), acclimatising, and one in the low camp (5200 metres), yet still my head was heavy and painful from the lack of oxygen. From Khare to high camp it is just a four-hour climb, so many people skip the day at base camp. The village is certainly a better place to sleep and rest. From high camp to summit it’s 600 metres uphill on the glacier, and the climb with the guide starts at 3 am. Depending on your pace, it can take as long as four hours up and two hours down to high camp, then another two hours down to Khare (or more, depending on how tired you are).
That night, I waited for the wind to die down and for my head to stop hurting. By 6 am I was still not feeling great. After tea and a light breakfast I decided to push for the summit. It was a late start, but I knew I had the time, and I knew the weather was due to be good and stable all day. I could see the lights of the people who’d left at night, high above me, on the last, steep slope. I started slowly, wary of my state of mind and my body’s capabilities. I admired a superb sunrise over Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and Ama Dablam. Baruntse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga were are also visible. I have been on many treks in Nepal and summited Island Peak, but I must say these are some of the best views you will get over the highest peaks in Nepal, including Everest.
The climb is not technical, but you must look out for crevasses. The slope is not too steep and it is fairly easy to find the trail. I took my time, breathing, walking slowly. I had no exact idea of where the summit was, and with no guide to reassure me, I decided to keep going for a maximum of four hours and turn around if I feel the smallest discomfort. Then, after a long, exhausting, uphill (the most difficult one), I see the peak! It is within easy reach and just the steep slope, equipped with a fixed rope, stands between me and the summit. Surprisingly, it only took me 2.5 hours to climb, and one hour to get back to the high camp. Another hour and I was in Khare.
A few things you should take into account if you are planning to climb Mera Peak: even if it is less technical than the other two, it is a significantly higher altitude that makes it a difficult climb. You should hire a guide and porter if you are not an experienced mountaineer. You will have the best views over the highest peaks of the Himalaya, including Everest, even if you don’t make it to the summit. Access to it is harder than for other peaks: you need to trek through the remote Hinku Valley and to cross a 4600-metre pass between Lukla and the valley. However, I do believe it is the most underrated of the trekking peaks in Nepal. After having climbed it, it would be my first option mostly because of the views and the remoteness of the valley, which means far fewer crowds.