Arrive in Kathmandu and transfer to our hotel. Those on land only arrangements will join us in the hotel in the afternoon.
Today is free for sightseeing in Kathmandu. You may wish to visit Durbar Square in the heart of the old city where the old Royal Palace, with its intricate woodcarving is located. Outside is Kumari Chowk, home of the Kumari, the young girl who is revered as a living goddess. The whole area is a maze of temples and images. Leading away from the square in all directions are narrow alleys, full of the most amazing variety of shops and stalls. Alternatively you may wish to visit the monkey temple at Swayambhunath, one of the largest Buddhist Stupas in the world at Bodnath, or the most important Hindu temple in the valley at Pashupatinath. Sightseeing tours can be booked locally. Please see the Optional Excursions section. There will also be a full trek briefing today.
We take the spectacular flight to the small airstrip at Lukla, (2800m) the gateway to the Khumbu region and the start point for the popular trail towards Everest. It is a busy little village with many lodges, equipment and supply shops as well as the airport. Our staff will organise the huge entourage of porters and loads for the trek ahead,as Lukla is the only substantial sized village we will visit on this itinerary. We walk south to Puyan (2800m).
This morning we leave the main trade route which goes south to Phaplu. Instead we climb eastwards on a quieter trail which winds steadily upwards, over a ridge, and through lush farmland towards the small trading centre of Pangkongma (2850m).
We climb through a lush forest of bamboo and rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal, to the Pangkongma La. From here we catch our first views of Mera's impressive South Face, and that of its closer neighbour, Naulekh. We descend to the bottom of the valley, with views south over the hills of the lower Himalaya. We cross the Hinku River using a suspension bridge, and have a 2 hour climb up the east side of the valley to the campsite at Nashing Dingma (2600m).
The trail becomes steeper as we walk to the Surke La, a pass that gives us a taste of the altitude yet to come. We'll need a cup of tea to catch our breath in the teahouse just over the pass, before continuing on to camp at the summer grazing land of Chalem Kharka (3600m).
This morning we leave the treeline behind, and approach wilder country, where the Sherpas only herd their animals in the summer months. Crossing a small pass, we have a stunning view of Kanchenjunga and its pointed neighbour Jannu far away to the east in India. We continue climbing to the holy Panch Pokhari Lakes, and then descend to camp at Changbu Kharka (4200m).
The route contours around the main Hinku Valley, then descends steeply through the different climate zones; from montane grassland, through juniper and rhododendron thickets to hemlock and silver fir forests. In the afternoon we continue descending through the atmospheric Mojang Forest and drop into the main Hinku Valley to our camp in the small settlement of Kote (3550m).
We follow the rocky riverbed upstream, a reminder of the destruction caused by the glacial lake bursting, to join the main Mera trail. Further walking through meadows dotted with dwarf junipers brings us to the village of Tangnag, where we camp (4300m). We are now in a deep valley created by the towering walls of Kusum Kanguru and the western peak of Mera.
We spend the day acclimatising to the altitude. There will be a walk this morning to the top of a ridge south of Tangnak. We walk to approx. 5000 m and should have great views of Kusum Kanguru, Chamlang and the Mera La. We return to camp for lunch and in the afternoon there will be a gear check and compulsory abseil training. Your leader will also demonstrate how a PAC bag is used.
A short day with approx. four hours of gradual ascent past Dig Kharka to Khare, the Mera Peak Base Camp. Generally we do not camp at Khare itself but continue for 40 minutes above the main settlement of Khare to a spectacular wild camp at 5000m. However if water is not available at this wild camp we will stop at Khare itself. The afternoon is spent practicing ice axe and crampon techniques on the nearby glacier. Many of the porters will return to the more hospitable climate of Tangnag and await our return from the peak.
We have an acclimatisation day at Khare and there will be the chance to walk up on to the glacier towards the Mera La, where we will practice our ice axe, crampon and rope technique and use of jumar. Please note that equipment checks and all practice sessions in Tangnag and at Base Camp are compulsory before the climb.
We now take supplies up to the Mera La (5400m) and set up our camp just below the pass on the Honku side. The sunset from this campsite is truly spectacular with the peaks of the Honku Himal glowing red in the setting sun.
We ascend the Mera Glacier up to a rocky outcrop to establish High Camp at 5800m. Even those who are not climbing may well come up to the Mera La, to see how things are progressing. From this point it is possible to see five out of the six highest mountains on earth, stretching from Kanchenjunga in the east through Makalu, Lhotse and Everest to Cho Oyu in the west. This afternoon there will be a final gear check and we will prepare our clothes ready for tomorrow. After sunset (an unmissable sight on Makalu) we retire to the warmth of our sleeping bags to rest before the summit attempt tomorrow. Please note camping space is extremely limited at high camp and occasionally three people will need to share a tent. A dining tent will not be erected and meals will be served in your tent.
An extremely long day as we have a cold start at around 2am. We will set off roped up in teams. You will need to carry your ice axe and wear crampons as we ascend the wide, open glacier, avoiding the few crevasses. The terrain here is not very steep but the going is very slow due to the altitude. As dawn approaches the trail starts to ascend steeply to the east of the left-hand ridge before swinging right on easier ground to approach the summit. As we approach the summit we will rest at a col whilst the sherpas fix a safety rope to the bottom of the last part of the summit climb. The last 50m to the summit is the steepest part of the climb. We will need the jumar for this last section - it is steep and makes the climb more challenging. Please note crevasses here change from year to year. Once at the top the views from the sun rising over Kanchenjunga in the east, past Makalu to the plumed Everest Himal in the centre and Cho Oyu further west, make every step well worthwhile. Descending this steep section will involve abseiling from the summit and we will use the fixed rope back to the col. From here the descent is usually quicker although we will still be roped up. We descend back down to our base camp. After a long but rewarding day, returning to a lower altitude (5000m) means that we should all sleep soundly.
A beautiful walk as we retrace our steps down the valley to Tangnag, and our first beer (chilled, of course) after the exertions of yesterday.
Day 18 - 20
We complete this circular trek by returning to Lukla over the Zatrwa La (4600m). It's not all downhill though, and there are some steep climbs and narrow trails on the return especially crossing the Zatrwa La. The pass has at least 3 different tops and the trail undulates precariously high above the valley floor. We spend one night at Chatrabuk (4270m) and then cross the second part of the Zatrwa La the following morning (4500m). From this trail we have magnificent views of Mera's vertical west face. After the passes the trail descends all the way down to Lukla where we will celebrate!
We fly to Kathmandu in the morning, transfer to our hotel and head straight for a hot shower or a beer, depending on priorities!
A free day in Kathmandu for sightseeing or shopping.
The trip ends after breakfast. Those travelling on the group flight will be transferred to the airport after breakfast.