Which trekking peak in Nepal should you try to summit - Island Peak or Mera Peak

Posted by Imran Jameel on December 11th, 2020

If you are looking to climb the highest mountains in the world or spend some days amidst the Himalayas' natural beauty, Nepal should be on your travel list. The nation never fails to amaze you in terms of its exciting range of adventure and trekking options. 

A trekker with a moderate to pro trekking experience can embark on the Everest Base Camp trek or enjoy the Annapurna Massif's panoramic views by taking part in the Annapurna Base Camp trek

If you have already done these treks and seek an adrenaline-filled introduction to high mountain climbing, you can look to summit Mera Peak and the Island Peak or Imja Tse. Though the Mera Peak stands higher, Island Peak or Imja Tse involves more technical difficulties while climbing. Pro climbers say that the Imja Tse or the Island Peak's objective challenges are quite similar to Everest, whereas Mera offers a much straightforward climb.

Both these peaks are quite popular destinations for people who are preparing themselves to climb Everest. These are also less demanding and cheaper compared to the Mt. Everest climb. Since both the peaks are located quite close to one another, you can schedule your itinerary in such a way that you climb the Mera Peak and then summit the Imja Tse or vice-versa. But if you are looking for either of the options at one go, let us guide you through the intricacies of climbing Mera Peak or climbing Island Peak.  

Climbing Mera Peak: A brief insight

Located in the Makalu Barun National Park at the edge of the Solukhumbu region, the Mera Peak at 6476 meters is one of Nepal's highest peaks that one can hike to. The climb is much less demanding than its peers and does not require many technicalities on your part. Yet, you need to be roped while climbing Mera Peak. The summit day is quite long; hence you need to preserve your strength, stay hydrated, and maintain a slow, manageable pace. 

You also need to be quite familiar with the technicalities of 

  • moving on the main rope,

  • clipping in,

  • maintaining a safe line,

  • using your walking axe to self-arrest yourself,

  • walking on crampons, etc. 

Camping high on the snow is usual when you are climbing Mera Peak, so you should be mindful about staying dry, warm, and hydrated for your summit day. Being well-fed is another criteria, though be careful about overstuffing yourself with food. The technical requirements of this ascent are quite basic, and basic mountaineering training would suffice. Still, give yourself enough time for the walk-in. 

Climbing Mera Peak will prove to be a fantastic experience as the entire journey guides you across the wild mountainous terrains- from lush, green forests of the lower Khumbu to the sparsely vegetated and rocky sections of the upper Khumbu region, glacial moraines, steep glacial passes, and breathtaking lakes. Summiting the Mera Peak is fulfilling, as you get panoramic views of the Lhotse, Nuptse, Baruntse, Makalu, Ama Dablam, Chamlang, and even the fabled Everest!

Climbing Island Peak: A brief insight

Named by Eric Shipton because of its uncanny resemblance to an island amidst a sea of ice, the Imja Tse or Island Peak rises to 6189 meters and is an extension of the South Ridge of Lhotse Shar, separated by a saddle point or col. The ridge rising from the south of this point leads to the summit of the Island Peak, a pyramid of ice and rock that is visible from the Tengboche village. 

Though tremendously enjoyable, climbing Island Peak will prove to be quite challenging to first-timers. You need to follow the Chukkung Valley and then approach the Base Camp, from where the summit of the Imja Tse is a 9 to 12-hour long round trip. The conditions might make the entire climb more challenging. 

You need to scramble to the snow line, follow circuitous rocky paths, and even use ladder crossings in some sections while making the summit, as the terrain is glaciated and highly crevassed. Dangers lurk at every step, and after this, you meet a 100-meter headwall to the summit ridge. The headwall is fixed with a rope onto which you can clip safely and climb all the way across the narrow and precipitous summit ridge about 100 meters long. Though it is not steep, the narrow route can accommodate very few people simultaneously. You will eventually come across a tiny clearing at the top of the summit that can accommodate hardly four to five people. 

Once you make all the efforts, climbing Island Peak will prove to be a fantastic experience. The exposed summit ridge reveals the glory of a 360-degree panorama of the majestic Himalayan peaks, including Nuptse, Lhotse, Lhotse Middle Peak, Lhotse Shar, Makalu, Baruntse, Ama Dablam, etc. 

The descent is quite challenging, too, and will test your skills of abseiling or rappelling. Though there are anchor points, the single-line abseil without a top-roping requires immense competence and confidence on your part. Practicing all these pre-climb will make climbing Island Peak and descending safely easier. 

Summing up:

If your schedule and finances permit, you can attempt to experience the Himalayas in all their grandeur from the summits of the Mera or the Island Peak. Although support teams and guides are mandatory, looking to summit any of these two peaks will require specific mountaineering skills. A winter mountaineering expedition or a pre-climb skill course is a bonus, whereas the previous experience of a high-altitude trek will enable you to adapt quickly. If you are looking for some more thrill than what your last Annapurna Base Camp trek offered you, one or both of these summits will pack a punch!

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Imran Jameel

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Imran Jameel
Joined: November 10th, 2020
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