AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

Asia, Nepal, Western Nepal, Janak Himal, "Real" Mera Peak, Attempt

“Real” Mera Peak, Attempt. In the 22 years that the trekking-peak system has been in use in Nepal, the highest of those peaks, Mera, has become hugely popular. The normal route to the 6470-meter summit is technically easy and attracts about 1,000 climbers annually. There has been only one problem: according to the peak list (1993 version) and the peak permit, Mera should be 6654 meters high. The height discrepancy has been attributed to Nepalese incompetence and just set aside.

A new set of topographic maps was published in 1996 by the Nepal Survey Department. On those maps, the name Mera indicates a mountain eight kilometers north-northeast of the location of the trekking peak, and is given an altitude of 6648 meters. Crosschecking the location coordinates of the Trekking Peak list against this map yielded a simple answer: expeditions for the trekking peak had gone to the wrong mountain! The official Mera is actually Peak 41, a fact supported by the peak list published in the 1985 AAJ (see pp. 109-141).

The “real” Mera Peak (Peak 41) is located on the watershed of Hinku Khola (on the west) and Hongu Khola (on the east). The height of the main (middle) peak is given as 6654 meters on the list and 6648 meters on the topographic map. The coordinates are 27° 46' 27" N, 86° 54’ 40" E.

On April 20, a four member Finnish-American expedition gathered in Lukhla: Fred Barth and Clyde Soles from Boulder, Colorado, and Juha Saarinen and Petri Kaipiainen (as leader) from Finland. The six-day approach was made along the standard route over Zatrwa La and along the Hinku Valley to Khare. Base Camp was placed about two kilometers northwest of the standard Mera BC at Khare.

Mera Peak (6654m) has not been climbed, and for a reason. Besides the mistaken notion that it is not permitted, it is also a difficult peak. The south ridge and the north face appear unclimbable; the east face might have some hard mixed routes. Our aim was to get to the upper basin of Khare Glacier and to gain access to the northwest ridge.

The route we tried to get to the upper basin was along the steep, 500-meter high Khare Icefall. Given our timetable and climbing strength (Clyde, suffering from pulmonary infection, had to stay behind), this route proved too slow. During the first day on the icefall, only 180 vertical meters were gained. The high point of 5280 meters was reached on May 2. Other, less dangerous routes to the basin might be found from the west over a less-broken glacier.

From BC, it can be seen that the northwest ridge is mostly a fairly easy 40-degree mixed climb save for a 50-meter vertical rock band at about 6400 meters. The other route worth trying is the west face direct, a 1000-meter, 70-degree climb on flutings.

The bad weather that descended on the Khumbu the second week of May prevented all reconnaissance from the eastern and northern sides.

Subsequent research revealed that the traditional Mera is after all the original trekking peak, but the height and coordinates were at some point changed to those of Peak 41. At the moment, tourist traffic to the traditional Mera goes on as usual, but expeditions with a Mera permit can also claim a right to attempt Peak 41. The Nepal Mountaineering Association has not commented on the situation. For more information, visit www.kuvalehdet.fi/realmera/

Petri Kaipiainen, Finland