Which is the best 6,000m mountain expedition in Nepal?

Written by Roland Hunter FRGS (Mt Everest and Mt Makalu summitter)
Written by Roland Hunter FRGS (Mt Everest and Mt Makalu summitter)Managing Director & Founder, The Mountain Company

Is Mera Peak the best 6,000m expedition in Nepal?

Mera Peak has been the top choice for many mountaineers looking for a 6,000m in the Nepal Himalaya. The view from the summit is exceptional and it is one of the finest in the Himalaya. You will see a panoramic view of five 8,000m peaks. Mount Kanchenjunga is visible far away to the East and Mount Everest, at an altitude of 8,848m, to the North.

Since 2008, The Mountain Company has organised ten expedition to climb Mera Peak. Out of these trips I have led five groups to the summit of Mera Peak. As a result this article based on my first hand experience climbing the mountain. 

The main drawback of Mera Peak is that over the last few years it is getting busy with other groups. It is getting more popular due to the construction of teahouse lodges for the Mera Peak trek. In the past our itinerary through Pangom - Chalem Kharka - Kote villages was camping style. Whereas now you stay in a lodge for every night apart from two nights while climbing on the mountain. 

After our Mera Peak expedition in November 2017 we received some negative feedback. This was about the high number of climbers crowding the route on the mountain. There was a lack of space for tents on Mera La and High Camp (as well as dirty camps with rubbish and toilet waste). From discussing with our clients they told us they would prefer to be away from the busier routes in Nepal. Their preference for future expeditions would be a traditional camping style experience.

The key advantage of a camping trek is that you can access remote areas. The lodges in Everest, Annapurna, Langtang and Manaslu regions can be very crowded.  Island Peak is another popular 6,000m+ expedition with an overcrowded route. Many groups like to combine an Island Peak climb with a lodge based Everest Base Camp trek.


Time to look for a less busy 6,000m mountain in Nepal: how about Mount Saribung?

We decided it was time to look for another classic 6,000m peak beyond Mera Peak. The peak would be at a similar grade of climbing that we could offer our clients as a quieter alternative. After a lot of research we decided Mount Saribung at an altitude of 6,328m ticked the boxes. This is an interesting mountaineering goal in a remote and rarely visited area.

Saribung is in the Damodar Himal. We approach from the starting point of the Annapurna Circuit at Jagat. On the second trekking day we leave this popular trek at Chame where we walk up to the isolated village of Phu. At the head of this valley we cross the rarely trekked Saribung La pass at a height of 6,042m. After the pass we enter the arid Upper Mustang region. The climb to Saribung summit takes two hours from Saribung pass.


Reconnaissance expedition to Saribung

In October 2018, our Operations Manager, Jo Clark, went on a reconnaissance expedition to Mount Saribung. She worked with one of our Nepalese climbing guides, Galden Sherpa. To find out how Jo and Galden got on with their recce you can read Jo’s Trip Report on our blog.

During the planning we considered the best itinerary to approach this mountain. We noticed that most groups approach from the West coming from the Upper Mustang side. The success rate from this side is quite low due to lack of time for acclimatisation. There are 5,000m passes to cross early on during the expedition only several days walk from Lo Manthang. There is also a high risk that the passes might unpassable with deep snow. Several teams turned back in Autumn season without even reaching Saribung Base Camp.

The approach to Saribung from Phu village on the East side of the pass has a more gradual ascent profile. The trail does not cross any high passes before reaching the mountain. As a result this itinerary is far better for acclimatisation to the high altitude. It increases your chances of climbing to the summit and crossing Saribung La. Another reason is to spend more time in the beautiful Phu valley and Pokharkang Base Camp (5,030m). Very few trekkers explore the valley north of Phu and spend little time in the area. 

You can see our route and campsites on Google Maps for Saribung Expedition.


Feedback from our Saribung Expedition in April 2019

After our recce expedition we organised our first group to Mount Saribung in April 2019. They climbed to the summit and then crossed Saribung La over to Upper Mustang. To find out how they got along you can read our Trip Report on our blog. The feedback about the trip was very positive. You can read the AITO Traveller reviews for Saribung Expedition. I have copied extracts of AITO Traveller Reviews below:

“This was an exceptional trek up through Manang over the beautiful glacier Saribung.  Then through Upper Mustang to Lo Mantang before completing the trek in Jomsom. From Koto onward the trek steadily gets more and more remote with absolutely stunning mountain scenery. An outstanding expedition.”

“A great trip experiencing a wide variety of Nepali culture. From a couple of days on the busy Annapurna circuit to the quieter valleys and the wonderful village of Phu. We then travelled on to the beautiful and remote areas of the pass before returning to Jomsom.”


How does the difficulty level of Saribung compare to Mera Peak?

Both Saribung Expedition and Mera Peak Expedition have difficulty grade of Challenging. These trips would be a suitable for people with previous mountaineering experience. This could be from climbing in Scotland, Alps, New Zealand or North America Rockies. If you do not have this experience you could attend a winter mountaineering course. The climbing route on both mountains is on moderate angled snow slopes on glacial ice. Rope travel used for safety by the group as there are glacial crevasses on the route.

Personal mountaineering equipment includes ice axe, crampons and harness. You can view our kit list on Saribung Expedition webpage. Look under Practical Information tab then Clothing and Equipment list.

Our recommendation

Feedback from this group received confirms that climbing Saribung Peak is one of the best 6,000m expedition in a remote region of Nepal. Saribung Expedition is an exceptional expedition. It will be an incredible experience away from the crowded mountains in Nepal.

We plan to organise Saribung Expedition every year in April and October. Please get in touch with us if you like to joining one of these groups. Trek on!