Reports - winter conditions and activity

Friday, October 05, 2012

Manaslu (8,156m) Expedition 2012, Nepal.

I have just returned from an expedition to Manaslu in Nepal.  I was leading the expedition for

Manaslu, Nepal.  8,156m.

Manaslu is in the Lamjung District of Nepal and is the 8th highest peak in the world and one of the worlds 8000m peaks.  It has a reputation for being a peak that is of moderate difficulty technically but with reasonably high objective dangers.

Our Puja site at Manaslu Base Camp

 Our Base Camp Mess Tent

 High Camp 1

 Crevasse ladder crossing

Camp 2, Camp 3 is up behind...

Our trip lasted 34 days, about a week shorter than planned.   Our early finish was the result of a massive avalanche on the 23rd September on Manaslu.  The scale of the avalanche was so that it took out camp 3, and about 3 hours walk down the glacier, it also stripped some tents from camp 2.  The irony of the situation was that since last season and up to that day camp 3 was empty or quiet, that day a large amount of people made it to camp 3 due to a break in the bad weather and it was that night that a massive lump of serac came off above the camp and triggered the slopes  above.  There were 11 killed by the avalanche and about 15 or so flown to hospital in Kathmandu.  The teams effected were mainly European, Austrian and French largely.  One Sherpa was also killed.

 The serac fell from the area circled and triggered the large slab avalanche, the crown wall is clearly visible.

The path of the avalanche, the camps are marked.

The team I was leading consisted of 2 Sherpas and 2 members and myself.  We had moved from camp to camp up the mountain on the days leading up to the accident.  We arrived in camp 3 on the 22nd, our tents went up and kit was stored, the plan was to spend the night at camp 3 for our acclimatisation and then drop to Base Camp on the 23rd for a rest before our summit attempt.  However, our plan took a last minute change....  One of the team members woke with a headache at camp 2, it had not improved during the day and by the afternoon of the 22nd we made the decision that the member should not go higher, and then soon after we decided to descend to Base Camp in-case the headache should worsen into the night and become more serious.  Headaches at altitude can be an early sign of altitude sickness (AMS) and potentially a Cerebral Oedema (HACE) so are taken seriously...  Following this decision the Sherpa team and other member agreed to descend as well from camp 3 so we could re-group in Base Camp and make a plan for our continued attempt.  We made it to Base that evening.  The following day we woke early to the sound of radios buzzing with messages and the call had come in for help, the avalanche having hit camp 3 during the night.

Flattened tents at Camp 2, our tents were gone

The day that followed was a day of confusion.  We took our stretcher and medical supplies along with oxygen and a respirator to the heli pad where the casualties were coming in and needed help.  Following this was the recovery of the bodies, 2 were not found before the initial search was called off.

 Helicopter shipping casualties back to Base Camp

The Pinnacle false summit from the icefall on route to Camp 2

Our team needless to say felt very lucky, a headache changing the course of things.  We lost 2 camps and a lot of kit.  We replaced the equipment over the following days and made the decision to go back up the mountain to see how things would pan out as regards a continued summit attempt.  On the day when we moved to camp 2 the decision was made to finish the expedition due to a few reasons, too much kit to go up with an imminent weather window and no time for carries being the main one.

Dendi Sherpa with a big load during the attempt to re-stock the high camps

The memories of the trip as a whole will off-course be mixed due to the large loss of life that took place on Manaslu this year.  That said, the mountain still offered some great days before the accident and the 10 days of trekking take you through a fantastic journey up one of the less trafficed valleys of Nepal.  Starting in warm tropical forests and finishing at Samaguan at the toe of the Manaslu Glacier is a fantastic journey in its own right.

 Thamel, Kathmandu

 Shrine in Kathmandu

 The road to Arughat and the start of the trek to Manaslu

 Mules transporting our kit to Samaguan

 End of the day in Lho

Back in Kathmandu for a rest

Thoughts go out to the families and many affected by this accident and to the family and friends of Dawa Sherpa, our Sherpa on last years Baruntse Expedition, a top Sherpa and great person to have had with us in the past.

Dawa Sherpa on the left and his friend Sonam, Mera Peak 2011.