Dan, Frank, Phurba and Ngima had arrived back safely at Manaslu base camp after their successful summit on Monday morning.
The same day, we also welcomed back Dean’s Adventure Consultants team who had spent three nights at camp one and also moved up through the steeper sections to enjoy a clear fine day up at camp 2.
As mentioned in the earlier newsletter, our team members summited at 1030 am on Monday 18th September, along with Phurba Tashi and Nigma Sona in perfect conditions.
Our expedition had run smoothly through the acclimatization process, and we managed to complete the rotations on schedule. While we would normally return to base camp and rest up over a period of days, there were a number of things unfolding with respect to weather forecasts. Our daily weather forecasts were starting to paint a picture of disturbed patterns with multiple days of snowfall followed by the chance of heavy lingering cloud up high. With this in mind, some of the issues we can face after weather systems like this, are large quantities of people trying to move up the mountain, increased avalanche risk and a sense of urgency that doesn’t need to exist among inexperienced teams. While we reviewed the daily forecasts and patterns here at base camp, it was clear that there may be a small but achievable window to allow us to attempt a summit push. Dan and Frank had recovered over a couple of days rest down here, while Phurba and I discussed logistics, times and dates. While this needed careful decision making together, we decided we had enough things lining up to make this a likely summit.
While I stayed down at Base Camp due to being unwell at camp 2, Phurba, Ngima and Lopsang moved up the mountain to support Dan and Frank. In fine weather and climbers feeling comfortable, the team moved towards camp 3, where they would start their summit attempt. While summiting from camp 3 on Mt Manaslu is not standard, our assessment of Dan and Franks ability, health and efficiency meant they were an exception to the standard process of having a night at camp 4.
Upon reaching camp 3, they settled in for the afternoon and prepared for a 1230am departure. Lopsang returned to base camp to work with me down here for summit day. Soon after midnight on the morning of summit day, as Lopsang and I woke up to track their progress, base camp was under heavy and persistent rain throughout the night. As we talked through the night and drank cups of tea down, from Dan and Frank, here is how it all unfolded above the clouds…
Waking up at 11pm at camp 3, after weeks of climbing in the heat, we immediately realized why down suits were required on this trip, t was dark and freezing. We quickly put on all the layers we had with us, including the suits, summit socks and oxygen masks and headed out.
With only our head torches to see where we were going, the team quickly settled into a rhythm with Phurba leading the way, Dan following behind him step for step, then Frank and Ngima bringing up the rear. We climbed for about 3.5 hours up the steep snow slopes until eventually reaching the site of camp 4, which was yet to be established. So, after a brief drink stop, we resumed the climb in the direction of the summit, still in pitch black so all my faith was put into where Phurba’s feet were going. As dawn approached, the mountain and the views around it began to come into view, and how spectacular it all was. With our goal in sight we carried on one foot in front of the other for several more hours until we reached the true summit ridge. A short wait whilst Phurba fixed the rope up the intimidating ridge, and then I was called to climb up for the photo at the top of the mountain. It was about 1030am and we had made it!
A few more photos for Frank, then it was time to head down.
With the joy of summiting fresh in our minds, we bounded down the mountain, briefly stopping at camp 4 to re-group, then onwards to camp 3. Over the next couple of days, we made it down to base camp, where we started plotting our next adventure.
And from Frank, who is still smiling down here and describing the feeling of being on the mountain alone for the entire expedition. Everything he has heard about busy expeditions over here in Nepal, but we were always ahead of all of the other climbers. We thought perhaps as the season went on, we would be amongst the traffic, yet we seemed to keep ahead of this and had the entire route almost to ourselves for the season. Sharing the summit with Dan and our Sherpa, as well as a small team from the rope fixing team. A perfect way to experience an 8000m peak.
And of special note. We had such a great time sharing basecamp with Dean and his Adventure Consultants team. A great bunch and we wish them all the best for their summit attempt” Great to have two kiwi teams together, and thanks very much for their companionship and laugher.
All Himex members returned to Kathmandu on 22 and are now preparing to return home.