Newsletter 614 September 2011
Not all roads lead to the top of Manaslu
Finally – the sun has hit base camp and everyone is making the most of the warm weather with washing, drying, showering and doing some general house work before we are heading up the hill again. Base camp was in thick clouds and rain for about five days and it is great to see everyone enjoying the sunshine. “Finally, the skies are clear, which means that the nights will be colder and the ground will be freezing. That’ll make our climbing safer and easier,” Adrian said. The team has been back at base camp for three days and after a couple of days of resting and recuperating they are now getting ready for their second acclimatisation rotation on the mountain.
“Twenty-one Sherpas left base camp at 2 o’clock on Tuesday morning to carry loads and set up Camp III at 6,800m (22,400ft),” Russell told us over breakfast. However, when the Sherpa crew ascended the route (the second one they had put in during this expedition), they found that it had collapsed again. “For our Sherpas, members and guides and basically everyone one the mountain, this route would have been too dangerous,” Russell explained. So instead of sending all 21 Sherpas to Camp III, five Sherpas removed the fixed rope from the existing route and started fixing the new – or rather old route as Himalayan Experience has been using it for the past three years – from above. “The problem is that due to a few new crevasses, we could only get down this route and not up,” he continued. While the Sherpas were working very hard to prepare the route as well as it was possible, a couple of porters from Samagoan brought the ladders, which will be needed to complete the route to Camp II and make it safe for everyone on the mountain.
“I am very happy with the new route and once we have the ladders installed, it will be safe for the members to go to Camp III,” Phurba Tashi told us when he and his team arrived back at base camp at about 2pm – 12 hours after they had set off to start their working day.
While the Sherpas are preparing the mountain for our crew and the kitchen staff is working non-stop to feed dozens of hungry people, the team members are contemplating what to take to Camp II. “I am just sorting out my stuff but it is difficult to know what to take up,” said Andy from Walking with the Wounded (WWTW). Taking the right gear up the mountain is certainly a learning curve and most members, who are going higher up for the first time, usually take too much. “Most people don’t really have an appetite higher up on the mountain but until they find out themselves, they normally take far too much food,” our guide Narly explained. “But by the time we are going for the summit, they should know their needs much better and go as light as possible,” he continued.
Climbing at high altitude is not only about taking the right gear or the correct amount of food, it is also about learning how to pace yourself. “I hope I will get it right this time,” Dan, who lost muscle tissue in his right arm in a bomb in Afghanistan, said. “Last time we went up to Camp I, I started far too quickly and I was shattered once we had reached it,” he continued.
The whole team is due to leave base camp on Thursday after an early lunch and climb to Camp I, where they will spend one night. Our ‘camp wardens’ Ang Nuru and Ang Karma will be up there to make sure the team is getting enough water for drinking and heating up our boil-in-the-bag meals. “I had an Indian curry last time I was up there and it was actually pretty delicious,” said Wally, one of our American members. However, the team might be spoilt with yet another pizza delivery to their high camp.
Friday morning will probably see us get up very early as climbing in the cold makes the ascent more comfortable and safer. “If the temperatures don’t drop, we will probably leave around 4am, so make sure you have enough spare batteries for your head torches,” Russell explained during the briefing. All members, guides and Sherpas will also be wearing avalanche transceivers to minimise the risk of getting lost in an avalanche. “Carrying transceivers is still a novelty in the Himalaya but for us this is just an extra safety precaution and very essential for climbing this mountain,” he continued.
The team will spend two nights at Camp II before ‘tagging’ Camp III and coming back down to Camp II for yet another night. The reason for these brief spurts higher up is to follow the classic motto of ‘Climb High, Sleep Low’, which has worked very well for Himalayan Experience in the past three years, during which the operator has put almost 30 people on the summit of Manaslu.
I will be in touch again, once we come back from our next rotation, which should be at the beginning of next week. Keep your fingers crossed that the Weather Gods will be kind to us and that everyone will reach their own personal goal.
Billi Bierling at Manaslu Base Camp