Newsletter 822 September 2011
Getting Ready for the Summit
The countdown is on. On Tuesday, Russell and the guides revealed our tentative summit dates and all of a sudden everything seems to be happening very quickly. “I can’t believe we have been here for almost one month, and now we are so close to our goal,” Herbert observed. And he is right - the preparations for our summit attempt are almost over, and now the success of our expedition depends on good leadership, a strong team, hard-working Sherpas, well fixed ropes, good snow conditions and, of course, the weather.
“The forecast is looking good for the 26th and 27th September and I think we should make the most of the low winds and the mild temperatures,” Russell told the team.This schedule means that the first group will leave base camp on Thursday, 22nd September to reach the summit four days later, and the second group will follow the next day “Due to the large size of our group, we are splitting it into two otherwise the camps would be too crowded and logistics would be too difficult,” he continued.
This latest itinerary has given everyone the chance to rest, eat and hopefully wash and dry their clothes before going back up, however, the rain has been pounding continuously on our tent walls since we came back from our second acclimatisation rotation on Monday. “Nothing has really dried and I am hoping that we will get a few hours of sunshine so we can at least dry our climbing clothes and boots,” said Brian. While our guide was still hoping for the sun to come out, our ‘Walking with the Wounded’ boys sprung into action and turned one of our dining tents into a drying tent. “I came here to get a snack but all I found was socks, long johns and other pieces of clothing hanging from the tent walls,” said Paul, wondering what was going on.
On Wednesday morning, Russell and the guides went through the technicalities of oxygen masks and bottles to prepare the team for their summit attempt. The members will start using oxygen from Camp III at 6,650m (21,950ft) and they will be on two litres per minute. “At this flow rate, your oxygen bottles will last for eight hours, which will also be your cut-off time to get from Camp III to Camp IV at 7,400m (24,420ft),” Russell explained during the briefing. On summit day, the members, who will all be climbing with their individual Sherpa, will get to breathe four litres of additional oxygen per minute. “Our experience has shown that providing more oxygen to our members makes them much faster, which definitely prevents them from getting frostbite. And, they will certainly have a more pleasant climb and more fun,” he continued. Monica also reminded everyone to bear in mind that their respective Sherpas may be strong but that they are still human. “If you find that you are steaming ahead of your Sherpa, take a minute and find out whether he is alright. Our Sherpas are physically very tough, however, if they are slow there might be something wrong with them,” she said.
All the members received their oxygen masks and regulators and had the chance to try it out after the briefing. “I am not sure I like this mask over my face but I guess it will help me significantly on the mountain,” said Kristine from Latvia while Francis from WWTW was pleasantly surprised. “I thought it would be a lot more complicated but it seems quite easy to use,” he said.
Wednesday morning also gave the members the chance to ask more questions about what to take to the mountain or what to wear on summit day. “You should take the bare minimum and you should basically wear all the clothes you are taking with you on summit day,” Adrian explained. “Be also conservative with the amount of food as you will not eat a lot above Camp II,” he continued. The most important thing up high on the mountain is to keep hydrated – the human body will certainly be able to cope without food for 48 hours, but not without liquid. All the tents at our high camps are equipped with a sleeping bag, a mat and a cook set, which all the members must use for melting snow. “Once you get to camp, just boil water and keep on drinking,” Monica reminded the team.
So far, the rope has been fixed to Camp IV and while most of our Sherpas will be accompanying the individual members, three Sherpas will be a few hours ahead of the team fixing the rope to the summit. “We are hoping to be able to fix the rope all the way to the real summit, which is a cornice that can only be climbed if the conditions are good,” said Phurba Tashi, who has already stood on the summit of Manaslu twice. If the cornice is too dangerous, the climbers will stop on the rock tower right below, which has been accepted as the summit in the past, according to the Himalayan archivist, Miss Elizabeth Hawley.
The following climbers will leave base camp on 22nd September to attempt to reach the summit on 26th September:
Jaco Van Gass
The following climbers will leave base camp on 23rd September to attempt to reach the summit on 27th September:
We will keep you posted on how the members are doing on their individual summit days and will send an update once they have reached the safety of one of the high camps.
Billi Bierling at Manaslu Base Camp