NEWSLETTERS - Manaslu 2012

Newsletter #112 October 2012

Peaks, Partying and Packing.

It is with a great sense of both relief and satisfaction that all members, sherpa and guides are down at base camp after a successful ascent of the mountain on the 30th Sept. Our patience paid off with a predicted fine spell of weather that lasted all through the ascent period. We sadly saw two members, Daryl and Susumi turn back on the way up with health issues, which left us with just 6 clients, 3 guides and 11 sherpa.

With Juniper burning at the base of our chorten, we left Base Camp after lunch on the 26th Sept. The well beaten route to Camp 1 now considerably easier with weeks of acclimitising under our belts. We made it up there in great time, but as mentioned we were less Daryl by the time we arrived. We had a beautiful sunset, and enjoyed views down the glacier and onto lush green hills down from Samagaon and beyond.

The team were up and away to camp 2 by 0700, avoiding the heat of the day, whilst the snow is still firm under foot, and less likely to see any snow instability. Again we were relishing in the great weather, fantastic views and another great sunset. We had all stored gear such as down suits etc at C2 on our acclimitising trip so up until this point our backpacks had been reasonably light to carry. Next day we were off to C3, and it was where we had to say farewell to Susumi who had battled valiantly throughout the various trips up the mountain, but decided this ascent was too difficult adjusting to the altitude. We had lost a tent at our original C3 to the snowfalls of the week prior, and a new location for C3 was decided  up on the col, higher and out of the most likely avalanche paths observed. This was our first night sleeping at this altitude (6800m) and all members did well. It was at C3 that the main group met Wim Smets, our member from Belgium who was attempting the climb without oxygen, and was one day ahead of us, and had been acclimitising further with a second night at C3. We were also gifted with a full moon rising each evening, making for stunning images over the surrounding mountains and landscapes.

The morning ascent from C3 to C4 appears daunting as you look up the route through the steep face of ice cliffs, and then the ramp leading beyond. The other factor our members had to adapt to was climbing on oxygen, for most of them the first time. The mask can feel quite claustrophobic at first, especially when puffing up a 40 degree slope, carrying everything you need for the summit bid. The devastating avalanche we had here on Manaslu was also fresh in our minds, as part of it released from this section of the mountain. We had been observing it since that time, assessed it safe and new snow settled, and our sherpa had helped forge a route through the days before. We now assisted sherpa build C4, as all tents from C3 had been elevated to C4 for this final evening on the upper mountain. All members arrived looking great at C4 at 7400m, and it was time to rest, remaining on low flow of oxygen throughout the day and sleeping on it that night also.

Summit day began with a rather loud team of Japanese next to us rising about 0130, leaving around 0230, so most of us had a pretty unsettled night. Sleeping with an mask on breathing O's is not the easiest thing to adapt to also, but the effects certainly worth the effort. Our team had decided to climb with the sun, so were were getting ready from approx 0500 and were moving at 0600.. The sunrise was beautiful, and made more stunning by the full moon setting in the background. The whole team climbed in close proximity for the entire ascent, besides Wim who climbed on without oxygen and set a naturally slower pace. Members, guides and Sherpa all breathing a luxurious 4 litres per minute saw us moving at a rapid and safe rate, and it wasn't long until our team was passing others on the route. At around 7900m we changed our oxygen cylinders, more out of process than necessity, as we had made such good time to this point. By 0900 we were at a point below the steeper summit ridge, and two of our sherps, with guide Shinji, had just finished placing a length of rope making the final stage safe for all to continue. We had a little traffic management to handle on this steeper ground, and it was approx 0930 when we saw our first members on the summit. One could not have wished for a more perfect summit day for a Himalayan peak. I was on the summit, warm without a hat and just windstopper gloves, a real treat for above 8000m. Phurba Tashi, our amazing sirdah, remained on the precarious summit spot, taking photos for each of our members their assigned sherpa one group at a time. We then began the decent, with time on our side and well within all safety margins set by Russ for Himex trips. I must say I was also pleased to share the summit with Benedikt Boehm from the German 'Dynafit' Ski Team. He had left Base Camp at 6pm the night before, reaching the summit with us soon after 9am, a massive achievement for him, and without oxygen.

As we descended, we met Wim climbing with Rita Dorji Sherpa. Wim had been slowing in pace feeling the effects of the altitude, now at 7900m. We made a combined safety decision with him, to start using oxygen to ensure a safe ascent and more importantly safe descent in reasonable time. The decision paid off, as Wim made great time reaching the summit at 1150. The main team quickly reached C4 which was packed up and carried down the mountain by our always impressive sherpa team. All enjoyed a well deserved rest at the site of C3 after the steep descent from C4, before continuing down the hill to C2 arriving around 2pm. This was where we gave the option to stay for the night, or push all the way to Base Camp. Members Tomoe, Naoki and Kazafumi (Kazu) joined guide Woody and myself for the extended day, and were greeted at Base Camp around 7pm by Russ and the team, with cokes, beers, and a well deserved steak for dinner that evening. From C4 - Summit - Base Camp, one can expect to sleep well that night...

The remaining members who stayed at C2 joined us at Base Camp mid morning after leaving at around 0700. So all are now safely off the hill, and enjoying comforts of BC, with great food, showers and tech gadgets etc. Russell has led another safe and successful Himex trip, always there on the radio day or night, with the best interpretation of weather and conditions, the best resources and with an amazing team working beside him.

Last night the sherpa team joined members for a buffet meal including Woody's favourite, Chicken Chilli and more, plenty of champagne helped members enjoy singing and traditional sherpa dancing late into the night, a sure sign everyone has had a fantastic time and happy with their ascents of Manaslu.

This morning 30 loads left Base camp heading for Kathmandu by porter, and will arrive on the 8th. Another 130 porter loads will leave camp in next days, as BC tents, kitchen, food supplies and all mountain equipment which is currently drying makes it way to down to Samagoan, where Russ has a storage facility with local lodge. Only 40 of those last loads are destined for Kathmandu, the storage saving huge amounts of transport and expense each Manaslu season.

Members will leave BC for one night in Samagoan tomorrow, then fly by heli to KTM on the 4th. This will be the last newsletter until Kathmandu.

Bruce, guide from NZ.