NEWSLETTERS - Manaslu 2012

Newsletter #25 Sep 2012

Hi folks

A lot has happened since our first Manaslu newsletter this season. But this is the first note from Base Camp.

Himex Base Camp

At the very last minute Gary Jones and John Thomssen were unable to join the expedition, which is a great pity, however all of the other members and guides all arrived in Kathmandu on time and with all of their equipment, which is always a good start to an expedition. But really work had already started several days before the members arrived. The Sherpas left their respective villages of Phortse and Kumjung on 18 August for the days march to Lukla and then by plane to Kathmandu on the 19th. They then started the  (normally 6 day) but for them 4 day trek to Samagon where Himalayan Experience has an equipment store. They then sorted equipment that is required at BC and above and organised for the 245 porter loads to be carried to Base Camp over a period of 5 days starting on the 27th Aug.

In the meanwhile I had various meetings with the Expedition Operators Association and the Nepal Authorities who issue permits for expeditions. It appears that the ministry is becoming even more corrupt than normal, and are refusing to return the Garbage Deposit for ALL expeditions on Everest this spring season. At $4,000 per permit this amounts to a considerable amount between all the various teams that were on Everest. This comes about by the new General Secretary making new rules even after expeditions have left Kathmandu. However the EOA is vigorously fighting this ruling and we are planning a meeting with the various operators, agents and the Ministry at the end of the autumn season.

Trail to BC

Kathmandu is undergoing a long overdue overhaul to the over crowded road system in the city. Of course this requires the demolition of hundreds of buildings on many of the arterial roads. So when it is dry the air is full of dust, but when it rains as it does during the monsoon season there are large areas of Kathmandu mud, which only adds to the congestion. Planning for this project started in 1977 and it is only now that demolition has actually started, but this requires the shifting of power poles, building of bridges and I heard that there will even be the first ever overpass to be built in Nepal. When this ambitious project is expected to be completed nobody knows. But it will be welcome by locals and tourists alike.

As usual our team stayed in the Hyatt Hotel and we managed to get permission to fly by helicopter directly from the helipad in the hotel grounds, however due to bad weather on the morning of the 29th when we were due to fly, the airport was closed and so subsequently the Civil AviationDepartment revoked our flight plan as when the airport opened it was too busy. This required us to make the tedious journey to the domestic terminal and hence to our waiting helicopters supplied by Simrik Air. The first two B3e helicopters each with 4 passengers took off and managed to dodge around clouds and arrived at Samagon in the late morning, returning to Kathmandu just as the monsoon clouds opened above the city. However despite this the next two flights departed mid afternoon and the first of these with 4 passengers arrived in Samagon. I was in the last of the flights along with 350kg of fresh vegetables, meat and electronic equipment, but we were not so fortunate to arrive in Samagon as the cloud had now come down to low to make for safe flying, so we eventually put down in the small village of Ghap, which is about 3 hours trek from Samagon. I stayed in the village overnight, and fortunately enough was able to find 15 porters to carry loads the following day.

Old Samagoan village

In the mean while Lachhu our head cook had left Kathmandu with members equipment and he had an eventful trip by truck to Arughat the last village accessible by road from Kathmandu. As parts of this road had been washed out by floods this trip in fact took a day and a half. but despite this fact, and that the trail between Arughat and Samagon had many mud slides he managed to arrive in Samagon on 4 Sept, the same day as all the members were heading up to Base Camp. We were all happy to see our loads as we had been hearing stories from other teams where loads were lost in mud slides, or dropped in the Budhi Gandaki river, and we even heard of donkeys that had fallen off the trail.

Manaslu in moonlight

Our time in Samagon was spent doing various acclimatisation treks to a waterfall and then to a small monastery in the Punggen valley, much to the delight of the two monks there, who were determined to collect their horse and take various members for a ride. I am sure this made their day, and was also of great amusement to the team members. But we were lucky with the weather as it only rained during the night, and even on our last evening in Samagon we were treated with a clear sky and an great view of the Manaslu summits bathed in the full moon light.

Big boss on horseback

It is interesting to see the extensive building works that are taking place in Samagon. When Himalayan Experience first came here in 2008 there were few buildings, but with the extra wealth generated by expeditions shifting their sights on Manaslu, there has been much more porter work, and hence more cash flow in the village. This has led to the locals developing better houses and lodges, which is really necessary as this looks like a village from the 13th century. But also by having better lodges will help attract more trekkers for Around Manaslu Trek. As there are only about 1,500 local villagers, there is not enough manpower to carry the stone that is required for these new buildings, so there are now many young people from lower down villages working in Samagon, so there is a trickle effect of the cash that expeditions bring to this community. It was also a delight to walk up the trail to Base Camp. When Himalayan Experience first came here in 2008 the trail was almost non-existent  and was very dangerous for the porters, but each year we have left Rs100,000 ($800) with the village elders and have asked for this money to be spent specifically on the trail to BC, so as to maker it safer and easier for the porters. The trail is now good enough for horses to carry loads to BC.

Samagoan construction

On 02 Sept all the members of our team walked to Base Camp with everyone arriving within 4 hours, which is encouraging. And as it happened the following day was a good day for our Puja. This meant that the Sherpas were able to head off up the mountain yesterday fixing the route through the crevasses to Camp 1 at 5,700m. In the meanwhile we have been busy at BC with radio, avalanche transceiver, communications and fixed rope briefings. We have been blessed with fine wearer during the day and rain at night, and the forecast looks good for the coming days. Members have all been to Crampon Point, and we are all ready for a day trip to C1 tomorrow as the Sherpas start fixing rope above C1.

The mountain looks quite dry, and we can even see parts of the trail left from the spring season, so at the moment conditions on the mountain look safe and relatively easy, so we are keen to push ahead whilst these conditions prevail.

Himex basecamp

More news after our trip to C1.