NEWSLETTERS - Manaslu 2012

Newsletter #310 Sep 2012

Sacks & Ladders

As usual our meteorologists at Meteotest in Bern, Switzerland have provided us with a pretty accurate forecast and we have been able to plan our activities on the mountain accordingly. On the 4th the Sherpas took loads to C1 and established this camp, the 5th was not such nice weather so members and also Sherpas spent the day training on fixed ropes skills, and the Sherpas spent considerable time practicing their avalanche rescue skills. However the 6th was a nice day so the members took this advantage to do a day trip to C1 and back to BC whilst the Sherpas fixed rope above C1 through the ice fall and onto the 'Hour Glass' until they could go no further due to a large crevasse that cut the route, and required placement of a ladder in order to proceed.

Ladder on hourglass

Fortunately for Himex members, and all other teams around us, we have always brought a ladder from Kathmandu for situations like this. And every year we have had to use a ladder at some stage or another, and every year we leave the responsibility of bringing the ladder back down to other teams who have arrived later during the season, and every year this is not done so we lose the ladder. Once again Himex purchased a new ladder, had it shipped by truck to Arughat, then carried for 6 days by porter to Samagon. So on the 7th which was predicted to be a bad weather day we had the ladder carried up from Samagon to BC.  In the mean while we have also been around to the other few teams that have established infrastructure at BC asking for more fixed rope, as we have run out of the Himex and IMG rope supply. Reluctantly the Sherpas at these camps passed on what little rope was available.

Sherpas leaving BC

So on the 8th, a brilliantly fine day the Sherpas set out from BC at 05.30 with rope, the ladder and some loads for C2. Progress was slow and steady as they improved the route from the previous trip, fixed the ladder and then rope to C2, hence they did not arrive there until 12.45 in the heat of the day and with no wind to cool them. It did not take long for them to erect a tent and stuff all the loads into it, along with an avalanche transceiver that is left turned on. In 2008 we lost  all tents at this C2 and everything inside it when we had more than 5 metres of snow. We have learnt our lesson from this! Phurba also took a locator photo and a GPS reading, so we are confident that we will not lose this camp if it should snow in the coming weeks.

Sherpa avalanche training

Amazingly it took the Sherpas just two and a half hours to return to BC.

Sherpa rope skills

In the meanwhile all members had an early lunch and then headed up to C1 to spend the night.

Today, 9th the Sherpas have taken another load up to C2 and the members have taken a day trip from C1 to C2 and then back to C1 where they will spend another night, but of course the sherpas will return to BC for a well earned rest tomorrow.

Rubbish at BC is always a problem for expedition organisers. It costs a considerable amount of money to remove all rubbish from the mountain, some operators are happy to spend this money, but I am afraid some are not. Himex prides itself that all food scraps are placed in a barrel and are taken down to lower altitudes where it can be composted, and we bring all human waste off the mountain (including high camps) by using biodegradable toilet bags that we import into Nepal from the USA. All glass, tins, plastic and batteries are separated and are returned to Kathmandu to be disposed of correctly. Burnable rubbish is taken to Samagon and is burnt after the expeditions have left. In a Buddhist society it is not good to burn rubbish whilst there are still climbing teams on the mountain, as this is "bad" smoke, unlike burning juniper each morning before the Sherpas leave BC, which gives "good" smoke. When we first came to Manaslu in 2008 Himex collected 30 porter loads of rubbish around the area where we camp, and we paid for Samagon porters to carry this back down to the village to be dumped into a specially constructed village rubbish dump. So upon reaching BC this year we were very disappointed to see that the relatively clean BC was littered with new rubbish from teams that were here this last Spring season. I can understand that some of this was lost in the snow that was here in Spring, but it also looks like there was little effort by some teams to actually take their rubbish back down.

Seeing this situation I tried to come to a deal with the Samagon people, that if each team could clean the immediate area around their camp this season, and we put all this rubbish into sacks, that maybe the local people would then carry this down to Samagon for no charge. There was a town meeting and in the end the local people rejected this and wanted to be paid for carrying the rubbish down. However, Phubu one of the local lodge owners (and a very progressive village elder) called me to say that he will pay for the rubbish removal. As I write this there are only a few of the expected 30 plus teams here, but those who I have spoken to have agreed to collect the old rubbish around their camps and are prepared to put $100 per team into the removal of the rubbish. Lets hope that other teams will follow suite?? We will see. But all of the Himex team Sherpas, guides and members spent time collecting every bit of old rubbish that we could find in and around our camp, so we are very pleased to be in a clean area.

But it would have been much more efficient if sacks could have gone down when ladders came up!!

Weatherproof Juniper FireplaceI touched on Juniper smoke. Although I do not personally agree that we should be cutting Juniper for burning, this is however very traditional in the Buddhist religion and is an important part of the Puja. But each morning during the expedition we burn incense sticks (instead of juniper) for the safe keeping of the Sherpas and members, but on special days like the first trip to C1 and C2 the Sherpas burn juniper as they leave BC and throw rice for their safe keeping. As it is so wet at Manaslu BC our Sherpas have constructed an all weather fire place, the only one of its kind at Manaslu BC.

VolleyballOh, and I almost forgot to mention the Volleyball games that are taking place in our camp. Some of you will remember that 2 years ago we developed a cricket pitch in amongst the rocks, and that last year we developed this into a volley ball court. This has become a focal point for many of the Sherpas from other teams who come to challenge the Himex Sherpa team. How these boys can carry loads up the mountain in the morning and then play volley ball in the afternoon beats me.