Manaslu Expedition #724 September 2015
Decided to make the 26th our summit day
It is always a difficult decision to decide when our team should try to reach the summit of any peak. Here at Manaslu where we sit in the cloud at Base Camp for so much of the time it is difficult to know exactly what the snow and wind conditions are like high on the mountain. So we rely heavily on our weather forecasting and try to combine this with our experience to make the correct calls. This last week has been particularly difficult as we saw a cyclone approaching Nepal which had the potential to deposit a reasonable amount of snow in this area. In the past we have seen Cyclone Hudhud come to Nepal last year which deposited large amounts of snow in the Annapurna area with the loss of many lives, and in 2013 we saw Cyclone Phailin come to the Everest area just before we went to Ama Dablam, which also deposited over 1m of snow. So you can see why we are cautious here and do not want to be in the higher camps at this time. But then I heard that the snow fell mainly in the Everest / Makalu area and we thought that this moist air stream had passed us by. This gave us some hope that we could get back on the mountain knowing that it was mainly clear above 6,000m, but then we had another problem lingering, it looks like the Jet Stream winds will move closer to Manaslu from 27 onwards. So we decided to make the 26th our summit day, but this meant climbing from BC to C2 in one day, a long and hot trip. We all prepared to leave at 03.00 on the morning of 23rd but as we all retired to bed it started to rain very heavily for the following 5 hours. I was afraid that the cyclone was in fact pushing in harder than expected and that we would get snow higher on the mountain. But after getting up to look through the fog and rain at 02.00, 03.00, 04.00 I eventually decided to continue as planned at 05.00. Although a late start, all the Sherpas were able to get to C3 and the members to C2. In fact two of the Sherpas even fixed the first 200m of rope towards C4.
Avalanche crown walls
Today all members have made it to C3 where they will spend the night and the Sherpas are in the process of fixing the route to C4 before descending to C2 to spend the night. Tomorrow everyone will hopefully be at C4 getting ready to go to the summit on 26. According to our forecast it looks like the wind will be too strong on 27 for the following few days….but we will see when we get reports from other teams.
In the meanwhile I actually have fine weather here at BC for a change, which helps as I pack loads to be returned to Samagon.
Part of my packing is the process of cleaning and sorting our high altitude cook sets which comprise of 2 x pots, 2 x bowls, 2 x spoons, a plywood base to put the stove on in the snow so as the cooker does not melt into the snow, 1 x filter so as we can drain the water so as to not have bits of foreign debris in the water and of course 1 x stove. Over the past 3 years we have been working with a Japanese company Soto to develop a small light weight stove suitable for high altitude. In fact this is actually an intelligent stove that adjusts gas pressure according to altitude so as it becomes more efficient and therefore uses less gas. We always have trouble with self-igniters, but in the last few years we have been able to make improvements to this as well. A small but vital piece of equipment that we rely upon so much.
But also of vital importance at BC is the power supply. From the time that I operated my first expedition and we had a solar panel that charged one battery to operate one light and the radio I have struggled with power. Now most members bring between 2 – 6 devices that need charging; phones, watches, head lamps, kindles, sat phones, computers and so it goes on. And it seems that people not only want to watch one movie a day, but several. So here in the cloud (not the cloud that most people are trying to down load movies from) but the real cloud that blocks the direct sun light from charging batteries from the solar panels, so I still have a problem to provide enough power!! To try and increase my power generation I am once again using a small but efficient hydro power generator. At least when we have cloud we have rain and therefore we have ample water.
Time moves on, and now as we prepare for our summit attempt I also prepare for the next adventure in conjunction with Kobold Watches. The Himalayan Experience special that I wear has the Himex logo on the face. I am lucky to wear number 1 of 50 of these watches that are actually made in Kathmandu by Sherpas who have travelled to the USA to learn the art of watch making. Several of us are involved in a project to bring Fire Engines to Kathmandu. Now with wider roads in the city, and with ancient fire engines most of which do not work we feel that it is time to try and help the city. In recent years we have seen some large fires, one destroying Pilgrims Book Shop which was a huge disaster, but we have also seen as many as 44 homes destroyed in one fire. And of course these new engines would have been of great help during the earthquakes. Michel Kobold has been leading this project. We originally thought that we might be donated 2 fire engines, but two weeks ago in fact 12 engines were loaded on a ship bound for India. Apparently it is going to be my job to get them from India to Kathmandu in one piece. Future news letters in December will follow this trip.