Back in Kathmandu
First of all, Himalayan Experience would like to apologise for getting the numbers of this season’s Manaslu summiteers slightly wrong. In our last newsletter, we stated that 46 people had reached the summit of the eighth highest peak in the world, however, after our Sirdar Phurba Tashi got back to base camp, we compared figures and noticed that instead of 23 Sherpas, ‘only’ 21 Sherpas had reached the top, reducing this number to 44. Despite this minor mistake, Himalayan Experience has still succeeded in almost putting 10 percent of the total ascents since 1956 on the summit in two days.
Himalayan Experience Summit Success
Within two days, Himalayan Experience has put 46 people on the top of Manaslu, which actually makes up almost 10 percent of the total summits since the eighth highest mountain was first climbed by a Japanese team in 1956. “It turned out to be a good year, even though we were first worried that the weather would play tricks on us and we would not reach the summit at all,” a pleased Russell observed when the team and Sherpas got back to base camp.
Quizzical looks at the Weather
After having relaxed in the snow, rain and finally in the sunshine, the team is getting ready for their second summit attempt. The weather had played a few tricks on us and after the two groups had come down from the mountain last weekend, it had continued to snow and rain for another two solid days. “It is difficult to accept all the sitting around but I guess waiting is part of big mountain climbing,” said Sergey from Russia. “I definitely have to sit it out as I cannot go back to Russia without the summit in my pocket,” he continued with a smile.
‘The mountain was not ready for us’
Like so often in the mountains, things did not go to plan for our first summit attempt. We were all ready to go for the top in the coming days; everyone had prepared and packed their food, their oxygen equipment and their gear for their summit bid, the Sherpas had prayed and burnt incense around our base camp altar, the Chorten, just before the team left for their mission (this ritual is very important for the Buddhist Sherpas) and the weather forecast looked promising for the 26th and 27th September.
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.
Feeling the Earth Move at High Camps
Many of you might have read about the earthquake that hit Nepal on Monday at 6.30pm local time. The epicentre of the 6.9 quake was in the east of the country near the border to Sikkim, however, our team, who was up on the mountain at the time, definitely felt it. “We were just having a chat and all of a sudden we felt a big thump. First I thought it was a crevasse opening up, but one of our Sherpas immediately called out ‘it’s an earthquake’!,” said our guide Narly, who was at Camp 3 at 6,650m (22,000ft) at the time of the shake. It took another five seconds and an avalanche, which was triggered by the quake, came down at the right side of our camp.
Not all roads lead to the top of Manaslu
Finally – the sun has hit base camp and everyone is making the most of the warm weather with washing, drying, showering and doing some general house work before we are heading up the hill again. Base camp was in thick clouds and rain for about five days and it is great to see everyone enjoying the sunshine. “Finally, the skies are clear, which means that the nights will be colder and the ground will be freezing. That’ll make our climbing safer and easier,” Adrian said. The team has been back at base camp for three days and after a couple of days of resting and recuperating they are now getting ready for their second acclimatisation rotation on the mountain.
Back down in the rain
After having spent three nights at Camp I at 5,570m (18,300ft) and climbed a bit higher for acclimatization purposes, the Himalayan Experience team has come safely down the mountain and is now back at base camp. The first acclimatization rotation went well, however, due to the unusual high temperatures, the eighth highest mountain in the world is posing a few challenges this year. “The fact that the temperatures have been very mild this season makes finding the right route more difficult this year,” said our guide Adrian.
First trip to Camp I
On Tuesday, the team ventured out to higher altitudes and for the first time they reached the height of 5,500m (18,200ft), where they ‘tagged’ Camp I (tagging a camp means to touch the camp without sleeping there). Thirty-one climbers, including the nine wounded soldiers and their mentor, and guides as well as 23 Sherpas and four kitchen staff left base camp at 7.30 in the morning. The conditions are extraordinarily good this year. “I have never seen the mountain so dry before,” said our Sirdar, Phurba Tashi, who has climbed Manaslu twice so far. But despite the good conditions, some of our members found their first trip to Camp I hard, which can probably be contributed to the fact that they had never been so high before.
Settling in at Manaslu Base Camp
This is just a brief update from Manaslu base camp, where the Himalayan Experience group arrived on Saturday, after having spent five days in Samagoan. “We came up one day early as the group is really strong and everyone is feeling great. Even though Samagoan is great, we have a much better set-up here at base camp,” Russell reported by satellite phone.
Whistle-stop in Kathmandu
On Saturday, the whole team had finally made it to Kathmandu and gathered in the Hyatt hotel, where they stayed for just two nights. The short days were filled with gear checking, barrel packing and running around the busy and colourful streets of Kathmandu to do last-minute errands. “We’ve just had a small crowd of Russell’s expedition in the shop,” Andy, who together with his wife runs a small but extremely well-stocked outdoor shop in the tourist district Thamel, told me when I was whizzing past on my bike. It always amazes me how much gear the couple stock in their shop called ‘Shona’s’, which is barely bigger than a shed.
Himalaya autumn season 2011 kicks off
Himalayan Experience is back on Manaslu, which will be the company’s fourth season on the world’s eight highest mountains. Last year, Russell Brice and his team put seven clients, seven Sherpas and three mountain guides on top of the 8,163m peak.
The composition of the climbing team will be a little bit different this year, as nine war-wounded soldiers and their mentor from the United Kingdom will be joining the expedition, which consists of a total of 22 members. “The nine lads came to Chamonix and did a week’s training course with our sister company, Chamonix Experience,” Russell said. “It was fun and I am really looking forward to having them on our team.”