Manaslu Expedition #826 September 2015
We should have all been to the summit and be on the way back down to BC, but I am afraid that this is not the case.
All the members made it up to C3 and the Sherpas were pushing the route up towards C4. All was going to plan but then as the Sherpas were reaching the upper slopes and the beginning of the traverse towards C4 things took a turn for the worse. Nima one of our strongest Sherpas who was also using oxygen was pushing the route, however we were encountering the same sort of snow conditions that we experienced on Broad Peak, waist deep sugar snow. Nima pushed through this for over 800m put then he was getting worried about his safety and so decided to stop. The problem was how to find a stable and reliable belay in this snow. But another problem was soon to become apparent. Behind him 5 more Sherpas crossed the snow bridge across a crevasse that we have never experienced before. We have always just stepped across this crevasse on previous expeditions, but this year there was a narrow snow bridge. As Namgel the seventh Sherpa to cross this bridge was making his way up the rope, the bridge collapsed complete with Namgel on it. Fortunately he is fine, but this created a delicate moment as he was now about 5m down in the crevasse, the wind was blowing strongly, there are 6 Sherpas above the crevasse and another 6 or seven below the crevasse. And now there is a 4m wide and 100m long gaping hole. The Sherpas that were below were able to get Namgel out, but now what to do with the guys above. They made a high traverse to a point where they could still see a small bridge across the crevasse, and then managed to slither across this small bridge and so were able to re-join the original fixed ropes.
But now we have a problem, will this small bridge hold for teams to make a route to C4 ? But also this small bridge is under the active ice cliffs above. Do we want to put everyone in this danger ? On the day, all the Sherpas were more pleased to return to C2 where it was safe, and of course our members were safe in C3. The next decision was to decide if we could safely fix rope to C4 as well as carry loads on the 25th. After much discussion it was decided that this was not possible, so this would mean that we would not be able to attempt the summit on 26, the last day before the jet winds are expected to come in.
Reluctantly everyone returned to BC yesterday as it is not a good idea to be staying at C3 for the next week.
This prompted yet another rope fixing meeting in my camp with leaders from most camps attending. Himex has already put 30 man days towards the rope fixing and Altitude Junkies have put 33 man days along with Seven Summits who have put 9 man days. It was previously agreed that AJ and Himex would push the route towards C4, but now we can no longer afford to put more man days towards this effort for the benefit of all expeditions as we also need to get our own equipment up the hill. At this latest meeting it was agreed that Seven Summits would once attempt to push the route past the offending crevasse and through the deep snow to C4. Let’s hope that they can do this, and this morning Adventure Consultants also offered to send 4 Sherpas to help with this task.
We are all expecting strong winds for the 27 – 29 so we are unsure when these Sherpas will have conditions that allow this work to be done. But for us, we will now rest for a few days and will then go back up to C3 to be in a position to go for the summit on 02 Oct. It appears that there is a calm period on 01 and 02 of Oct before the winds will return again. Having put so much effort in breaking trail so far, we are quite content to follow behind other teams who we hope will reach the summit on the first.
It is interesting to experience these new conditions at this altitude. This is a new phenomenon that I suspect that high altitude expeditioners will have to contend with in future years. Is this because of the heavy snow falls this last spring, or is it because the average freezing level is going to a higher altitude, or is it because average temperatures seem to be much higher these last few months. A debate for the future.