NEWSLETTERS - Manaslu 2016

Manaslu Expedition #423 September 2016

23 September 2016

It is always difficult to write about rope fixing. Having been responsible for the rope fixing on Manaslu for the past few years I fully understand what it feels like to be pushing the rope up the hill. However this year the Expedition Operators Association EOA made a contract with Seven Summits to do this work. Interestingly in the past EOA has never required a contract with Himex to do this work, but this year they did ask for a signed contract. I was actually invited to a meeting in Ktm when this contract was agreed.

Summit from C1
Summit from C1

It is always difficult to work around snow conditions, weather and available staff. This year is no different, although Seven Summits have 75 Sherpas here, not so many of them are actually experienced rope fixers. As the freezing level has generally been at or above 5,500m it is very hard to maintain a safe route, so often our Sherpas are spending considerable time replacing belays and re-fixing ladders.

There are many teams here who have no Sherpas and are attempting to climb independently, but I see very few of these climbers actually contributing to any work on the route that we are all using. Actually I see that many of these teams do not have any communications (radios or satellite phones) they have no weather forecasting, and very little medical equipment. Of course they are all climbing Manaslu without Sherpa assistance, and no oxygen. But I notice that they do not hesitate to come asking us for weather forecasts, medical assistance from my Doctor, to use our satellite communications and even our heaters. They also all come to us complaining about the rope fixing.

Team near C2
Team near C2

Generally I also am a little annoyed with Seven Summits for not utilising 4 very fine days where they were unable to fix the ropes to C4. For no real reason their staff continued to tell little lies about where the rope really was whereas by telling everyone the truth would be much better. But also for sending Sherpas who have never been on the mountain before to fix above C2 on a cloudy white out day. The result is that they went the wrong way and put the route up the same avalanche zone where we lost 12 people 4 years ago in an avalanche. This year I see the best snow conditions that we have had in the past 9 years that Himex has been coming to Manaslu, which makes for easy fixing above C2, so really there is no reason to go this way. However the route is now in, and it is very hard to find the motivation and energy to change this, especially by those who have not experienced large avalanches here. But actually the route is probably safe enough, so long as we do not get any snow fall above C2.

The little lies problem now seems to be resolved and we are working closely together with Seven Summits so as to make everyone’s expedition as successful as possible.

But in any case the rope has now been fixed to C4 so effectively the route is open to all, including the independent climbers, but now it has been snowing even high on the hill, so there is a lot of work required to reopen the route.

BC in the snow
BC in the snow

These last two and for the next two days there is a disturbed air system predicted around Manaslu as the monsoon continues to linger, so we can expect rain at BC and some snow higher up. This is proving to be correct and as the freezing level has dropped we are getting overnight snow at BC. But also the wind speed is predicted to increase for the coming few days to a level that we cannot summit. However we did start our movement yesterday towards a summit day on 27 by sending our Sherpas to C1 with the intention of carrying loads to C4 today. But after last night’s snow fall I brought the Sherpas back to BC as I felt that it was too dangerous to send them up the hourglass. So we are back to waiting again. Our thoughts of an early summit and return to Ktm are just not going to happen.

Bottom of Hour Glass
Bottom of Hour Glass

However in the meanwhile we have been working with the local Samagon community to establish a wifi system here at BC. At the moment there is not a reliable enough power supply (using some of our solar panels and batteries remotely) nor a bigger enough band width to open this to all teams. But hopefully from our experiments this year there will be a reliable wifi system in place next year.

Regards Russ