The Himalayan Database Gives the Past a Pass

History Manaslu
The various summit points on Manaslu. Photo: Jackson Groves

But it strengthens the criteria for future Manaslu summits.

This season, Mingma G and some remarkable drone footage from Manaslu have spurred a lively debate. The climber and his team left everyone else behind to pursue the mountain’s actual highest point.

Through Jackson Groves’ drone footage, some climbers are scratching their heads and reviewing their Manaslu “summit” pictures in a new light. They are also, finally, checking 8000ers.com for detailed information about Manaslu’s summit area.

Surprisingly, very few climbers have contacted ExplorersWeb to claim that they reached the true summit. Speaking off the record, some climbers explained that they climbed past the end of the fixed ropes and reached a point where “everywhere [they] looked was down”, but are now having second thoughts. It begs the question: Over the past 40 years of fall climbing on Manaslu, how many have reached the true summit?

Most climbers, including those whose historical records might be affected, are keeping a discreet silence. They have been waiting for an authority to weigh in. Namely, they were waiting for the Himalayan Database, a non-profit founded by the late Elizabeth Hawley, to decide what it will consider a Manaslu summit moving forward, and what it will do about previous summit claims.

The Himalayan Database weighs in

Today, the Himalayan Database posted its conclusion. Whether their decision will settle things or further fuel the debate remains to be seen.

“With the clearly documented summit success of Mingma Gyalje and his team, the Himalayan Database has decided that from 2022, it will only credit the summit to those who reach the highest point shown in the drone picture taken by Jackson Groves,” they have stated. “Those who reach the tops shown as Shelf 2, C2, and C3 in the picture [shown below] will be credited with the foresummit.”

The Himalayan Database team added that they made the change with the support of “foreign and Nepali operators” they had consulted in Kathmandu.

The news is no surprise to anyone who has seen the pictures. They leave no room for doubt about where the peak’s highest point lies, and Mingma G has shown the way to reach it.

The Himalayan Database will accept past summits according to a rather wide zone of tolerance. Photo: Jackson Groves

Past expeditions

For past expeditions, the Himalayan Database has opted for a simple, diplomatic solution: to leave things unchanged.

“As we cannot change history, we will make a note in the database that from 1956 — when the summit was first reached by Toshio Imanishi and Gyaltsen Norbu Sherpa — to 2021, we accepted the three points mentioned above as the summit due to a lack of in-depth knowledge,” the report says.

Eberhard Jurgalsky and the 8000ers.com team have taken a different position. Discussing possible zones of tolerance on Manaslu, 8000ers.com proposes one list for climbers who reached the C2 and C3 foresummits, and another for those who actually reached the top. For those reaching the “shelf” and C0, they would not grant summit status.

“Yes, it changes history, but better change than just [be] wrong,” 8000ers.com stated.

Others in the mountaineering community have also opted for a strict position. Swedish climber Fredrik Sträng shared a long, honest report. After carefully checking 8000ers.com documentation, he has deleted Manaslu from his summit list.

“It is now clear to me that I did not summit Manaslu’s true/main summit back in autumn 2015, and in fact, none of the around 80 climbers did,” he said. “It is in every mountaineer’s interest to know where the summit is and if one has attained it,” he added. “Why else spend thousands of hours training and spend countless money on giant peaks?”

This brings up attitude. Some climbers reached a point, sometimes well past the end of the fixed ropes, that they believed was the true summit. Others simply stopped at a comfortable photo spot once the ropes ended. Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell who chose an easy endpoint and who genuinely tried to reach the true summit. The truth lies in the heart and mind of each Manaslu climber, out of reach of the statisticians.

+5

About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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OldHikerDude
OldHikerDude
10 days ago

Great reporting! It’s been an exciting and dramatic Fall season. It looks like the whole “true summit” issue is finally settled…..sort of. With Fredrik Strang renouncing his summit claim, it’s going to be interesting to see if any other “summiters” follow suit. Now the folks at 8,000er.com can get cracking on past Dhalagiri summit claims. It’s not over. At least we have Jost Kobuch’s Winter Everest to look forward to!

+1
ZLF
ZLF
9 days ago

1) Summit is only one point in each mountain, there are no margin for tolerance zones; 2) to leave things alone is to avoid the point, HDb would not change the past by registering things correctly (if a climber did not went to the main point on the mountain and now we know beyond reasonable doubt its absurd to continue to credit him/her summit. Route finding is a duty of the climber and to know where “everything goes down” is also his/her obligation; 3) this “problem” exists for years and is well documented over a decade now, the outfitters knew,… Read more »

Don Paul
Don Paul
9 days ago
Reply to  ZLF

The outfitters have been shortchanging their clients, but the clients must have known they weren’t reaching the true summit, and accepted it because this is what everybody else did. They may be in the database but still have to accept the reality that they didn’t reach the summit.

+4
Lenore Jones
Lenore Jones
9 days ago
Reply to  ZLF

Columbus didn’t discover America anyway. There were millions of people already here.

+1
ZLF
ZLF
8 days ago
Reply to  Lenore Jones

you’ve got a point 🙂

0
HungarianDave
HungarianDave
8 days ago
Reply to  ZLF

I completely respect your view. But please know that if in the time of Columbus the “Something Else Islands” had been considered as America in the sailing community, then he would have good reason to stop there and claim to have arrived to America. I’m aware the example is weird, but this would be the correct analogy. 🙂 And also this is why I believe the decision IS wise to go forward with the exact peak, but leave the status quo unchanged for the past.

0
Jaz
Jaz
9 days ago

Thus confirming that the Himalayan Database is effectively irrelevant without Liz Hawley. They’ve caved in for fear of upsetting clients and other operators by allowing them to call their fore summit effort an actual summit. What about every other climber who became confused on a summit plateau in the past and so on ?

+1
ZLF
ZLF
8 days ago
Reply to  Jaz

HDb opted to “not confront”, for example, if a Sherpa re-climbs EV from Camp 4 will be credited summit. If a climber goes from Helicopter to C4 and from there to teh summit, he/she will appear on the “summiteers” table, and so what. I assume it’s very exhausting for HDb to judge all the ascents, but it is the duty of those who build up tables, to register only what is considered a real summit (and it is BC-Summit-BC).

0
damiengildea
Editor
8 days ago
Reply to  ZLF

For record-keeping purposes, a ‘real’ summit is BC-Summit.

There is no requirement to survive the descent and reach BC. Even if you die on the way down, nothing can change the historical fact that you reached the summit.

People may be of the personal opinion that an expedition is a ‘failure’ if you or someone dies, but that’s another matter.

0
tapan sarkar
tapan sarkar
9 days ago

Why not name it as Manaslu 1 and Manaslu 2 similar to Gasherbrum 1 & 2, with Manaslu 1 being the foresummit & 2 the realsummit. Then the number of 8000ers can be revised to 15. In that case the error can be rectified and all controversies left behind.

+2
damiengildea
Editor
8 days ago
Reply to  tapan sarkar

Because G1 and G2 are MUCH further apart, they are separate peaks on a large massif, with much more elevation gain/loss between them, so they are considered separate mountains. This is in no way the case with the topography of Manaslu.

0
Aaron Hewitt
Aaron Hewitt
9 days ago

That’s some bullshit right there. If you are on the summit and you see higher ground next to you, you aren’t on the summit. I don’t need a damn drone to show me that.

+1
damiengildea
Editor
8 days ago
Reply to  Aaron Hewitt

To be fair to SOME claimants, when you go beyond selfie-spot / shelf of C1 and go to C2, you may think you are on the top as you can NOT see the true (C4) summit from there, even in clear weather. Only if you do your research and truly learn about the summit topography will you know that the summit lies beyond this point (C2) that looks to be the highest.

But people stopping at the flags/selfie-spot/C1 have no excuse at all – and that is most people in recent years.

0
HungarianDave
HungarianDave
8 days ago

Dear friends of all opinions, here is a point that I think is important: I truly believe that there have been hundreds, who have climbed there, and were told by their official sherpas that “here we are, this is the summit”. Please bear in mind that most of those people were in the most exhausted and physically devastated state of their life, so when they were officially told that they have arrived, they had no reason to believe otherwise. I think it would not be fair to take the summit success claim from those people, especially because – had they… Read more »

damiengildea
Editor
8 days ago
Reply to  HungarianDave

“their official sherpas” – well there’s one problem right there, firstly there is no ‘official sherpa’ in any of this, secondly they are guided clients relying on Sherpa not just for safety and load carrying but for guidance and information on the mountain and many Sherpas are not knowledgeable enough to fulfil this role. “officially told” – there is no such thing and if you need to be told by your ‘guide’ when you are at the top then you need to go away and learn more “could have marched on…” – no, they couldn’t, they don’t have the ability… Read more »

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