Close Call on Manaslu Raises Questions

Kristin Harila wants to climb all 14 8,000’ers in six months, but Manaslu — the first on her new list — is not cooperating. Given her time constraints, the team is taking risks by trying to progress despite unstable snow. This weekend, an avalanche partly buried several Sherpas hurrying to Camp 2.

“Myself, Lakpa T., and Adri [Adriana Brownlee] have come down to BC to retrieve some more food,” Gelje Sherpa reported today. “The conditions above Camp 1 are still very dangerous, and the snow needs a couple of days to settle more. Yesterday our fixing team got hit by an avalanche on the way to Camp 2. No one was hurt, but it could’ve been worse.”

He also posted a video, shot by Pasang Nurbu, (who summited Manaslu last winter) with one of the Sherpas helping another hit by the avalanche.

Time vs risk

Tomorrow, Gelje and Brownlee will return to Camp 1. There, reunited with the others, they’ll have to make a decision.

“We are stuck between two options,” Gelje said. “The first is to use this [next trip up] as a rotation, or we use this as our summit push because Kristin’s project…is under time pressure.”

Gelje had hoped for a potential summit window on March 31. “But now the weather is showing that it will snow that day,” he says.

Multimodel forecasts such as,, and indeed predict some heavy snowfall between Friday and Sunday. The weather is not completely clear at summit altitude any day this week.

Forecast for Manaslu's summit for the next five days. shows snow falling nearly every day and increasing by Friday, March 31.


They have dealt with lots of fresh snow since reaching the mountain two weeks ago. Below, a trail breaker wallows in deep snow last week.

“It’s a difficult situation between listening to our team leader or doing what is safest, even though it’ll take longer than we have,” Gelje said. “Adri and I have time but others don’t, and we will try our best to make this expedition successful for everyone.”

Who decides, and how?

Until now, we have identified Gelje Sherpa, the most experienced climber, as the leader. Yet his comment above suggests that Harila is functioning as the expedition head.

On Instagram, the Norwegian recently justified the need to fix ropes “for safety reasons” before climbing a mountain. “As a climber, I always prioritize safety,” she wrote. “Let’s always remember to respect the mountain and take the necessary steps to ensure a safe and successful climb.”

Indeed, fixed ropes make a big difference for those using them. But working staff whose safety is equally important must put them in place first.

Four climbers walk in line on a flat field of fresh snow, Manaslu in front of them.

Sherpas carry ropes and ladders on Manaslu. Photo: Kristin Harila


Harila, Gelje, and Brownlee’s is the only expedition currently on Manaslu. According to a new update issued by Nepal’s Department of Tourism, there are three other expeditions bound for Manaslu this season, but it is not clear when they intend to show up.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.