Himalayan Update: Manaslu Crowds, More Purja Magic Ahead?

In recent years, Manaslu has been nicknamed “the Everest of Autumn”, both because of its popularity at that time of year and its use as a warm-up for a future Everest attempt. The focus on Manaslu continues this month. Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism lists 26 teams totaling 260 climbers. This doesn’t count Sherpa guides and Base Camp staff, which roughly doubles that figure.

List of permits for Nepal 8000’ers as of September 10.


Manaslu’s true top

The resemblance to contemporary Everest may include similar crowds of climbers approaching the summit — at least, the real summit. From afar, Manaslu looks like a mountain with two sharp points. One might think that the tallest of these is the one closest to the normal route. Not so, and as climbers get close, the final stretch looks pretty daunting: a small saddle that leads to a knife-sharp snow ridge sweeping upward to the highest point at 8,156m.

Recently, a number of climbers have considered the saddle good enough to claim a summit, but such a “flexible” interpretation is clearly not in the spirit of mountaineering.

“On reaching the col, it is crystal clear that the summit is very close, but higher up on the far side of the ridge,” Sergi Mingote told ExplorersWeb. “Sherpa teams sometimes plant prayer flags there [on the col], and many climbers stop at that point, considering it is high up enough, but honestly, if you really want to summit Manaslu, it is mandatory to climb the ridge, which takes at least half an hour.”

It is on that picky ridge where crowds gather, as shown in the picture below, shot in a previous year by Sanu Sherpa. Sanu, by the way, hopes to bag his seventh Manaslu summit this year, guiding a large Chinese team seeking to complete all 14 8,000’ers.

The gaggle on Manaslu’s summit ridge. Photo: Sanu Sherpa


Nirmal Purja will surely avoid the crowds by getting there early and running up the hill before most teams have even acclimatized. According to The Himalayan Times, Purja might swiftly climb Manaslu, then run over to summit Cho Oyu before it closes down for China’s national festivities — on October 1!


Silence in the Khumbu

Andrzej Bargiel and team on an untamed Khumbu Icefall. Photo: Andrzej Bargiel


Meanwhile, ironically, the Khumbu valley is peaceful and quiet. Carlos Soria has wandered up to the Kala Patthar, a 5,644m ridge on Pumori, for acclimatization before Dhaulagiri. Here, he and his group had the lodge all for themselves, an almost unprecedented luxury.

At Everest’s lonely Base Camp, Andrzej Bargiel and his team are scoping out the Icefall with a drone, and the elusive Kilian Jornet is socializing with them but otherwise remaining mum about his own plans. It is surprising that with his previous double-header on Everest still wrapped in controversy (he never provided solid proof), Jornet has again opted for secrecy.

A Pumori Base Camp get-together with Andrzej Bargiel (left), Kilian Jornet (middle, white T-shirt) and Carlos Soria (with walking poles) and teammates. Photo: Carlos Soria


The long way to Dhaulagiri

While still quiet, action will commence soon on Dhaulagiri. Carlos Soria’s team will arrive next week, Sergi Mingote on September 20 and Juan Pablo Mohr and Moesses Fiamoncini on their way. Mingote intends to climb light and with minimal acclimatization: Conditions permitting, he will pitch his tent at Camp 1 for one night, move up to Camp 2 for two nights, then back to Base Camp to rest up for his summit bid. “That should be enough acclimatization,” he says.

No-O2 climbers Juan Pablo Mohr and Moesses Fiamoncini en route to Dhaulagiri. Photo: Moesses Fiamoncini


Neither Mingote, Mohr or Fiamoncini will use supplementary O2. While Mohr and Fiamoncini will use no fixed ropes, Mingote would not commit to that. “We are climbing on the normal route, and I cannot honestly claim that I will not use ropes already in place,” he said. “That will depend on conditions.” He does not intend to fix ropes for himself, but he does carry a rope in case he and his partner need it on the most exposed sections.

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