Interview with Mingma G About Manaslu: “No Excuses in Future”

Mingma Gyalgye has had quite a year. First, he reached the summit of K2 in winter. That feat was hailed as a collective success for the Nepalese climbing community, which indeed it was. But it was he who had the project in mind since 2019, when he launched a first attempt.

Second, this past summer, Mingma G announced that he would climb to the “true” summit of Manaslu. This point seemed so out of reach that both individual climbers and outfitters had learnt to ignore it. Many had conveniently forgotten that a higher point lay beyond the usual end of the ropes fixed.

That is, until Mingma G came, saw, and conquered. And thanks to him, expeditions to the eight tallest mountain in the world will never be the same.

One picture said it all. Photo: Jackson Groves/

One even wonders whether it was worth it for Mingma to confront the status quo as he did. He is also an expedition operator owner in the hyper-competitive Nepalese market. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just take clients to the lower but easier point like everyone else?

There is only one way to answer that: to ask Mingma G himself. Outspoken and direct as usual, he discussed the details with ExplorersWeb.

Why Mingma G did it

“For the last few years, climbers have been talking about Manaslu’s true summit,” Mingma G told us. “We were not happy to hear many climbers blame the Nepalese outfitters for not taking clients to Manaslu’s actual highest point. Someone had to put an end to the debate.”

Mingma G says that his clients were aware and excited to know that they would go beyond others to the highest point.

Mingma G.


“We all believed that Manaslu’s true summit was not possible in autumn and many organizers were actually not happy [I was going], saying that it will risk their clients’ lives.”

Mingma G and his team not only reached the true summit but also found a smart route to it. It avoided having to deal with the tetchy last part of the summit ridge, where conditions were too dangerous. Mingma G explained:

“My plan was to go straight along the ridge, but when I started climbing a few steps from the end rope, I didn’t feel safe to continue. I could make the route smoothly but I was afraid that an accident might occur later because the snow was not [firm] and the anchors on snow could easily come out.

“If a client made a mistake and fell, then all the other anchors might not hold. If they all came out, it would trigger a big accident.

A short rappel

“It looked easier and safer to go down and traverse along the North Face, although we had to rappel down around 10m. I also thought that if we opened the route today, and led the clients another day, It would be even safer because the anchors get frozen or jammed. They would easily hold anyone who might slip while traversing.”

Mingma G’s Imagine Nepal team traverses Manaslu’s North Face just below the summit ridge. Photo: Imagine Nepal


Fixing ropes on the go was not easy. And getting everyone to the summit and back was even more complex.

“Once I fixed the final anchors to the summit, our team came up one by one and returned [the same way],” he said. “We had a single line of rope and the anchors were completely new, so I didn’t take the risk of bringing them all together. Also, our final anchors were placed in snow which I kept holding almost till the end.

“Before I left the summit, I saw a few good points to place rock pitons, which I will put in next year when I return. That will hold several climbers if they go together. If we put two lines from the previous summit [foresummit] to the true summit, then it will be easier and faster than going to the foresummit. In 2018, we spent almost 1 hr 20 minutes waiting in line on the ridge to get a summit picture!”

A new standard

It goes without saying that that Mingma’s Imagine Nepal team will return to the highest point from now on.

“Before, we were not sure about reaching the true summit in autumn, and more than 90 percent of climbers never knew that there was another summit on Manaslu,” he said. “But now we know that it is possible and we have clear pictures from Jackson Groves, so yes, my team will go to the highest point.

“We are saying it is safe, but we need two different lines to the summit and back from the previous high point,” Mingma G added.

Mingma Gyalje of Rolwaling, at a puja ceremony in Everest base Camp in spring this year. Photo: Mingma G

Other teams?

The remaining question is, what will the other teams do? According to Mingma, they have no other option. “Previously, the [foresummit] was accepted, but there won’t be any excuses in the future. I don’t think record-keepers like The Himalayan Database will recognize the names of those who stop at the previous summit point.”

Apart from future Manaslu expeditions, what about all the past climbers, most of whom did not reach the true summit? This includes those with 14×8,000m records or other distinguishing firsts on their resumés. Yesterday, The Himalayan Database concluded that they will not delete the summit status of (most) past expeditions to the foresummits. Mingma G shares their position.

“Till recently, all the previous summits were accepted, and a few days ago, I was talking with Billi Bierling and she [agreed],” Mingma G said. “The previous summit point was also accepted by Ms. Elizabeth Hawley.

“I feel the same. For those who completed it in the past, it’s already done. So for me, accepting the previous summit means honoring Ms. Hawley and those elite climbers. But there shouldn’t be excuses in future.”

One final question that we had to ask: Did anyone else follow Imagine Nepal’s footprints to the real summit of Manaslu? The short answer is, yes, some of Nirmal Purja’s team went to the true summit with them on September 27.

And that is the beginning of a separate story, coming shortly.