Manaslu: Avalanches, Waist-Deep Snow, and Bad Weather

Manaslu climbers are back in Base Camp after the weather turned nasty again. But even the last three days of blue skies were misleading: Fresh snow from earlier storms had overloaded the mountain, creating high avalanche hazard.

“I counted eight avalanches today,” said Alex Txikon after he returned to Base Camp.

“There’s an incredible amount of snow between Camps 1 and 2,” Simone Moro confirmed.

Alex Txikon, masked to protect himself not from COVID but from cold. Photo: Alex Txikon

Snow-swimming

Pasang Rinzee Sherpa supported the Europeans’ observations with a video showing a Sherpa postholing through thigh-deep snow in order to unbury ropes previously fixed above Camp 1. The rope fixers had hoped to gain a few metres further up Manaslu. In the end, all they could do was to reopen, at great effort, the previous trail. They didn’t manage to set up Camp 2. The going was simply too hard and too dangerous.

Only two days ago, the climbers were more optimistic, thanks to fast progress breaking trail to Camp 1. On these flatter sections, the snowshoes that Alex Txikon brought worked extremely well, noted Pasang Rinzee. As recently as Monday, climbers were confident that they would soon reach Camp 2 and beyond.

However, the terrain steepens up shortly above Camp 1. Guy Cotter told ExplorersWeb in our Climbers’ Guide to Manaslu that between C1 and C2, climbers must navigate “through a maze of steep ice walls, deep crevasses, and menacing seracs.” The piles of snow currently on the mountain makes the going easier in some ways, but the avalanche risk increases.

As expected in a smallish group of non-guided climbers, everyone is moving up the mountain at roughly the same pace. Meanwhile, the Sherpas systematically lead the way.

Camp 1, as the weather worsens on Manaslu. Photo: Simone Moro

Stray reports

Teams are not giving general overviews of climbers’ whereabouts. Instead, they mainly report on their own progress, and we can only stitch together stray reports. On Monday, Rinzee Sherpa reported that he planned to go up to C1 one day after the first group. When Oswald Rodrigo Pereira went up himself to Camp 1 that day, he crossed paths with Tenzing Lama, Pasang Nurbu, and Pemba Tashi, who were descending. Pereira reached Camp 1 and returned — well, actually he ran — back to Base Camp that evening.

Meanwhile, Alex Txikon, Simone Moro, and Chhepal Sherpa climbed together on the last rotation. Sophie Lenaerts and Stef Maginelle of Belgium went up toward Camp 1 yesterday and hoped to go further, if possible. They have not reported back since then.

Stef Maginelle and Sophie Lenaerts leave Manaslu BC on Tuesday. Photo: Sophie Lenaerts

 

Such disjointed communication may make it difficult to piece together a proper overview later in the climb. Some members, for example, update reliably while others don’t report at all. Paula Strengell, for instance, previously warned that she will stay off social media until the climb is over. So it is not clear when or if she returned to Camp 1 this week, or how far she may have advanced.

Angela Benavides is a journalist specialised on high-altitude mountaineer and expedition news working with ExplorersWeb.com.

Angela Benavides 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 national and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporates, press manager and communication executive, radio reporter and anchorwoman, etc. Experience in Education: Researcher at Spain’s National University for Distance Learning on the European Commission-funded ECO Learning Project; experience in teaching ELE (Spanish as a Second Language) and transcultural training for expats living in Spain.

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