Manaslu: Fewer Climbers This Year

Rope fixing has begun on Manaslu, where 17 more teams — in addition to the original six — await impatiently. Yet the numbers are not as high as last year. It is not clear if any of the climbers who hoped to go to Cho Oyu or Shishapangma this fall may change their minds: The Tibet Mountaineering Association (TMA), which issues the permits for China, has said nothing about whether those peaks will open.

In its latest report dated Sept. 8, Nepal’s Ministry of Tourism has issued Manaslu permits to 266 foreign climbers in 23 teams. By comparison, last year at this time, there were already 383 climbers over 35 teams. That’s 30% more.

“Last year, virtually all Manaslu teams had their permits by mid-September,” Dawa Steven Sherpa of Asian Trekking told ExplorersWeb. “At the end of the season, the total number of Manaslu climbers reached almost 430.”

This year should be no different, says Dawa, suggesting that last-minute additions will not significantly buoy the current list.

This may be good news for the climbers, who will deal with less crowding. However, long lines depend more on the state of the route and the number of weather windows than the actual number of climbers.

Sherpas fixing ropes, clients trekking

Imagine Nepal is in charge of fixing the ropes on Manaslu this year. Led by Dawa Gyalje Sherpa, the team includes Winter K2 climber Kilu Sherpa, Tamting Sherpa, Pasang Ngima Sherpa, Jit Bahadur Sherpa, and Pemba Chhiri Sherpa. They have almost reached Camp 3 and should fix up to Camp 4 by the end of the week. They hope to finish the entire route by Sept. 25.
That leaves plenty of time for newcomers to start acclimatizing as soon as they reach Base Camp. Most of them are still on the way. While companies offer the option to fly there by helicopter, most climbers without prior acclimatization prefer to enjoy the scenic trek to Base Camp.
As on Everest, the rope fixing on Manaslu is no longer the informal agreement among expedition outfitters that it used to be. Nowadays, the EOA (Expedition Operators Association of Nepal) typically assigns the task to the lowest bidder. In exchange, the company receives a fixed amount for every climber who uses the ropes.
A sherpa stands in the middle of a vertical serac, with two ice axes and leading the rope.

Fixing the ropes among the seracs on the way to Camp 2 on Manaslu. Photo: Imagine Nepal

No news from Tibet

The few climbers who ask for a Manaslu permit later in the season are usually those who first climb another 8,000m peak, then decide to add a second, based on how they feel. But so far, there are no permits for Nepal’s other six 8,000m peaks this fall.

If anyone has been considering two or more 8,000’ers this season, it is likely those who want to do Manaslu after Cho Oyu and/or Shishapangma. Both were supposed to open to foreigners this year, especially since Kristin Harila and others received permits for them last spring. But tour operators in Lhasa told ExplorersWeb that while tourists have returned to Tibet, 2023 remains a transition year.

“Surely 2024 will see a more stable flow of foreigners to Tibet’s 8,000’ers, but at the moment, there are issues that require some time,” one operator told ExplorersWeb. Among other issues, “there are no flights yet between Kathmandu and Lhasa, and all the trips [between the two countries] must be done by road,” he noted.

He pointed out that the Kodari/Zhangmu border has only just reopened. This popular road links Kodari (Nepal) and Tibet across the Friendship Bridge. Here, Nepal’s Araniko Highway becomes China’s National Highway 318.

The small Nepali village and the bridge over a river, in a steep, forest-covered mountain area.

At Kodari, Nepal, the Friendship Bridge marks the border with China. Photo: Wikipedia

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.