Manaslu: Many Leave, But Crowds Still Jam the Route

Still hoping to avoid crowds, climbers continue in marginal conditions, struggling for every metre. Today, the wind caused frostbite, and spindrift covered the packed trail. Yet the obsession with avoiding crowds is, paradoxically, provoking traffic jams.

Most International teams have left the mountain. Even those expedition leaders who continue with summit plans have seen their ranks decimated. Some who tried to reach the summit this week came back with frostbite from the high winds. Gonzalo Fernandez, skiing up without Sherpa support, turned around at 7,250m with mild frostbite. He admits that he had a “pretty delicate” descent on his own. Argentinean Nicolas Stelve had to be rescued with frostbitten fingers and toes, plus snowblindness.

Some have lost patience with this autumn’s relentlessly bad weather. For others, the events of the last three days have shattered their motivation.

A female climber in dawn pants and jacket makes the victory sign before heading up a scree slope, with a fixed rope.

Allie Pepper leaves Base Camp. Photo: Dawa Sherpa.

A veteran retreats

Yet the mountain is far from empty. Many remain in the higher camps. There were six or seven summits on Tuesday, the day after the avalanche, and at least eight yesterday. Strong wind forced others back, including Kami Rita Sherpa. The 26-time Everest summiter turned around with his team at 7,500m, “in very bad high winds and severe windchill”.

The video below illustrates the conditions Kami Rita was talking about. Chhombe Sherpa shot this yesterday at 6 am between Camp 3 and Camp 4.


Skiers Akos Gyorffy of Hungary and Sarah Strattan of the U.S. also tried to reach the top yesterday.

As Gyorffy reported, snowdrift covered the trail had to be stomped down, which was taxing at that altitude. If they deviated to one side, they immediately sank up to their knees. The weather continued to worsen until at about 7,000m, they turned around.

Gyorffy also noted that he had had very little sleep the previous night in Camp 3, because of arguments about the recent avalanche and subsequent rescues. “I felt like I was in the middle of a police investigation after a disaster.”

Forecast lottery and concerns over crowds

Erratic or contradictory forecasts are driving expedition leaders crazy. “It’s totally unpredictable weather,” said Chhepal Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks.

Those currently dealing with strong winds and unstable terrain are trying to avoid both the crowds and the heavy snowfall forecast for the weekend.

Many large teams and climbers such as Gelje Sherpa, Adriana Brownlee, Allie Pepper, and Dawa Sherpa have set October 2 as their summit day. They hope that by then, conditions will be more stable and they will be able to get up and down before it snows again.

“I hope it’s the right time, but there are so many people with the same schedule,” Namgya Sherpa of Grand Himalaya Treks & Expedition told ExplorersWeb.

Namgya Sherpa usually outfits small teams, such as the American expedition on Jannu. Currently, his company has one client with two Sherpa guides on Manaslu. The three set off from Base Camp today.

“Conditions are bad, the mountain is dangerous, there are too many people, and [they’re] far too slow,” Warner Rojas of Costa Rica told ExplorersWeb.

The Sherpas on his team, who are currently higher on the mountain, told him that the pace is despairingly slow. “You take one step, then have to wait for five minutes before you take the next,” they said. All these concerns, plus stomach problems, have prompted Rojas to call his own attempt off.

Patience will be key in the days ahead. Climbing The Seven Summits is one of the few international companies that has chosen to remain, but its members are not in a hurry.

“The Manaslu season isn’t over…so we are patiently waiting in Base Camp, to give our team every opportunity to assess forecasts and conditions daily,” general manager Caroline Pemberton told ExplorersWeb.

Awaiting summit pics

At the beginning of the season, the main question about Manaslu was how climbers would reach the true summit. Even after a dozen successes, reports and summit photos are few. Unfortunately, Jackson Groves and his drone are not there this year. Climbers will need more than a tightly shot selfie, with no distinguishing landmarks, to prove their summits.

a climber in red on a pointy snow summit, in soft snow.

One clear summit photo: Kristin Harila on top. Photo: Kristin Harila


Romanians Mitza Amtei and Anca Racatean summited on September 28. Mitza, a guide, reported they followed the fixed ropes to the true summit, which was a few metres beyond where the ropes ended in previous years. He also noted that the last few steps required technical skills. The summit picture below shows no landmarks and could have been taken anywhere, but the pair also shared a video with comprehensive views.

Romanians Mitza Amtei and Anca Racatean on the summit of Manaslu, September 28.


We are also waiting for reports about the second line of ropes established by Elite Exped’s rope-fixing team on Monday morning. It will be interesting to see where and how the ropes were fixed in unstable snow on that precarious arete.

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.