Manaslu: Summits, Deaths, Chaos

The news from Manaslu right now is contradictory and confusing, but here is what we do know. At least one climber is dead and about 12 injured near Camp 4 after a major avalanche today. Some are seriously hurt and need rescue. Climbers are also trapped in Camp 4, unable to descend any further because the avalanche swept away the fixed ropes they depend on. They were also climbing with bottled oxygen and are not equipped to deal with that altitude without it.

The avalanche has mainly affected climbers with Imagine Nepal, Seven Summit Treks, and Satori Adventures. Outfitters such as 8K Expeditions, Furtenbach, and Elite Exped are hurrying to report that their clients and guides are okay. Some climbers themselves are posting about their state and whereabouts on social media.

Timeline of events

After Friday’s summits, the weather turned bad again. But forecasts predicted a small weather window for September 28-29, which prompted almost everyone on Manaslu to stir into action. That meant hundreds of people. Nepal’s Department of Tourism has issued 404 foreigners permits for Manaslu, double the number of an average year. A further 300 Nepali guides accompany the clients, raising the total number of people on the mountain to over 700.

Most climbers planned to leave Base Camp today, but others climbed throughout the weekend, despite the risky conditions. They wanted to summit ahead of the crowds, because of the predictable traffic jams and the unpredictable situation on the technical pitch between the foresummit and the actual summit.

The weather has not cleared yet, and conditions remain unstable. Yesterday, Adriana Brownlee reported clearing skies but high winds. Today, thick clouds wrapped the mountain. It has snowed nearly every day, so the avalanche risk was considerable.

Despite it all, a group of climbers left Camps 3 or 4 last night for the summit. Hours later, a number of others, mostly Sherpas carrying loads, headed toward Camp 4. According to Lakpa Sherpa of 8K Expeditions, six to seven people summited in extremely adverse conditions — high winds and thick fog.

Two avalanches

At around 11:30 am, when a few climbers were above Camp 4, some coming down from the summit, others still going up, two avalanches struck. Tashi Lakpa of Seven Summit Treks reported that an excess of heavy snow triggered the slides.

“More than 13 climbers (including Sherpas) were swept along with the avalanche,” Chhang Dawa Sherpa of Seven Summit Treks wrote on social media. “Four Sherpas, including two from our team, need urgent rescue…The rest all have minor injuries.”

Mingma G, the CEO of Imagine Nepal who reached the true summit last year, is currently in Camp 3. He confirms that at least one Nepali climber has died. He noted that five Sherpas in his group were caught in the slide but then rescued.

Sajid Sadpara, who was above 8,000m when the avalanches hit lower down, summited in the early afternoon and has reportedly reached Camp 3.

Beyond this, we will have to await more details. Bad weather continues, making the unfolding situation on the upper slopes invisible from Base Camp. Some who were in Camp 3 are doing their best to help. Apparently, other climbers are heading up from lower camps in order to assist the search-and-rescue efforts.

Two airlifted – and helicopter stranded?

Two hours ago, Tashi Lakpa Sherpa said that three helicopters were on standby in Samagaon due to bad weather, waiting to evacuate the injured from Camp 3 at 6,888m. Since then, he reported that two severely injured climbers were successfully airlifted to Kathmandu. He also added that one helicopter (Alpha Kilo Golf) was “stuck somewhere behind Camp 1 with 1 injured, 1 Sherpa guide, and [the] helicopter pilot.”

Seemingly, the helicopter had some kind of problem.

The stranded helicopter’s location on Google Earth. Photo. Tashi Lakpa Sherpa


Extreme landings in crowded camps

Helicopters on rescue missions have recently faced problems with the overcrowded high camps on Manaslu, according to Niraj Karki, a Nepali IFMGA guide in training.

“There is some shitty politics that goes on behind the rescue scenes in Nepal,” he wrote. “There are flights and national park clearance permits that are required even when it is an absolute medical emergency.”

Abiral Rai, on his knees on the snow, raises his arms indicating P¡the helicopter pilot where to land in a low visibility moment.

Abiral Rai directs pilot Simone Moro to land at a narrow spot between two crevasses at Manaslu’s Camp 2. Photo: Niraj Karki


Karki cited a rescue at Camp 2 some days ago, which involved a lot of delays getting permits. When the helicopter finally took off, the camp was so crowded with tents that there was no place big enough for pilot Simone Moro to land. Karki said that it took all Moro’s skills to fly without visibility and, guided by a person in camp, to land the helicopter in a tight space between two crevasses.


Climbers trapped in Camp 4

Meanwhile, an unknown number of climbers who returned from the summit after the avalanche are currently stranded in Camp 4. They are unable to descend any further because they lack the skills to return to Camp 3 without fixed ropes. These climbers also depend on supplementary O2 and could get into trouble if they run out. Two Russian sisters, who summited today with 8K Expeditions, are currently in that situation.

Hilaree Nelson: fate unknown

Americans Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison also summited and proceeded to ski down the mountain as planned. Shortly after, Nelson had an accident. Depending on the source, some say that she fell into a crevasse, others that she slipped off a steep face. She is reported missing.

Her partner Jim Morrison supposedly skied further down, but details are sketchy and in some cases, contradictory.

Finally, a climber has died, likely of exhaustion, near the summit, Everest Chronicle reports.

We will update the information as we get it.

Hilaree Nelson takes a selfie during the approaching trek, while hiking up acobblesnote trail surrpounded by "mani" prayer stones and grassy fields, in a cloudy day.

Hilaree Nelson during the approach trek to Manaslu. Photo: Hilaree Nelson/Instagram

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.