Manaslu Update: Split Strategies

Sophie Lenaerts is pumped up: “Let’s f***ing climb this mountain! We are done waiting.”

Despite warnings from Simone Moro, and the plans they shared yesterday, most of the winter Manaslu expedition members are back in Base Camp today. Instead of waiting for better conditions in Samagaon, they intend to proceed further up Manaslu tomorrow.

“We opened the route to 4,250m, the Sherpa team took over [on] the hardest sections and we arrived in Base camp at 13:30,” Lenaerts and Stef Maginelle reported. “Conditions are good, Base Camp is good. Tomorrow we’ll continue up.”

Sophie Lenaerts’ tracker located her at 13:30 Nepal time today at 4,831m.

Assessing conditions

Outfitter Seven Summit Treks has confirmed that Lenaerts and Maginelle are with some other climbers and a Sherpa team.

The weather has improved and forecasts are good for the rest of the week, tempting climbers to make some progress up the mountain. In addition, the group in Samagaon only needed four hours to reach Base Camp and check the situation on the mountain. However, advancing will require an accurate assessment of conditions and good risk management.

Last weekend, fresh snow overloaded the mountain. Avalanches were frequent. Simone Moro and Alex Txikon agreed that conditions were very dangerous and that it would require a few days for the snow to settle. Moro specifically asked those in Samagaon “not to run on the mountain, at least in the first three to four days of sunshine, because more avalanches will come down.”

Indeed, the snow will need time to settle, especially in winter when sunlight hits the mountain less directly. In addition, Manaslu has a sad history of avalanches. These avalanches are mainly triggered by falling seracs between Camp 1 and Camp 3, or slightly above. Such was the case in fall 2012, when 11 people (most of them resting in Camp 3) were killed.

Therefore, it is essential to check not only the lower parts of the route but also higher up. The weather improved by Sunday, with sunny but quite windy days so far this week. Three days of good weather has some climbers optimistic, and the Belgian climbers report good conditions upon arriving in Base Camp.

Manaslu’s normal route. Photo: Himalaya Grand Expedition

A safer, avalanche-swept route?

According to Simone Moro, Saturday’s avalanche didn’t hit Base Camp directly. The wind blast it produced caused the damage.

According to Thaneswar Guragai of Seven Summit Treks, the avalanche might even have had a positive effect. “The avalanche three days ago could have swept the excess of snow from the route,” Guragai told Explorersweb. “In that case, the route will be harder now, but also safer.”

Guragai also mentioned that the current rotation is not a summit push. “Climbers will go as far as High Camp,” he said. During the expedition’s first rotation, climbers fixed ropes almost to Camp 2 but the weather worsened before anyone could pitch a tent there. On a second trip, excess snow forced everyone back from somewhere between Camp 1 and Camp 2.

We don’t yet know if the avalanche damaged ropes on the route or the tents in Camp 1.

Alex Txikon and Simone Moro have told ExplorersWeb that they don’t plan to return to the mountain in the next few days. Pasang Rinzee, climbing with Simone Moro, is still in Samagaon. There is no news about the whereabouts of Alex Txikon’s climbing partner, Iñaki Alvarez.