Surprise! Grace Tseng and Three Sherpas Summit Manaslu

Around the time we posted yesterday that the Manaslu season had ended, Grace Tseng of Taiwan and three Nepali guides set off from Base Camp at 6:30 pm local time. They reached the summit of Manaslu at 7:30 am, 13 hours later, Dolma Outdoor Expedition reported. Currently, they are on their way back to Base Camp.

Grace Tseng used no supplementary O2, although the three Sherpas supporting her did. She climbed with Nima Gyalzen Sherpa, who accompanied her during the entire climb. They met Phurba Thiley Sherpa and Lakpa Tamang in Camp 3, and the four proceeded from there to the summit.

Pemba Dorje Sherpa coordinated the operation from Base Camp. As we explained in a previous article, Sherpa-supported climbs imply that some safety oxygen is available if needed, compared to self-sufficient no-O2 climbs.

Grace Tseng in a power-pose with mountain and snow background, her personalized, blue and yellow downsuit highlighted with filters.

File image of Grace Tseng. Photo: Himalayan Shepherd

A high-risk record

“Grace Tseng has now become the fastest female to summit Manaslu without supplementary oxygen,” Dolma Outdoor announced.

In fact, the only other climbers going up Manaslu yesterday (as far as we know) were some local guides, including Gelje Sherpa and Gesman Tamang, who retrieved the body of their friend Dawa Chhiring. Dawa perished in an avalanche the evening before, between Camp 2 and Camp 1.

Everyone in the upper camps aborted their pushes and went down under risky conditions. Yesterday, the weather was good, but the avalanche danger remained high. It’s unlikely that conditions would have improved much in the last 24 hours.

Grace (Ko-Erh) Tseng of Taiwan climbed Manaslu in 2019 as her first 8,000m experience. Like others that year, she stopped at the foresummit. Currently racing to set a female 14×8,000m speed record, Tseng returned to the mountain to reach the true summit.

One of her chief rivals, Kristin Harila of Norway, is trying for the overall speed record. Both women (and their teams) will attempt to climb Cho Oyu from Nepal, while they await permission from China to climb Shishapangma. Harila climbs with Pasdawa Sherpa and Dawa Ongchu Sherpa of 8K Expeditions. Tseng teams up with Nima Gyalzen Sherpa and other Dolma Outdoor guides.

Surprise – or secret?

Tseng’s ascent came as a surprise since all the teams had declared their Manaslu season over. Apparently, we were not the only ones surprised. Chan Chiao-yu, a Taiwanese woman who calls herself Fish Tri, was angry when she saw an Instagram post of Lakpa Sherpa of 8K Expeditions with Tseng’s team just before they set off from Base Camp. 8K Expeditions was her outfitter.

“So you told everyone [that they] need to come back, the season is over, [that was a] big lie,” she vented.

the four climbers lean to see something on a cellphone screen, thesnowy base camp at dusk in background.

Lakpa Sherpa of 8K Expeditions (left) at Manaslu Base Camp yesterday with Nima Gyalzen, Grace Tseng, and another guide. Photo: 8K Expeditions/Instagram

Fish Tri had lingered in Camp 3 until the very last moment, hoping for a last-minute chance to summit. Yesterday, “heartbroken”, she decided to go down and end her expedition, sure that no one else was still intending to try.
Fish tri pops her head out of the tent, with Manaslu summit in background.

Fish Tri of Taiwan at Manaslu some days ago. Photo: Instagram

8K had indeed announced the end of its expedition yesterday on social media. Dolma Outdoor, not 8K, had outfitted Tseng’s climb. It is unclear whether more climbers were on the mountain, or if a Sherpa crew had re-opened the route.

It’s also unclear whether the Pemba Sherpa who coordinated Tseng’s climb from Base Camp was the same Pemba Sherpa who is a director at 8K, or a different one with Dolma Outdoor. We have asked Lakpa Sherpa of 8K Expeditions to clarify.

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.