USA vs Nepal: A Race for Manaslu’s FKT

American Tyler Andrews is progressing on Manaslu at an amazing speed. But word comes that he’s not alone in this race for the Fastest Known Time (FKT). Pemba Gelje Sherpa left Base Camp one hour after him, with the same goal. Both are speeding toward the 8,163m summit through the night, without supplementary oxygen.

Andrews reached Camp 3 at 9:44 pm Nepal time, 3 hours and 44 minutes after leaving Base Camp. He started at exactly the same point where the current record holder, Francois Cazzanelli, started his speed ascent in 2019.

“We found the big rock and the tombstone [where Cazzanelli started], although the memorial was not to a Japanese climber, but to Jafar Nazeri of Iran,” outfitter Dawa Steven Sherpa told Explorersweb. Nazeri perished on Manaslu in 2012.

Up to Camp 3, the American ultrarunner has progressed in light clothing — and running shoes!

Andrews by a large rock with an aluminium plate in remembrance of a fallen climber.

Tyler Andrews at the start. Photo: Dawa Steven Sherpa/Asian Trekking


Tactical details

At Camp 3, Andrews had some support from the team’s sherpas waiting there.

“Ang Sona Sherpa and Temba Bhote are going to help Tyler into his down suit and big boots,” Dawa Steven said.

Tyler, climbing without oxygen, has his own water bladders (2x500cc) that he refilled at Camp 1. Before leaving, Andrews shared his plans with ExplorersWeb. He confirmed that he expects to have support and caches at the higher camps, but he hoped to climb the whole way on his own.

However, depending on conditions, Temba (on O2) may accompany Tyler from Camp 3 to the summit, Dawa Steven said.

Dawa Steven in dawn jacket, and Andrews is light clothes, vest with 2 water bladders, light harness and sneakers.

Dawa Steven Sherpa and Tyler Andrews right before Andrews left Base Camp. Photo: Asian Trekking


It is worth noting that Andrews is aiming for the one-way (uphill) record, from BC to summit. He intends to take the descent much easier and hopes to have Ang Sona accompanying him on the way down.

This is Andrews’ first time on an 8,000’er. He admitted to ExplorersWeb that he had to learn to progress on fixed ropes, as all his previous ascents, including Aconcagua, did not require them.

“I went to just below the true summit last week, again with no O2, and felt that my body handled it very well,” he texted today. (His permit only allows one summit, so he did not do those last few meters on his test run.)

Pemba makes it a race

Pemba Gelje (spelled Gyalzen in some sources) is, meanwhile, a seasoned Himalayan climber and an IFMGA-accredited guide. He has eight Everest summits, plus K2, Kangchenjunga, Makalu, etc. He works for Adrian Ballinger’s Alpenglow team and he is a regular climbing partner of Ecuadorians Topo Mena and Carla Perez.

Pemba Gelje set off from the puja chorten (the altar used for offering ceremonies) at the team’s Base Camp at 7:00 pm Nepal Time, Mingma G told ExplorersWeb.

There are no details yet on the specifics of his FKT attempt, but you can follow Pemba here and Andrews here. At the time of writing this story, Andrews was at 6,987m and Pemba was at 6,680m.


Live tracking and sherpa observers

Both climbers are using GPS and trackers to properly record their progress. In addition, there are some sherpas in the higher camps. Asian Trekking sherpas confirmed that the mountain was busy today until the afternoon, mainly with climbers returning from the summit. However, the route was quiet by evening, when the speed climbers left.

Tracker on a map of Manaslu area.

Pemba Gelje’s tracker at 11:53 pm Nepal Time.

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.