The day after our successful summit climb we had late breakfast. Pemba had already told me that he wanted to get down to Samagaon if possible and Mingma indeed told us during breakfast that after lunch we would descend. Actually, already a bunch of porters had come up from Samagaon once they heard that the first climbers had summitted. After lunch, before we went down, there was a special celebration for one of our sherpa’s. He is from Samagaon and was the first sherpa ever from Samagaon to summit Manaslu (and without oxygen).
When Pemba and I went down via a very steep path, that usually is used only by the local population, there were people waiting at several places to hail the first summitting Samagaonese ever.
In the town itself there was a very festive atmosphere. In our hotel, the achievement of the first summitting Samagaonese was once again celebrated with cake and locally-brewed alcohol. When the festivities were over, we had dinner and went to sleep as the next morning we would need to get up at dawn to get a helicopter flight to Araghut. The helicopter could only take 4 persons (and a lot of luggage: actually we were sitting on bags with bags on our laps) and took us in less than an hour to Araghut. There we waited for another one and a half hour to get a second helicopter flight to Thribuvan (the airport of Kathmandu).
At the airport Wongmu was waiting for me with flowers. As my luggage would only arrive with a later flight, Wongmu dropped me of at the Shanker hotel.
I spend most of the rest of the day changing my flights: I could fly to Dubai October 2nd, with an onward flight on Sunday to Schiphol. The remaining time in Kathmandu was spend at the hotel pool, buying presents, and eating as I’ve -again- lost quite a bit of weight and barely weigh 64 kg. Last Friday evening, Mingma organised a joint dinner for all the climbers that were still in Kathmandu which was a nice closure of the expedition.
On September 27th, Pemba and I got up at 2 AM. Pemba cooked some porridge and then we left Camp 4 for the summit attempt. Despite the fact that it had been full moon only a week ago, it was quite dark as the moon was hidden behind the clouds. Although very cold, there was hardly any wind, which is optimal for climbing at this altitude. We steadily progressed as the actual climb from Camp 4 to the summit is technically not difficult at all, apart from the very last stretch since the summit is actually the top of a steep, narrow snowy ridge. Pemba kept a decent speed and overtook several other climbers, although I thought every now and then that a slow speed wasn’t too bad to keep breathing decently.
Sunrise at Manaslu
Around 6 the sun rose which made the climbing easier and before 8 AM we reached the summit with glorious weather. Actually, the top ridge is soo small that it won’t allow more than 2 or 3 climbers at the same time. There were a few climbers before us, so Pemba and I had to wait a bit before we could climb the final meters and reached the 8163 m of the summit.
After summitting we went down to Camp 4, which we reached half past ten. Pemba suggested to go all the way back to Manaslu Base Camp. After a short rest and some eating, the tent and our sleeping bags, mattresses etc. were packed up and we went down. Although steep, the stretch to Camp 3 was pretty straightforward. Camp 3 was packed up as well (Pemba carrying a lot of stuff !) and we went on to Camp 2, that was also packed up. The subsequent stretch to Camp 1 was quite spectecular since a lot of the steep parts had melted away and had become even steeper. Luckily we didn’t have to climb them up but could rappel most of them.
Rappelling to Camp 1
By the time we finally reached Camp 1, it was already quite late. Nevertheless we packed the stuff and Pemba had an absolute fabulous amount of material on his back. Apart from the fact that we were getting tired, this huge load made us descend rather slowly. The sun set and it became darker and darker, it was getting foggy and subsequently it strarted snowing. It took us forever to get down from the glacier to Crampon Point. At the time we reached Crampon Point, we were very cold and had to find our way through the morene in the dark. Finally, shortly after 8 PM,we finally reached base camp, totally exhausted. The camp staff brought hot drinks and cooked some food and around 9 I went to sleep.
We’ve just arrived in C4 at 7475 m, officially death zone and I feel more dead than alive. We climbed 1250 m up and descended 530 m to get here and some very steep stretches. Technically not difficult at all, but some very long. Also a couple of really sneaky steep ice stretches at the end of the snow walls which take your final breath. Hardly ever been gasping so much. Luckily Pemba has given up the idea to skip C4. It would be absolutely idiot to continue, if only for the fierce winds There are probably good reasons for selecting the spot of C4, but it is an extremely windy spot. The wind was a very serious factor in any case today. At many stretches it blew the tracks away instantaneously making it a lot more difficult to get up in knee-deep snow. Slowly other teams are flocking in, glad we have pulled up our small tent so fast as it shields from the wind. Pemba already makes me coffee. Considering sleeping with my down-suit on tonight as it is freaking cold. My water bottle was frozen in my backpack… We plan to start our summit push around 1 or 2 h, depending on the conditions. There is quite a bit of moon light (full moon a week ago) so hopefully not to many clouds.
This morning we climbed from C2 to C3. It’s not very far (just over a km) but the last part is very steep. Not technically demanding at all but just exhausting because of the altitude which is beginning to be the all overriding factor. Luckily, I have no single sign of high-altitude disease (like many others in the camp). Since carrying our camping stuff (tent, sleeping bags, food, fuel, mattresses etc) up is quite demanding, Pemba has the audacious idea to skip C4 completely and climb to the summit from C3. That is 1450 vertical meters at high altitude but with minimal luggage.
We climbed from C1 to C2 and, again, I am totally exhausted as it extremely steep and demanding. It cost us an hour less than previous time, but it felt harder. At a few occasions, I had to stop as it turned black before my eyes. The crevasses and steep snow slopes have deepened and the ice wall had turned into an slight overhang since last week. Although not too difficult, several people simply failed to get over it . Pemba and I have been hanging under the overhang for more than half an hour. As Pemba realised that the half dozen people above us would never make it across the overhang, he got out on to a ledge and hauled a ladder up. With another sherpa he fixed it across the overhang to offer an escape for the ones stuck. Once I finally cleared the ice wall after hanging there endlessly, I felt totally done and we held a super long break. When we left it was very foggy, but now the sun started to peek through the fog making it very warm. As we both also carried a big load of supplies and oxygen cinders, this was by far the hardest day so far. Now in the tent, melting snow for coffee.
Arrived in C1. It took Pemba and me less than 4 h to reach C1 from MBC (and only 2 1/2 h from Crampon Point to C1, which is an hour faster than last time which indicates we’re pretty well acclimatised). We are now melting snow and getting the tent organised. Tomorrow phase 2: climbing to C2.
Last Friday, we started our first rotation on Manaslu. The goal was to make the final set-up of Camps 1 (5775 m) and 2 (6350 m). We left around 11 h in the morning to Camp 1. The ascent is relatively easy, over the rocks to Crampon Point (5150 m), where you enter the Manaslu glacier and from there mainly snowy slopes to Camp 1. The weather was not so good, foggy with light snow fall every now and then. There are a few stretches that are bit steeper but overall a fairly easy ascent. It took Pemba and myself four and a half hour to cover the 920 m up (over a distance of 4.5 km). Once we arrived at 15:30 h, the tent needed to be set up. Snow was shovelled away to get a more or less even surface for the tent. Around 17 h everything was set up. Pemba cooked dinner and we went to sleep.
Saturday morning we got up at 6 h to melt snow, make coffee and breakfast. We packed our sleeping gear (tent, sleeping bags, mattresses) and food and headed for Camp 2. The views of the glacier breach are breath-taking, but so was the climbing. The route up to Camp 2 is very steep (we climbed 665 m over a distance of less than 2 km) with several stretches going almost vertical on ice or hard snow. At a short but very steep ice wall, a sherpa got stuck kust above me (I was very happy to wear my helmet as his struggling caused a lot of ice fall down). Luckily Pemba helped him by taking off his backpack (which was hauled up separately later) and instructing him what to do. Pemba did very well as usual: half an hour later Gina fell into a crevasse and he rushed forward to get her safely out. Overall, it was a very heavy climb which took us almost 6 h and I felt exhausted when we finally reached Camp 2. Again, snow was shovelled away to set up our tent, Pemba melted lots of snow and cooked dinner. When we were about to sleep , Pemba discovered that his Nalgene bottle had been leaking and his sleeping bag was soaked. Be ended up sleeping in my down jacket with his own down jacket around his legs.
Pemba, cheerful as always
Yesterday morning we got up early again (around 6h) and after breakfast Pemba went down to fetch more materials in Camp 1 to bring ip to Camp 3. I went down alone later with the group of Mingma. We are at least a day ahead of other teams climbing Manaslu as many people climbed up while we we trying to get down causing big traffic jams at the steep spots. On the way down yo Camp 1, I met Pemba who had rushed down and was already climbing up again – he cached materials in Camp 3 and subsequently climbed down to Manaslu Base Camp, arriving well before dinner… After quite a while, we reached Camp 1, rested a bit and then swiftly went down all te way to Manaslu Base Camp where we arrived early afternoon. The weather was splendid with a lot of sun shine which allowed us to have a bucket shower. Later that evening we celebrated Dawa’s birthday with cake. Pemba surprised me with a bottle of red wine that Namgya had asked him to carry up for me.
Today and tomorrow we have a resting day at Manaslu Base Camp, it is very sunny weather (laundry day!). We plan the second rotation Wednesday or Thursday with the summit push on September 27th.
18 sep 2021 – Yesterday we climbed to C1 and slept there. This morning at 6 h we woke up and prepared for our climb to C2, about 700 m up. We have arrived an hour ago and it was very hard, I’m totally exhausted: everything was dead-steep: steep snow slopes, steep ice couloirs, really hard work, especially at this altitude. Gina and Dawa climbed in front of us and gave Pemba extra work. In a steep ice couloir Dawa simply could not get up. I was a meter below him and covered in a stream of ice falling down, luckily I was wearing a helmet. After 20 minutes or so, Pemba took his backpack and without it and with a lot effort Dawa cleared the couloir and then it was great trouble to haul his backpack. An hour later, Gina fell into a crevasse, not very deep, but Pemba rushed to get her out. Altogether it was a very heavy and exhausting day. Glad the tent is set up and we can lie down, cook dinner and sleep.
This morning we left around 11 h for C1, which is 900 m higher than MBC. It was snowing, but nevertheless quite hot outside the wind. We had hoped to get above the clouds around 5400 m, but unfortunately it kept snowing. Finally, when we reached C1 at 5776 m, it stopped. Pemba set up the tent and we are now trying to make coffee. It took us 4 1/2 h to get up to C1 which is longer than the previous time, but we were now both carrying a full backpack. Actually, it was quite hard to get up and we took frequent rests. Especially the last stretch at ~5700 m is very steep. Nevertheless, we seem quite well acclimatised. The tent is in utter chaos. Pemba threw everything in and we will definitively have to reorganise a bit before we can go prepare dinner and go sleeping. The plan is to continue tomorrow to C2 at around 6400 m.
Today is a resting day, but Pemba is up to C1 with four bottles of oxygen to cache. The weather seems to improve slowly. This morning I hiked up to Crampon Point and toured MBC, just to keep a bit of activity and help acclimatisation. We have been promised WiFi in our part of MBC. If they get it working I might be able to send some photos.