DISPATCH #10 - MANASLU BASE CAMP
It looks as if the monsoon is going to keep its promise as
today, we awoke to a beautiful cloudless blue sky. We are keeping our fingers
crossed that this is going to be the norm from now on.
The most frequently used words on these Manaslu expedition
dispatches are snowfall and accumulation and I am using them both again today.
The latest news from Manaslu is pretty much the same as the previous week's
report apart from today's beautiful weather.
Another expedition has reported what they believe are traces
of a large avalanche that has destroyed Camp 2 located at 6,700 meters, as
seen through their scope. Fortunately, this campsite has been vacant for some
days and everyone is safe.
One team has a Camp 2 located on a small safe protected area
at 6,400 meters which is unaffected by the slides. This campsite is somewhat
small, hence the other teams avoiding the exposed slope near to it, and opting
for a higher campsite at the 6,700 meter level. I have personally not seen
this avalanche debris but the information comes from a very reliable source.
We believe that all climbers including all Sherpas are now
at Base Camp waiting out the terrible weather conditions that we are
encountering this season. Camp 1 has received another heavy snowfall
accumulation according to our Dutch friends Katja and Hank, who have just
returned from another night at Camp 1. The top of our Trango 3.1 tents are
just visible above the snow line, so we will have to send our Sherpas to Camp
1 tomorrow to dig out again and assess any further damage to our tents.
We send our thanks to Keith Sanford from the Canadian
Manaslu expedition for the email regarding the poor conditions we are
encountering. Keith's team attempted Manaslu last season and encountered
similar weather and we appreciate his advice on the conditions of the route
from Camp 1 to Camp 2. It seems as if this is not a new weather pattern for
Manaslu, and it is refreshing to see so many different teams working together
this season in the face of such adverse weather. We all have the same goal and
hope to achieve it safely.
I have been asked on several occasions if Manaslu can become
a popular 8,000-meter peak, say a new Cho Oyu, as all the new restrictions
placed on today's expeditions are making climbers look for other objectives.
It is a difficult question to answer with such bad weather at present on
Manaslu, but I am told from another reliable source that both Cho Oyu and
Baruntse are also experiencing extreme weather conditions this fall climbing
season. All I know at the moment is when we are fortunate enough to get a
clear view of the roof of Manaslu, it is beautiful, looks challenging but also
looks attainable for most.
DISPATCH # 9 - SEPTEMBER 25, 2008 - MANASLU BASE CAMP
We had planned to climb to Camp 1 this morning in
anticipation of making a carry to Camp 2 tomorrow. Yesterday, it snowed all
afternoon and last night we received another 6 inches of snow accumulation at
10 Sherpas from 2 separate commercial expeditions spent the
night at Camp 1 yesterday and they reported heavy snowfall with freshly deep
snow in the camp. These Sherpas contemplated moving higher but with the
consistent snowfall, they are staying in Camp 1 today and hoping to move
Today, it snowed all day at Base Camp and we are now just waiting for the
snow to stop. When it does and the conditions are safe, we will climb to Camp
1 again and then place our Camp 2 at 6,700 meters. It is going to be a long
day's climb from Camp 1 at 5,700 meters to 6,700 meters with fully loaded
packs. We have consulted Sherpas and climbers from the other remaining
expeditions and the general consensus is that a campsite at 6,400 meters is
deemed too unsafe this season with the present weather conditions.
This time we will have the company of our Sherpas, Pasang Gombu and Tarki,
on our next acclimatization climb, as they have been getting restless at Base
Camp with all the bad weather delays we have encountered so far. The monsoon
officially ends in Nepal September 25, I think, so we are hoping for a break
in the weather and a nice summit window in early October.
DISPATCH # 8 - SEPTEMBER 23, 2008 - MANASLU BASE CAMP
Our second full rest day at base camp sees glorious sunshine
for a brief moment before the snow clouds roll in. There was a mad dash to do
laundry, shower and shave before the temperature dropped once again. We are
now waiting for the snow to start falling lightly this afternoon and tomorrow,
the forecast predicts more snow.
The Sherpa Sirdars from the various expeditions are meeting
to decide on a plan for most groups to establish Camp 2 at between 6,400 and
6,700 meters. There has been a lot of snowfall above Camp 2 and we must all be
patient and allow the snow to consolidate before climbing higher. We are still
waiting for that last dumping of snow and the good weather to decide when to
A couple of expeditions have attempted Camp 2, but we are
unsure of their status, as during the recent storm many teams have damaged
tents at Camp 1. Due to the recent snowfall, they are unsure if they will even
be able to locate their campsites.
With the possibility of more bad weather hindering our
progress, we may decide on placing Camp 2 at 6,700 meters and high camp at
7,450 meters using 3 camps instead of the traditional 4.
The German commercial expedition is leaving to Kathmandu in
a few days as well as the French Canadian group. Some of the other commercial
groups are now also getting close to their departure dates and are deciding
whether to extend their expeditions and reschedule their return flights from
Kathmandu. We are not scheduled to be back in Kathmandu until October 20 at
the latest and we have the option to extend our expedition if needed. We think
this will be unnecessary as we are confident the weather will turn in our
favor with the conclusion of the monsoon drawing near.
I want to thank all those people who have sent messages of
encouragement to our team members. They are a tough bunch and are all looking
forward to getting higher on the hill.
DISPATCH #7 - SEPTEMBER 21, 2008 - MANASLU BASE CAMP
This morning the view from Camp 1 was fantastic with clear
blue skies and mountain views galore. It snowed again last night about 6
inches and the only visible tent around was the large Spanish dome that was
bent out of shape and had lost its dome appearance. Camp 1 had housed around
60 tents before the storm and now all that was visible was our footprints on
the flat campsite with all the tents buried. It was a surreal sight. We
estimate around 4 feet of snow had been dumped at Camp 1 in a 48 hour period.
Once again we broke trail and started to descend where we
met 8 Sherpas from Himalayan Experience at the halfway point to base camp.
They had the arduous task of breaking the trail for all the foreign
expeditions who were happy to stay behind in their foot stream. The lead
Sherpa was pleased that we had broken the trail for them on the steep sections
ahead and we were grateful that they had negotiated the crevasse section for
We passed many climbers ascending asking about the condition
of their tents at Camp 1 to which my reply was, "What tents? They are all
buried." We had lost one of our tents and this was constantly maintained by us
digging it out and so I am expecting there are a few broken poles and damaged
nylon once the Camp 1 excavation has been completed.
The weather forecast for the next few days predicts more
snow but at the moment we are all happy to be at base camp enjoying the
DISPATCH #6 - SEPTEMBER 20, 2008 - CAMP 1
We woke this morning to find our tents completely buried in
fresh snow. After coming out from inside the vestibule we cleared the tents to
review the damage caused by the 3 days of continuous snowfall, which had
dumped around 2-3 feet of snow. Unfortunately, 2 of our 3 tents have received
some damage and will need fly sheets and poles replacing. We have taken turns
when clearing the snow from the tents and all the tents in Camp 1 are now
buried completely by the heavy snowfall.
The weather forecast has mixed reports of improving and
worsening conditions over the next few days. Our Sherpas had hoped to climb to
Camp 1 this morning with Sherpas from other expeditions sharing the task of
breaking a trail, but the weather at base camp is similar to Camp 1. Meanwhile
we are content to sit and wait out the storm as we feel the conditions for
glacier travel down to base camp are still not ideal. We originally planned to
spend 5 nights away from base camp, so we still have plenty of food and humor
UPDATE - 4 PM
We heard through radio contact with base camp that 2 Western
climbers were heading towards Camp 1. With a slight lull in the snowfall, we
decided to descend and meet them halfway. We broke the trail, which was knee
to waist deep in some sections descending around 300 meters until reaching the
heavily crevassed section, where visibility once again became zero. There was
no sign of the 2 ascending climbers so using our GPS system and bamboo marker
wands we once again climbed back to Camp 1. We are now safely back at Camp 1
hoping for better weather tomorrow.
DISPATCH #5 - SEPTEMBER 19, 2008 - CAMP 1
What a difference a few days make on Manaslu. We made the
climb to Camp 1 on the 17th starting in beautiful weather conditions, which
turned to light snowfall just before we arrived at the camp. Overnight, it
snowed around 6 inches and the 18th saw more light snowfall all day. Our plan
was to spend 2 nights at Camp 1, and then climb to Camp 2 and spend the night
there on the 19th. This plan is obviously being aborted as the route to Camp 2
has received a lot of snow, around 1-2 feet, and the avalanche danger is too
high at the moment.
We had achieved our 2 nights acclimatization at 5,700
meters, so the morning of the 19th, we decided to descend to base camp. After
descending around 150 meters, we decided that the whiteout conditions and the
lack of visibility of the bamboo marker wands made it too dangerous to
continue. The trail had been completely obliterated and we made the climb back
to Camp 1 retracing our footsteps in a full scale blizzard.
We are all safe and sound at Camp 1 where we are sitting out
the storm. We have enough food and gas here for a week, but we are really
hoping for a break in the weather so we can have more of Sarki's cheesecake at
DISPATCH #4 - SEPTEMBER 16, 2008 - MANASLU BASE CAMP
Today we had a deserved rest day for the team as we all made
a carry to Camp 1 yesterday. The campsite is located 900 very cool meters
above and around 5 kilometers in length long ways from base camp. The weather
was overcast and at the crampon point it started to snow, which aided us later
in the day. The Sherpas will carry another load today to Camp 1 and will take
a rest day tomorrow.
We had another blanket of snow last night that dropped
another 4 inches at base camp. Our Sherpas are always so attentive and clear
the snow from the tents during the night to avoid any damage to our sleeping
tents. We have had a cumulative snowfall over the past few days. The
neighboring peaks keep us alert with their frequent small avalanches.
Weather permitting, we plan to all sleep at Camp 1 tomorrow
and after a couple of nights there, we will move to Camp 2 at 6,200 meters.
The line has now been established to Camp 2 by the earlier teams' Sherpas. We
may even climb to Camp 3 after spending a few nights at Camp 2 if all the team
DISPATCH # 3 - SEPTEMBER 14, 2008 - MANASLU BASE CAMP
Yesterday we reached Manaslu Base Camp at 4,800 meters. Last
night it snowed about 6 inches at base camp and today we will relax and make
our campsite as comfortable as possible as it will be out home for the next 30
Camp 1 has already been established by the earlier teams'
Sherpas. Camp 2 should be done in a few days, as the trail has been re-routed
from an earlier route, which was incorrect. Tomorrow we will hold our puja
ceremony and after that we will hopefully head up the mountain weather
We are all looking forward to getting our crampons on and
making a carry to Camp 1. The campsites on Manaslu are lower than both Cho Oyu
and Shisapagma, our usual autumn expeditions. So, we intend to use Camp 1 at
5,700 meters as our temporary advanced base camp. Weather permitting, we
should be able to leave for Camp 1 and Camp 2 respectively by the end of next
DISPATCH #2 - - SEPTEMBER 10, 2008 - SAMA GOAN
We have finally arrived at Sama Goan at 3530 meters where we
will spend 3 nights for cautious acclimatization. The trek to this point has
been truly amazing with warm temperatures and lush green fields. We traveled
from Kathmandu with 40 porters plus kitchen staff and climbing Sherpas in two
separate buses. We started our trek 15 kilometers outside of Arughat as this
was as far as the buses could travel due to the washed out roads.
The team and porters are strong so we decided to shorten the
trek by 2 days as the altitude gain was not really a problem until we reached
Sama Goan. Sarki, our Sherpa cook, has been keeping us well fed and insists we
break for a hot lunch each day. We take some time for the kitchen staff to
catch up with our speedy climbers. We quite enjoy our 3 hour lunch breaks.
Our team are all in good health and this year we have some
very experienced climbers. Stuart has summited Everest, Baruntse, Cho Oyu and
Gasherbrum II and many other smaller peaks. I was fortunate enough to climb on
Cho Oyu with Guntis back in 2005. Valerie has been a trekking guide for 25
years and has climbed many peaks including Stok Kangri 20 times.
We plan to arrive at Manaslu Base Camp on September 13 so we
will report back from there.
DISPATCH #1 - SEPTEMBER 1, 2008 - KATHMANDU
Welcome to the expedition dispatches from Altitude Junkies Manaslu Expedition
2008. Our team members are now starting to arrive in rainy Kathmandu for our
first expedition to to the 8,163-meter Manaslu. The new rules imposed by the
Chinese Tibet Mountaineering Association have made it very difficult for
expeditions with several different nationalities of climbers to obtain a
climbing permit. Also the new 5 business day Tibet group visa application
process makes all expeditions spend an extra week in Kathmandu, so we decided
to try the less climbed Manaslu.
Several other commercial expeditions also decided that the
new rules imposed were not worth the hassle so this year it seems as if
Manaslu has become the new Cho Oyu and will have some of the same familiar Cho
Oyu faces on it's slopes.
The Manaslu expedition team consists of Phil Crampton,
Guntis Brands, Valerie Parkinson and Stuart Smith. Our staff will consist of
climbing Sherpas Tarki Sherpa and Pasang Gombu Sherpa and we will have Sarki
Sherpa as our cook and his assistants.
We are scheduled to leave Kathmandu on September 4 for the
eleven day trek to Manaslu base camp and we hope you will follow our progress
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