After reaching the fore-summit of Broad Peak 8035m in just 3 weeks during the summer of 2021, the crazy and ambitious plan came to climb Manaslu 8163m in four weeks… in winter. A plan with little chance of success but the objective was to participate in a winter expedition to gain experience in these extreme conditions.
This expedition was organized by SevenSummitTreks who provided a Nepalese rope fixing team with 6 Sherpas led by Sherpa Chhepal for all attendees from Dec 15, 2021 until Feb 17, 2022;
Simone Moro (I) and Sherpa Pasang Rinzee, Alex Txikon (SP) with his three-man team; fellow climber Inaki Alvarez, cook Eneko Garamendi and photographer Sendoa Elejalde. Paula Strengell (FI) and Sherpa Ming Temba, Oswald Rodrigo Pereira (PL) making a documentary about this expedition, Stef Maginelle and Sofie Lenaerts (B) with Sherpa Dawa Chiri. The commitment of Dawa and Ming Temba was to strengthen the fixing team.
We knew in advance that we would need a lot of luck with the weather to be able to achieve this in such a short time and that’s why we already pre-acclimatized at home with hypoxic training/sleeping device. This allowed us to make use of the first good weather window.
Garmin’s inReach mini made it possible to track our progress https://share.garmin.com/SofieLenaerts
(In the blog you can read about these events per day with accompanying pictures)
Jan 1: Arrival at village Samagaon 3600m
Jan 2: 6hr climb to BC, 4800m
Jan 3: Acclimatization climb to 5300m – Alex does an avalanche test, turns out to be grade 5 … and everyone climbs higher the next day…
Jan 4 : climb to lower camp 1, 5700m
Jan 5 : climb to higher camp1, 5800m – depot – back to BC
Jan 6 : bad weather / snowfall
Dec 7: Bad weather / snowfall. Chhepal and Alex announce that everyone will descend to the village of Samagaon. A small Sherpa team stays in BC to protect the big tents from the snow, but the small tents are broken down. We are free to decide what to do but there would be a shortage of gas and food… Since everyone will leave BC due to the bad weather, we decide to descend with them. This proved to be a dangerous undertaking when we see an avalanche passing through the freshly fallen snow next to us. Sherpa team along with Simone take the lead down but Alex team with Chhepal do not follow.
Jan 8 : Inaki Alvarez and photographer Sendoa Elejalde descend on foot to Samagaon. Alex, Chhepal and Eneko take the helicopter from BC to Samagaon, pick up Simone and fly off to Kathmandu. Personally we don’t think it is a good strategy that “leaders” like Chhepal and Alex abandon their own team (and others). Simone, let us know from the start that he would follow his own traject, (so no problems with that), while Alex and Cheppal indicated before (and during the expedition) that they wanted to work together as a team.
Jan 9 : Dawa Chiri becomes the new temporary basecamp leader, but communication is very difficult due to a lack of telephony and internet problems in Samagaon.
Jan 10 : We are informed that a “powerful” avalanche has occurred in BC. The kitchen tent – supply tent and our tent are said to be damaged and the Sherpas are seriously impressed.
Jan 11 : The weather is nice and we’re going to see up to 4200m while we open the track back towards BC. To our great surprise, not much snow has fallen, a lot of snow has already melted and/or settled. We believe it may be possible to reach BC. We consult with the others who want to “try” while A,S,Ch are still comfortable in KTM… or Phokara or wherever…. Apparently there are also some private groups that demand the necessary attention from A., just like his daily Social media.
Jan 12 : We start very early and together with the Sherpa fixing team (without Pasang Rinzee) we manage to get back to the base camp! A tough climb where it is clear that most of the snow fell higher up and when we arrive BC turns out to be completely fine again. 🙏
Jan 13 : Since a longer period of good weather has arrived, we can’t resist opening the track to C1 again and going to look/feel the condition of the snow because in our opinion the added snow turns out to be much better than feared . Oswaldo and Stef lead the way and reopen the track to about 5300m… and the snow conditions are not too bad. We inform the others about the conditions and ask to join us.
Jan 14 : The meteo is very windy (not so good to return to C1) and there is bad communication… again. The Gentlemen (Simone, Alex, Chhepal) flew over C1 with the helicopter and then landed in Samagaon. They believe the conditions are bad and will not come to BC. Chhepal will not be joining his team and our team and says they have enough time until February. So there is no rush (for them) and therefore none of the Fixing Sherpas will climb higher. However, the weather is beautiful for the next few days. Weather forecast announced snow on the 18th, good weather on 19, but from the 20th it will be bad and uncertain for a longer period of time.
Jan 15 : We decide to go to C1 to see if we can get higher. Paula and MingTemba lead the way and want to go along to get material from C1 because Paula no longer believes a positive sequel. Oswaldo takes his drone to film. Dawa C will join us at C1 as the fixing team remains in BC but thinks C2 is not feasible. At the traverse, the snow does not stick to the icy surface, which means that crampons are needed. This was not the case last time, forcing Oswaldo, Paula and MingTemba to return. We (Stef, Dawa and myself) climb through what turned out to be a very tough undertaking because there is 1m50 of snow piled up until C1. We arrive around 4pm and need to dig out the depo to set-up the tents.
Jan 16 : We explore the ice-fall that makes us realize that we need more time and/or manpower and that a summit attempt is almost impossible in these circumstances. We return disappointed to C1 for the last night because on 20 December a longer period of bad weather with lots of snow and wind starts. Oswaldo has come to C1 and is taking drone footage again.
Jan 17 : return to BC. Our return flight is initially planned for the 27th, but of the 10 days remaining, there are at least 7 days of snow. Also due to the lack of cooperation with the “leaders” / fixing team, who have time until Feb, a passage to C2 is not realistic.
Jan 18 : Return to Samagaon with Paula, Dawa C, Oswald and Simone. Here we say goodbye to everyone. Paula, Dawa and we flew on to Kathmandu afterwards… with pain in our hearts.
A big thank you to SevenSummitTreks for the organization. The kitchen crew who gave the best all day/every day! Thank you Dawa Chiri for your enthusiasm, organization and work. With your flexibility (to take over when Chhepal was gone…) and positive mindset, you showed great responsibility!
Thank you Oswaldo for your great stories and effort on the mountain and behind the camera. We are looking forward to see your docu. It would be a pleasure to climbing together sometime. MingTemba & Paula for breaking trails towards C1… I suppose you can do it blindly now?! 😀
Thank you Karl Gabl and Kate for your support by helping us with the weather forecast for all these years. Simone for your the supply-support, talks & advices.
Our lesson learned? We couldn’t change the weather nor the timing, but we certainly can chance the way how. It’s better to climb with people you know, with the same mindset and same goal.