Manaslu is the 8th highest peak in the world in the remote Gorkha region of Nepal.
Himex has traditionally operated its autumn season trips to Cho Oyo, but due to recent changes in the reliability of access to Tibet, we have decided to operate on Manaslu in Nepal. When we first went to Cho Oyo, there were very few teams there, but we pioneered new ways to make Cho Oyo safer and successful.
Manaslu is a new challenge, but we found that we can be just as successful as on Cho Oyo, and in our opinion, this is a better training mountain for Everest than Cho Oyo.
The trip starts with a flight by helicopter from Kathmandu directly to Samagon 3,780m, a small but progressive village set in a lush valley directly below Manaslu. We will spend 3–4 days camping here, doing acclimatization walks into adjacent side valleys.
The trek to Base Camp (4,665m), is up a steep path passing through rhododendron trees adjacent to spectacular hanging glaciers and rugged icefalls. The Base Camp is in a comfortable position on rock, which is protected from strong winds, but because of its particular location is susceptible to daily snowfalls as the valley cloud happens to condense at this altitude.
There is a short walk of one hour over loose rock to the snout of the Larkya glacier, where we will make crampon point. It takes 2–3 hours to climb through the sometimes quite broken glacier to Camp 1 (5,500 m). This may require being roped in traditional glacier travel mode, although it may be possible to fix all potentially dangerous crevasse areas. The method of travel may change during the course of the expedition depending on snow conditions. Camp 1 is situated in a comfortable col.
From here, we climb up towards a massive icefall, but in fact pass underneath this to gain a steep snow slope that will be fixed with rope up to Camp 2 (6,300 m), which is situated in one of the sheltered hollows produced by the series ice cliffs on the route. This is a strenuous day, taking approximately 5–6 hours.
We have elected to put four camps on Manaslu, so the trip from Camp 2 to Camp 3 (6,700m) is not quite so strenuous at 3–4 hours and travels through a series of snow shelves before ascending a steeper snow slope to reach a large col with spectacular views of the surrounding peaks.
From here, the route goes directly up the steeper northeast slopes, passing through a series of short ice bulges to reach an upper snow slope, which leads to a traverse to Camp 4 (7,300m), 4–5 hours.
The summit, which has been elusive since Samagon, is deceptively close. However, it is still a long day up rolling snow slopes, with short, steep sections at times, and this could be in deep snow. Just below the true summit, at 5–6 hours, there is a comfortable place to stop and is where many people do stop. It is our intention to have enough rope, oxygen and time to push a fixed line up the last corniced, unstable ridge, so long as this is safe at the time. Although this is only 50m vertically and 150m horizontally, this will take about one to one and a half hours, return.
The descent is fast and easy, reaching Camp 4 in 1–2 hours. It is best to return to Camp 2 on the same day, another 2–3 hours for a well-earned rest. With a late start from Camp 2, it is possible to be back at Base Camp for a late lunch.
It will take 1–2 days to clear the mountain of camps before the descent to Samagon. As we are dependent upon clear weather for the helicopter ride back to Kathmandu, we must allow for 1–2 days of waiting in Samagon. The 1 ¼ hour flight directly back to Kathmandu is an exhilarating experience. As this trip is very weather dependent for flying and snow dependent on the mountain, We have decided to arrive relatively early after the monsoon to take advantage of any clear, calm periods for acclimatisation to Camp 2. But we have added an extra week to the traditional Cho Oyo expedition in order to have time if there are large snowfalls.