Tragedy has turned into triumph on the Himalayan peak of Manaslu this week. On Monday, several climbing teams successfully reached the summit of the 8156 meter (26,670 ft) mountain which was the site of a massive avalanche on September 23. That avalanche claimed the lives of more than a dozen climbers who had been preparing to make their own summit attempts when it struck their camp located at 7000 meters (22,965 ft).
Manaslu, which is the eighth highest mountain on the planet, is often used as a training ground for taller, more challenging mountains such as Everest. Traditionally climbers use their expedition to the Nepali peak to hone their skills while gaining valuable experience at high altitude. This fall Manaslu has seen more traffic than normal thanks to China closing the border into Tibet. That forced some teams to change their plans at the last minute and as a result, several of the top commercial guiding companies have been operating on Manaslu’s slopes this season.
Amongst the teams that successfully summited this week were the Altitude Junkies, who managed to put 15 climbers on top, and the Mountain Professionals, who reported a 100% summit success for their squad as well. The groups briefly celebrated their success at the top of the peak before starting the long descent back to their lower camps for a bit of rest and recuperation. For most of the climbers the summit was the culmination of more than a month of hard work and they’ll now start the long journey home.
These successful summits cap a tumultuous week on Manaslu. Last week’s disaster shook the climbers to their core with a number of individuals and teams electing to go home rather than risk heading back up into the danger zone. But for those who stayed, their patience and persistence was rewarded with good weather and more stable conditions on the mountain. Both of those factors contributed to a safe ascent.
Over the next few days several more teams are likely to summit Manaslu, but the fall climbing season is about to come to an abrupt end. Forecasts indicate that the jet stream is about to make its semi-annual shift over the Himalaya and when it does, the weather will take a turn for the worse. That means that the mountains will be off limits for the vast majority of teams until April when the very busy spring season begins.
By Kraig Becker
[Photo credit: Ben Tubby via WikiMedia]