Hard to believe it has already been two weeks since our Manaslu team met for the first time in Kathmandu. The last two weeks has been a whirlwind of organizing gear and people, and progressively moving from Kathmandu to Pokhara to Samagaon to Manaslu Basecamp, and finally onto the mountain itself. Here are a few highlights from these last fourteen days that now find us poised to begin sleeping and climbing high on the hill.
Kathmandu at the end of August was still rainy with the finish of the monsoon. But with almost no other tourists or trekkers yet in town, it was a great time to visit the famous Buddhist and Hindu temples like Bodhanath, Pashupatinath, and Syambunath. The 12 of us (9 members and 3 guides) also enjoyed as many great meals as we could before leaving. From there we used the first of numerous forms of transport to begin our approach to Manaslu. On August 30th we took a 30 minute plane ride in our own private team plane to the city of Pokhara. West of Kathmandu, Pokhara is much quieter, and was a great place to spend two days while waiting for the clouds to lift and rain to abate.
From the closest road, it takes seven hard days to trek into Manaslu basecamp, and we had heard from locals in the area that heavy rains meant the trail was washed out in numerous places, as well as being very muddy and frequented by countless leeches. Based on this information, we made the decision to fly by helicopter to the final village below Manaslu, Samagaon. And on our third morning in Pokhara, the clouds lifted and allowed us to fly. The 40 minute flight by Russian M-17 helicopter was stunning, if you could squeeze your way close to a window. Each of three flights for our team carried up to 2500 kilograms (5500 lb) of gear and people, so most of the windows were blocked by barrels, ladders, kit bags, or legs of yak – all of the supplies we would need for up to 5 weeks on the mountain.