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Himex Newsletter 10 – Manaslu 2010

Two mountaineers navigating a glacier on a Gasherbrum II Expedition
Monica and Billi giving Pieter's head a scrub.JPG
Rene, Pieter, Ellen and Alan at campon point on Sunday.JPG

Here comes the rain again

Despite Phurba Tashi’s prediction for better weather with the Buddhist calendar having moved from summer to autumn a couple of days ago, we are still stuck at base camp waiting for the precipitation to finally come to an end. “Well, at least it stopped raining,” said Alan when we woke up to heavy snowfall on Sunday morning.

As stated in the last newsletter, we were supposed to move up to Camp I on Saturday, but the weather and the snow conditions further up did not allow us to do so. “The Sherpas went to Camp I on Saturday morning and they were wading through thigh-deep snow,” said Russell. It took the strong Sherpa crew a lot longer than usually to reach the higher camp and apparently the trail they had broken on the way up had already disappeared a few hours later when they were coming down. “The big Sherpa tent at Camp I has collapsed and some of the poles of the member tents were broken but the Sherpas managed to fix everything and save all the material,” he continued.

Manaslu is known for its continuous and heavy snowfall and many mountaineers, who were attempting to climb the eighth highest mountain in the world this spring, told me that it had snowed almost every single day. And according to the Himalayan Database, nobody managed to reach the summit last season. The mountain is also notorious for swallowing a lot of climbing material, and several teams have lost thousands of dollars worth of equipment on its slopes over the years. “A Slovenian guy asked me to look for his tent that he had lost on the mountain last year but I don’t think there is the slightest chance of finding it,” a member of another expedition said.

It is amazing though how well the Himex team is taking this bad weather period as everyone is still in good spirits. Russell, Aaron, Alan and Woody are spending most of their days playing cards only to be interrupted by a quick game of cricket in the pouring rain. These impromptu outbursts of cricket activities are in preparation for the big match when the Himex team will challenge another expedition once the cricket pitch has dried out. “We are playing for a bottle of whiskey but I am not sure we can take away the bottle of the other team, as they have only one,” said Adrian, feeling pretty convinced that Himex will win the game as the other team has no idea that we have a serious pro in our ranks.

The Sherpas are also taking part in the cricket and the younger ones, who have probably played cricket at the Kumjung School (the first school Edmund Hillary built in the Khumbu), were doing pretty well whereas the older ones were struggling to hit the ball with the strangely shaped cricket bat. Unfortunately, every cricket match is followed by flattening the pitch and Russell has no mercy with either Sherpas or members and everyone has to move rocks in the pouring rain to keep the pitch neat and tidy.

Sunday Hairdressing

On Sunday morning after breakfast, there was a brief spell of dry weather and Monica and I grabbed the opportunity to offer some hair washing to our members and Sherpas. “I feel so clean. This is almost like having a proper shower,” said Pieter after having been shampooed, while Phurba Tashi only allowed us to pour water over his head. “No, no – don’t put shampoo on my hair,” he shrieked when Monica approached him with the shampoo bottle. “My hair only takes soap,” he said massaging his head.

A little bit later in the morning, Mat, Matthew, Alan, Pieter, Rene, Ellen and I decided to go for a short walk up to crampon point to blow away the cobwebs. The snow was pretty heavy and deep and once we had reached crampon point, we saw that our barrels,, where we stored crampons, harnesses and ice axes, were halfway covered in snow. “If the snowfall continues, I will have to wear my crampons for this section of the climb,” said Matthew on his way up. “It does not bode well that our barrels are halfway covered in snow as low as crampon point, however, the weather forecast is looking much better for Monday,” said Adrian when we returned for lunch.

Now we are all hoping that this time the weather gods will be kind to us and let us go further up the hill. But according to our guides and Russell, we will need a full day of sunshine for the masses of snow that have been building up to come down before we can brave the slopes up to Camp II. “I am learning a lot on this expedition, especially patience,” said Ellen and I can only agree with her. However, as the waiting game is also a big part of climbing Mount Everest, Manaslu is still a good preparation for the highest mountain in the world. At the moment, it may be more of a mental rather than a physical challenge, but this is certainly equally important for high altitude mountaineering.

Despite the slight delay there is still enough time to climb the mountain and we are all positive that there will be a weather window big enough for us to finish our acclimatisation process and finally climb the mountain.