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The Waiting Game is Almost Over

Two mountaineers navigating a glacier on a Gasherbrum II Expedition

The days since our last update have been challenging ones, but this time not due to hard climbing at high altitude. For the past 6 days, various storms have taken their turn hitting Manaslu’s slopes, and here at basecamp we have seen more than our fair share of snowflakes and whiteouts. With the exception of one day when our sherpa team re-established the route between BC and Camp 1 (and spent over an hour of digging per tent in order to rebuild camp!) we have been spending our hours, eating, drinking, reading, watching dvd’s, having snowball fights with neighbouring teams, and telling each other what we hope are entertaining stories. We have also put a good amount of collective brainpower towards solving the US banking crisis, and, most recently, into designing the perfect raft out of blue barrels in case we have to raft the river out of basecamp and back to civilization (untrue but pervasive rumours have been floating around camp that the Russian helicopter is broken down so alternate transport might be necessary)!

All things considered the days have passed quickly and the team has maintained good spirits, and it looks like this patience might just pay off in the upcoming week. While some teams on the mountain are out of time and had to leave to begin the long walk out, we are in position to begin our final summit push very soon. Today Russell spent the morning going over the oxygen systems we will use high on the peak, and discussing the seriousness of the upcoming endeavour. This talk is always an opportunity for each of us to focus in on the huge challenge we have ahead, and to make sure both our minds and bodies are at 100%.
So what is our upcoming challenge? We are currently sitting in BC at 4900 meters in what we hope are the final snow showers from the week’s storms. The upcoming forecast is hopeful – no more precipitation, and winds that should decrease over the upcoming days. The summit sits at 8167 meters, over 3,200 meters or 10,500 feet above us. We will use 4 camps between here and the summit, so are planning on 6 days of climbing and descending to reach the summit and arrive back in BC. This means quite heavy packs as we begin the push – each member will be carrying 6 days of food, down suits and layers, and their oxygen systems as they move up the mountain.
And of course the storms have left us with some uncertainties. From short windows of visibility yesterday and three days ago, lots of time glued to our spotting scope has left us uncertain whether our Camps 2 and 3 have been buried, flattened, or destroyed by avalanche. We also know that none of the route or fixed rope we have spent the last 3 weeks establishing is still visible. Hopefully the lines can be found and re-established quickly, but until we know how much snow has actually fell (rumours abound of neck deep snow and more, but since no one has stepped foot beyond Camp 1, this is all conjecture), it is all a guessing game.

So today the sherpas and Adrian will move to Camp 1 and spend the night, and then tomorrow, finally get out of camp and see what the conditions are really like. If avalanche conditions allow, our sherpa team are excited and ready to take on the hard work of re-establishing lines and digging out camps in order to prepare the route for our team’s summit attempt!

So stay tuned! If conditions allow, our team will be beginning their push for the summit in the upcoming days! Everyone on the team is excited, healthy, and raring to go.

-Adrian Ballinger, Himalayan Experience