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  Altitude Junkies Manaslu Expedition 2008: Update


DISPATCH #10 - MANASLU BASE CAMP

It looks as if the monsoon is going to keep its promise as today, we awoke to a beautiful cloudless blue sky. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this is going to be the norm from now on.

The most frequently used words on these Manaslu expedition dispatches are snowfall and accumulation and I am using them both again today. The latest news from Manaslu is pretty much the same as the previous week's report apart from today's beautiful weather.

Another expedition has reported what they believe are traces of a large avalanche that has destroyed Camp 2 located at 6,700 meters, as seen through their scope. Fortunately, this campsite has been vacant for some days and everyone is safe.

One team has a Camp 2 located on a small safe protected area at 6,400 meters which is unaffected by the slides. This campsite is somewhat small, hence the other teams avoiding the exposed slope near to it, and opting for a higher campsite at the 6,700 meter level. I have personally not seen this avalanche debris but the information comes from a very reliable source.

We believe that all climbers including all Sherpas are now at Base Camp waiting out the terrible weather conditions that we are encountering this season. Camp 1 has received another heavy snowfall accumulation according to our Dutch friends Katja and Hank, who have just returned from another night at Camp 1. The top of our Trango 3.1 tents are just visible above the snow line, so we will have to send our Sherpas to Camp 1 tomorrow to dig out again and assess any further damage to our tents.

We send our thanks to Keith Sanford from the Canadian Manaslu expedition for the email regarding the poor conditions we are encountering. Keith's team attempted Manaslu last season and encountered similar weather and we appreciate his advice on the conditions of the route from Camp 1 to Camp 2. It seems as if this is not a new weather pattern for Manaslu, and it is refreshing to see so many different teams working together this season in the face of such adverse weather. We all have the same goal and hope to achieve it safely.

I have been asked on several occasions if Manaslu can become a popular 8,000-meter peak, say a new Cho Oyu, as all the new restrictions placed on today's expeditions are making climbers look for other objectives. It is a difficult question to answer with such bad weather at present on Manaslu, but I am told from another reliable source that both Cho Oyu and Baruntse are also experiencing extreme weather conditions this fall climbing season. All I know at the moment is when we are fortunate enough to get a clear view of the roof of Manaslu, it is beautiful, looks challenging but also looks attainable for most.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH # 9 - SEPTEMBER 25, 2008 - MANASLU BASE CAMP

We had planned to climb to Camp 1 this morning in anticipation of making a carry to Camp 2 tomorrow. Yesterday, it snowed all afternoon and last night we received another 6 inches of snow accumulation at Base Camp.

10 Sherpas from 2 separate commercial expeditions spent the night at Camp 1 yesterday and they reported heavy snowfall with freshly deep snow in the camp. These Sherpas contemplated moving higher but with the consistent snowfall, they are staying in Camp 1 today and hoping to move higher tomorrow.

Today, it snowed all day at Base Camp and we are now just waiting for the snow to stop. When it does and the conditions are safe, we will climb to Camp 1 again and then place our Camp 2 at 6,700 meters. It is going to be a long day's climb from Camp 1 at 5,700 meters to 6,700 meters with fully loaded packs. We have consulted Sherpas and climbers from the other remaining expeditions and the general consensus is that a campsite at 6,400 meters is deemed too unsafe this season with the present weather conditions.

This time we will have the company of our Sherpas, Pasang Gombu and Tarki, on our next acclimatization climb, as they have been getting restless at Base Camp with all the bad weather delays we have encountered so far. The monsoon officially ends in Nepal September 25, I think, so we are hoping for a break in the weather and a nice summit window in early October.

Phil Crampton

 

DISPATCH # 8 - SEPTEMBER 23, 2008 - MANASLU BASE CAMP

Our second full rest day at base camp sees glorious sunshine for a brief moment before the snow clouds roll in. There was a mad dash to do laundry, shower and shave before the temperature dropped once again. We are now waiting for the snow to start falling lightly this afternoon and tomorrow, the forecast predicts more snow.

The Sherpa Sirdars from the various expeditions are meeting to decide on a plan for most groups to establish Camp 2 at between 6,400 and 6,700 meters. There has been a lot of snowfall above Camp 2 and we must all be patient and allow the snow to consolidate before climbing higher. We are still waiting for that last dumping of snow and the good weather to decide when to get on.

A couple of expeditions have attempted Camp 2, but we are unsure of their status, as during the recent storm many teams have damaged tents at Camp 1. Due to the recent snowfall, they are unsure if they will even be able to locate their campsites.

With the possibility of more bad weather hindering our progress, we may decide on placing Camp 2 at 6,700 meters and high camp at 7,450 meters using 3 camps instead of the traditional 4.

The German commercial expedition is leaving to Kathmandu in a few days as well as the French Canadian group. Some of the other commercial groups are now also getting close to their departure dates and are deciding whether to extend their expeditions and reschedule their return flights from Kathmandu. We are not scheduled to be back in Kathmandu until October 20 at the latest and we have the option to extend our expedition if needed. We think this will be unnecessary as we are confident the weather will turn in our favor with the conclusion of the monsoon drawing near.

I want to thank all those people who have sent messages of encouragement to our team members. They are a tough bunch and are all looking forward to getting higher on the hill.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #7 - SEPTEMBER 21, 2008 - MANASLU BASE CAMP

This morning the view from Camp 1 was fantastic with clear blue skies and mountain views galore. It snowed again last night about 6 inches and the only visible tent around was the large Spanish dome that was bent out of shape and had lost its dome appearance. Camp 1 had housed around 60 tents before the storm and now all that was visible was our footprints on the flat campsite with all the tents buried. It was a surreal sight. We estimate around 4 feet of snow had been dumped at Camp 1 in a 48 hour period.

Once again we broke trail and started to descend where we met 8 Sherpas from Himalayan Experience at the halfway point to base camp. They had the arduous task of breaking the trail for all the foreign expeditions who were happy to stay behind in their foot stream. The lead Sherpa was pleased that we had broken the trail for them on the steep sections ahead and we were grateful that they had negotiated the crevasse section for us.

We passed many climbers ascending asking about the condition of their tents at Camp 1 to which my reply was, "What tents? They are all buried." We had lost one of our tents and this was constantly maintained by us digging it out and so I am expecting there are a few broken poles and damaged nylon once the Camp 1 excavation has been completed.

The weather forecast for the next few days predicts more snow but at the moment we are all happy to be at base camp enjoying the elusive cheesecake.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #6 - SEPTEMBER 20, 2008 - CAMP 1

We woke this morning to find our tents completely buried in fresh snow. After coming out from inside the vestibule we cleared the tents to review the damage caused by the 3 days of continuous snowfall, which had dumped around 2-3 feet of snow. Unfortunately, 2 of our 3 tents have received some damage and will need fly sheets and poles replacing. We have taken turns when clearing the snow from the tents and all the tents in Camp 1 are now buried completely by the heavy snowfall.

The weather forecast has mixed reports of improving and worsening conditions over the next few days. Our Sherpas had hoped to climb to Camp 1 this morning with Sherpas from other expeditions sharing the task of breaking a trail, but the weather at base camp is similar to Camp 1. Meanwhile we are content to sit and wait out the storm as we feel the conditions for glacier travel down to base camp are still not ideal. We originally planned to spend 5 nights away from base camp, so we still have plenty of food and humor remaining.

UPDATE - 4 PM

We heard through radio contact with base camp that 2 Western climbers were heading towards Camp 1. With a slight lull in the snowfall, we decided to descend and meet them halfway. We broke the trail, which was knee to waist deep in some sections descending around 300 meters until reaching the heavily crevassed section, where visibility once again became zero. There was no sign of the 2 ascending climbers so using our GPS system and bamboo marker wands we once again climbed back to Camp 1. We are now safely back at Camp 1 hoping for better weather tomorrow.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #5 - SEPTEMBER 19, 2008 - CAMP 1

What a difference a few days make on Manaslu. We made the climb to Camp 1 on the 17th starting in beautiful weather conditions, which turned to light snowfall just before we arrived at the camp. Overnight, it snowed around 6 inches and the 18th saw more light snowfall all day. Our plan was to spend 2 nights at Camp 1, and then climb to Camp 2 and spend the night there on the 19th. This plan is obviously being aborted as the route to Camp 2 has received a lot of snow, around 1-2 feet, and the avalanche danger is too high at the moment.

We had achieved our 2 nights acclimatization at 5,700 meters, so the morning of the 19th, we decided to descend to base camp. After descending around 150 meters, we decided that the whiteout conditions and the lack of visibility of the bamboo marker wands made it too dangerous to continue. The trail had been completely obliterated and we made the climb back to Camp 1 retracing our footsteps in a full scale blizzard.

We are all safe and sound at Camp 1 where we are sitting out the storm. We have enough food and gas here for a week, but we are really hoping for a break in the weather so we can have more of Sarki's cheesecake at base camp!

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #4 - SEPTEMBER 16, 2008 - MANASLU BASE CAMP

Today we had a deserved rest day for the team as we all made a carry to Camp 1 yesterday. The campsite is located 900 very cool meters above and around 5 kilometers in length long ways from base camp. The weather was overcast and at the crampon point it started to snow, which aided us later in the day. The Sherpas will carry another load today to Camp 1 and will take a rest day tomorrow.

We had another blanket of snow last night that dropped another 4 inches at base camp. Our Sherpas are always so attentive and clear the snow from the tents during the night to avoid any damage to our sleeping tents. We have had a cumulative snowfall over the past few days. The neighboring peaks keep us alert with their frequent small avalanches.

Weather permitting, we plan to all sleep at Camp 1 tomorrow and after a couple of nights there, we will move to Camp 2 at 6,200 meters. The line has now been established to Camp 2 by the earlier teams' Sherpas. We may even climb to Camp 3 after spending a few nights at Camp 2 if all the team feel well.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH # 3 - SEPTEMBER 14, 2008 - MANASLU BASE CAMP

Yesterday we reached Manaslu Base Camp at 4,800 meters. Last night it snowed about 6 inches at base camp and today we will relax and make our campsite as comfortable as possible as it will be out home for the next 30 days.

Camp 1 has already been established by the earlier teams' Sherpas. Camp 2 should be done in a few days, as the trail has been re-routed from an earlier route, which was incorrect. Tomorrow we will hold our puja ceremony and after that we will hopefully head up the mountain weather permitting.

We are all looking forward to getting our crampons on and making a carry to Camp 1. The campsites on Manaslu are lower than both Cho Oyu and Shisapagma, our usual autumn expeditions. So, we intend to use Camp 1 at 5,700 meters as our temporary advanced base camp. Weather permitting, we should be able to leave for Camp 1 and Camp 2 respectively by the end of next week.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #2 - - SEPTEMBER 10, 2008 - SAMA GOAN

We have finally arrived at Sama Goan at 3530 meters where we will spend 3 nights for cautious acclimatization. The trek to this point has been truly amazing with warm temperatures and lush green fields. We traveled from Kathmandu with 40 porters plus kitchen staff and climbing Sherpas in two separate buses. We started our trek 15 kilometers outside of Arughat as this was as far as the buses could travel due to the washed out roads.

The team and porters are strong so we decided to shorten the trek by 2 days as the altitude gain was not really a problem until we reached Sama Goan. Sarki, our Sherpa cook, has been keeping us well fed and insists we break for a hot lunch each day. We take some time for the kitchen staff to catch up with our speedy climbers. We quite enjoy our 3 hour lunch breaks.

Our team are all in good health and this year we have some very experienced climbers. Stuart has summited Everest, Baruntse, Cho Oyu and Gasherbrum II and many other smaller peaks. I was fortunate enough to climb on Cho Oyu with Guntis back in 2005. Valerie has been a trekking guide for 25 years and has climbed many peaks including Stok Kangri 20 times.

We plan to arrive at Manaslu Base Camp on September 13 so we will report back from there.

Phil Crampton

DISPATCH #1 - SEPTEMBER 1, 2008 - KATHMANDU
Welcome to the expedition dispatches from Altitude Junkies Manaslu Expedition 2008. Our team members are now starting to arrive in rainy Kathmandu for our first expedition to to the 8,163-meter Manaslu. The new rules imposed by the Chinese Tibet Mountaineering Association have made it very difficult for expeditions with several different nationalities of climbers to obtain a climbing permit. Also the new 5 business day Tibet group visa application process makes all expeditions spend an extra week in Kathmandu, so we decided to try the less climbed Manaslu.

Several other commercial expeditions also decided that the new rules imposed were not worth the hassle so this year it seems as if Manaslu has become the new Cho Oyu and will have some of the same familiar Cho Oyu faces on it's slopes.

The Manaslu expedition team consists of Phil Crampton, Guntis Brands, Valerie Parkinson and Stuart Smith. Our staff will consist of climbing Sherpas Tarki Sherpa and Pasang Gombu Sherpa and we will have Sarki Sherpa as our cook and his assistants.

We are scheduled to leave Kathmandu on September 4 for the eleven day trek to Manaslu base camp and we hope you will follow our progress on this site.

Phil Crampton

 

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