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  Carlos Pauner : MANASLU 2009 SEEN AND UNSEEN


Picture copyright Carlos Pauner

Manaslu, Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SEEN AND UNSEEN

That’s how our departure to camp 2 on this mountain was, seen and unseen. We left at 6 in the morning and at 2 we were in camp 2 at 6,400 m of altitude. A lot of difference of altitude, yes, but also the satisfaction of avoiding one more day at camp 1 and this way we suffered one day less in the high altitude. Next day at 12 in the morning we were resting again at base camp. It was a quick and effective incursion. There are different styles about that. There are people who prefer to wander a lot of time in the high altitude, having their body adapt by suffering in the altitude and others like us who like to make specific incursions, very concrete, so that they stimulate the organism and after some rest and good feeding at base, such stimulus turns into acclimatization. In fact, I am happy to be a part of this system, because there has been an unexpected change in the weather and a lot of people were still around camp 1 and 2, they were surprised by the weather and they should be coming down right now with an important risk because of the large amount of snow accumulated during the night. The truth is that these mountains are dangerous and the less time you are on them, the better, because that reduces the possibilities that something would go wrong. Javier and I have made our objective of sleeping at camp 2 and we have all the materials there to install camp 3 on the next attack and even attempt the summit, depending how we are. So, now we are going to rest quietly for 4 or 5 days, letting our organism adapt to the new proposed situation and when we have favorable weather, we will go to camp 2 again, we will try to install camp 3 and we will consider the coveted summit. There is much left to do yet, but the truth is that it is all going ok so far, despite the large amount of snow that this mountain has this season. Not in vain there are a lot of people in this expedition and that forces the opening of the trail to be a constant job, because otherwise, it would have been very very hard to get to where we have been. Koreans, Italians, Andalucians, Japanese, etc. are swarming around base camp and with their daily traffic to the high altitude camps, the trail is well marked, although it is also truth that with a snowfall like the one we had last night, of almost 40 cm, everything is covered and a lot of work is spoiled. Well, that is how the mountain is. Short periods of good weather seasoned by nightly snowfalls, which are the main difficulty with which we are going to fight on this Manaslu of 2009.

For the moment, and according to the conditions, the plan is going fine so far.

Carlos Pauner

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Manaslu, Monday, April 20, 2009

CAMP 2: Today at five in the morning, Carlos, Javier and Alberto left base camp.  Alberto stayed at camp 1, and Carlos and Javier climbed to install camp 2 at 6,400 meters of altitude.  They will spend the night there and tomorrow morning they will start their descent to go back to base camp.  There was a lot of snow and they were tired, but they were fine and the weather was good.

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Manaslu, Saturday, April 18, 2009: THE SUN SHINES AGAIN  

In fact, it stopped snowing today and a shy sun has shown, which turned into a crushing sun as the day went by.  Our spirits, a little down because of the recent events, were reinforced as the sun went on shining. We suffered a little delay, when we could not keep our objective of sleeping at camp 2, but really, the decision of going down was good.  We don’t have to goof with this mountain and even less when it is loaded with snow. All day today there have been endless little avalanches on the slopes that surround our base camp, because of the heat on the layers of fresh snow.  It is not hard to see that the same thing is happening all over the mountain.  According to the forecasts, which we don’t trust much lately, there are going to be 3 more days of good weather.  We’ll see if that is true and if we can install our camp two in this period of weather bonanza.  Besides, there is not much news.  We poked our heads out from the snow and we watch the sun with happiness and hope.  We also celebrated the arrival of the doctors from Zaragoza, José Ramón Morandeira and Doctor María Antonia Nerín, good friends who are going to share our base camp with us for quite a while.  They had work on their way and now they check our health and that of the 12 members of our expedition.  They are fine, ready to go and sure that we will enjoy good moments on these snowy slopes of Manaslu.  It looks that calm is coming to an end and action comes again.  It’s good, because it is known that too much rest softens the muscles and the spirit, and that way we keep in a certain state of activity which is better for us.  Let’s hope that we reach our objectives in the next days. 

Carlos Pauner 

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Manaslu, Friday, April 10, 2009

UNDER THE WHITE RAGE OF MANASLU

The worst that I feared in these days has happened.  From the last
chants of the Puja, the snow has been our constant companion during day and night.  It has fallen hard, heavily and we could hardly get it off our tents.  As I say, this situation resulted in what could have been our end.  Yesterday at mid afternoon, without seeing anything, we felt as if a tremendous explosion of wind and snow reached us.  A great avalanche of powder snow, probably the front end of another much larger one which stopped on the way, surprised us at our base camp, involving us in 1 or 2 minutes of a hell of wind and snow.  The mess tent exploded and threw the kitchen aid flying.  We could grab the mast of the tent, holding for the tremendous impact and feeling during that eternal lapse of time how the snow went into our lungs and prevented us from breathing.  Suddenly everything ended and we could confirm that everything was swept.  We yelled to find out the luck of each one of us, but Minma specially worried me, because I couldn’t see or hear him.  In the beginning I thought that he was buried after flying and I began to dig in the snow like crazy.  Finally I could hear his voice, far, coming to us from the place where he was thrown. What a tremendous happiness to see him and finally know that everybody without exception had survived such a wild hit.  The view of the place was daunting.  Several ripped tents, everything covered by snow, even tent masts broken in pieces.  But that didn’t matter now.  We had to do something, because it was still snowing and we feared another deadly avalanche.  I didn’t think it twice.  I called Mario, my Italian friend who is camping nearby in a zone that was not affected by this avalanche and I told him what had happened.  He didn’t hesitate and he took us all for this sad night.  We could not stay in the same place waiting for another hit.  It was a tense night, listening for the rumor of other avalanches, thinking about the luck we have of being still alive on this mean mountain.

At sunrise, it stopped snowing.  We went down to our camp and during a few hours we dug everything out.  In the end, the balance is not as bad as we expected and we could recover almost all the important things.  Some tents will not work anymore and we have some damaged equipment, but this morning, under the sun, we could be happy again. We are going to rest calmly, without giving up to Manaslu, conscious that the situation has turned very dangerous and that we have to take a lot of precautions.  Manaslu has showed us its strength, its rage and we can only be happy of having survived again in a situation which was not only unexpected but dangerous.  The scare will fade out, beautiful climbing days will come I hope and from here my gratitude and the gratitude of my people to the Italians, directed by Mario Merelli, for his hospitality and friendship.  Grazie mille.

Carlos Pauner

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Manaslu, Thursday, April 9, 2009

AVALANCHE AT BASE CAMP IN MANASLU

This afternoon at three thirty (Spain time) Carlos called from his
satellite phone.  His first words were: be calm, the three of us are
OK, in perfect shape, there has been an avalanche at base camp.
Carlos, Pérez and Alberto were in the tent where they have the
computers, trying to send a piece of video to Aragón Televisión, when they were surprised by the avalanche.  They were really scared, because it all happens in a second, and then chaos comes.  The first thing to do was to see that they were all ok, the three of them, the two French, the cook and the porters...  They were all ok.  Running, with fear of a second avalanche they climbed to the zone where the Italians are located, which was not affected.  The leader of this Italian expedition is Mario Merelli, friend of Carlos’ and a teammate in previous expeditions, among them Kanchenjunga.  He received everybody, and they will spend the night anyway they can.  Tomorrow they will go to their camp and see what they can recover, because everything was covered by the avalanche and they think that part of their materials and things have been damaged.

Carlos called today, around noon here, and he told me of his worries,
because since they arrived to base camp last Sunday, it hadn’t stopped snowing heavily.  They had to shovel snow around their tents for several nights, because if they didn’t, they would be totally covered. Manaslu is a very dangerous mountain when it snows a lot, and that is what is happening now.  That’s why they are unhappy and now with a big scare.  Let’s hope that the weather conditions of the next few hours
are more favorable.

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Manaslu, Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SNOWING IN CAMP 1

Carlos, Javier and Alberto are in Camp 1. They climbed with the idea of sleeping there and climb tomorrow morning up to camp 2, mount it, and depending on the weather, spend the night for another notch on their acclimatization. But against what the forecasts said, it started to snow a lot this afternoon. Depending on the weather, they will decide if they climb tomorrow to camp 2, or if they go down to the safety of base camp. Let’s hope it stops snowing so that they can continue.

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Earlier: Manaslu, Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NEW CAMPS AND NEW TEAMMATES

After the diverse scares because of the accumulated snow and the
avalanches, it looks like the weather is more stable.  We have let
some sunny days pass so that the mountain purges its unstable layer of snow and two days ago we took off upwards.  The objective, obviously, is to install camp 1 at an altitude of 5,750 m. and then go down.  All went perfect and since we had good conditions we could film and shoot pictures.  In some 4 hours and a half we arrived to that mound of snow, at the bottom of the most inclined part of the wall.  It looks like a very safe location, although from there to camp 2 it looks like things get complicated.  Going down was really fast and in a little time we were back at base camp, resting after the effort.  We met our newly arrived new teammates there: Radek, a Czech with whom we have met in some other mountain and 4 Iranians, really young and funny. Only one of them speaks a little English and it is going to be the first experience on a 8,000 meter mountain for all of them.  One of them is very religious and he prays in the direction of Mecca everyday with fervor, although the first day he had his direction a little askew (just to the other side) and after we told him, he was a little disconcerted at first for a long time, and after consulting with his partners he corrected the drift of his prayers and we all laughed a lot.  We had a good time.  From then Pérez has baptized me as “Mulah Pauner” because of my interest in the prayers.  Today the weather is still fine and we have not had any significant news.  We have been living at base camp of over a week at 5,000 meters and we could mount camp 1.  After these days of rest, we plan to climb again to camp 1
tomorrow, with the intention of sleeping there, to continue, if the weather permits, the day after up to the location of camp 2 at 6,500 m.  But well, plans are plans and we have to see how things are going. We will now prepare our things and we will concentrate on giving this important step in this expedition, in the days ahead.  We are very excited, because the weather has been good to us and we just want it that way for a couple of days more and advance in the proper way with the acclimatization.  We’ll tell you more after we come back down.  Carlos Pauner

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Manaslu, Sunday, April 12, 2009

CAMP I: Today, Sunday, at 6 in the morning, Carlos, Pérez and Alberto have left to camp I.  They made it to the camp.  After climbing for four hours and a half, they reaced camp I, at 5,800 meters of altitude. They installed it, rested and turned around to base camp.

There were several groups climbing to camp I today, which has been
convenient while opening the trail, because there was a lot of snow
after the great snowfalls of the recent days.

Now the rest at base camp.  If the weather is good, their plan is to
rest for two days at base, and then leave to camp I, sleep there, and on the next day climb to install camp II, and descend to rest at base.

Today, the Iranians who are part of the expedition commanded by Carlos have come to base.  Other expeditions have come during these last days, so practically all the groups attempting Manaslu are already at base camp.

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Manaslu, Tuesday, April 7, 2009

PUJA, SNOW AND MORE SNOW

I wake up lazily inside my sleeping bag. It takes a little time to see where I am. Let’s see, oh, ok, it is true, I am at base camp in Manaslu. Once this spiritual thing is surpassed, another doubt comes to me. Why is there no light, now that the day has arrived? Oh, that’s what I was afraid of, we are covered by a nice layer of fresh snow. I shake the tent and a dim morning light appears. I exit little by little and I dedicate my first efforts to dig our tent out from the snow that fell during the night. There is more than a meter and a half and it looks like the day is going to continue like this.

When we arrived to base camp, a couple of days ago, the weather was splendid and we could see the whole figure of Manaslu. From Sama, we climbed the 1,400 m of altitude difference that separated us from this place which is located at 4,900 m of altitude, in a little more than 4 hours. We installed everything provisionally and we decided to spend that first night in the high altitude. Yesterday, a proper day according to the lamas of the Samagon monastery, we had the Puja ceremony. It all went normally. A lama and his assistant came up from the monastery at daybreak, with all the paraphernalia that is needed for the ceremony, mantras, dishes, recipients, incense and tsampa. On our part, we had already built an altar of stones decorated with prayer flags and we had prepared the offering of food and drinks. Sitting in front of the altar and after the figures that are made with tsampa and butter are placed there, and the offering, the ritual chants started and then the deaf sounds of the prayers. They pray for protection on the mountain, so that there are no accidents, and for the gods that live in these high places so that they are benevolent and let us reach the summit and come back safe from up there. The different phases of the ceremony went by and at the end, all standing up, we threw rice and flour to the air as an offering. Then the meal of the good food concluded this ceremony which was one of the longest I have ever seen in my life. Almost four hours. However, it looks like the correlation between duration and effectiveness, for the moment and with reserves, is not totally lineal. With the last compasses of the Puja, it started to snow, at first it was imperceptible, but then it was heavy and hard. So we had our first hours at base camp this way. We have accumulated a lot of snow and we suppose it will be the same up there. So for now, tranquility. It has to stop snowing and then all that amount of snow has to be purged little by little. Manaslu is a very dangerous mountain with snow, so we have to watch this closely. We will use this medicine which is so much used in these places and which we sadly know too well, patience.

Carlos Pauner

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Manaslu, Friday, April 3, 2009

CLOSE TO MANASLU

Today we arrived to Samagon.  At last we will be able to see Manaslu and watch our objective face to face.  We have been wandering these valleys of Nepal for a week, with no other objective than to get closer to our mountain.  Town after town, stage after stage we have been advancing through this valley of no human dimensions.  We have passed the barrier of 3,000 meters and little by little we are leaving behind towns and some mountains.  These days have been surprising, because of the infinity of different and beautiful locations we have crossed. The road is wisely built, it goes though walls of rock, labor camps, pine woods, wild brooks and along the way we have met people walking who are the life of these places.  As time goes by, human presence decreases and little by little we have gone into the inner Manaslu.  We have also left behind Hinduism and all the towns we pass in this last stage have distinctions of Tibetan culture, with beautiful flags and chortens that show their Buddhist religion in these high valleys of Nepal.

In Samagon we are going to rest for one day and to organize ourselves a little.  We will change porters, because it is mandatory to hire those who live in this town, so that they take advantage of our last stage to base camp.  Those who have come with us until here will turn around, not without getting paid and with some extra tip and we will go back to the ritual of dividing loads among the new ones.  In one or two days we will reach base camp, but before we will also rest a little of this activity of the last days and we will visit the zone to contemplate the magnificent Buddhist monuments of this town.  The truth is that we are willing to stop a little, to stop being trekkers of the valley, to see our mountain and to be closer to our definitive camp.

We have a good impression of this approach, long, beautiful and
surprising.  We still have much left, but with no doubt, we are
already submerged into the domains of Manaslu, a little visited region
with a lot to show.

Carlos Pauner

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Manaslu, Wednesday, April 1, 2009

HALFWAY

We are in the middle of the trekking which will take us to base camp
in Manaslu.  We have walked for four days, always following the same
valley to the north, going by extraordinary places.  Despite the
numerous trekkings I have made on the Himalayas, this can be qualified
as one of the best because of its beauty, spectacular views and
loneliness.  Everything goes well so far, we walk around six or seven
hours a day.  In a couple of days we will arrive to the closest city
to base camp, Samagon, located at 3,300 meters of altitude.  Once
there, we will rest for one day and in other two more days of trekking
we will reach base camp.  The weather has improved a little.  The
storms of the first days have given way to very clear skies.  During
the morning we walked pretty good, and by the afternoon we had a lot
of heat, because the altitude we are at is still low, some 2,000
meters.  Our life has become a routine.  We get up at six in the
morning, take breakfast and prepare the loads for the porters, who are
going faster.  We are going slower, filming, shooting pictures, and
enjoying these spectacular landscapes of Nepal.  From time to time we
stop in a little town to take a soda and at noon we stop for a couple
of hours for lunch.  During the afternoon we walk some three hours
more, until we get to our destiny.  We place the tents and after
dinner we go to bed early with the last lights of the day.  The last
to stages that are left before Samagon are harder than the precedent,
longer and with more difference in altitude.  The valley narrows a
lot, and in occasions the road goes through parts that have been
excavated in the rock.  There is less life in the valley as we
advance, less towns and little by little we enter the environment of
high mountain.

We want to get there, to be able to settle definitively in a place and
stop being nomads over these valleys of the Himalayas.  However, we
know that we still have to wait.  Manaslu is waiting for us, lonely,
isolated, and we still have not seen it face to face.  So, be calm, we
will enjoy this trip knowing that each day we have a little less
distance to reach our destiny.  We will surely miss these green and
idyllic landscapes and nice temperatures later.  We will get into a
very different world, surrounded by ice, cold and immerse in our
peculiar adventure.  So until then, we will continue step by step.

Carlos Pauner

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera
 

Manaslu, Saturday, April 4, 2009

AT THE BOTTOM OF MANASLU

We have finally arrived to the bottom of Manaslu.  We are in Samagon, a large stage away from base camp still, but we can see the mountain in all its glory.  From this beautiful Tibetan town we can see almost all the 5,000 vertical meters of snow and ice, until that tip hanging from the sky at 8,163 m. of altitude.  It looks impossible to be up there.  Let's not rush.  For the moment, we still have to climb to
base camp at 4,900 m. of altitude and do a lot of things.  Here in
Samagon, we had to fire all our porters because it is mandatory to
hire the locals, all of them Tibetans.  That forced us to organize the
loads, because the new ones are a little fussier and they don't
tolerate one more kilo.  Once this was done, we went to visit an old
Buddhist monastery nearby and we had the luck to be there for the
morning ceremony, full of taste and color.  We drank Tibetan tea,
threw rice as an offer and we managed to get the assistance of the
lama at our camp in a few days to make the ceremony of the Puja.  It has been a sunny morning, with a little wind, covered by the mantras and sounds of the monastery and always under the look of the mountain of the spirit, Manaslu.  It was also a different day, from the point of view that we didn't have to walk as all these previous days.  On the contrary, tomorrow we will have the hardest stage of this approach.  We have to climb the 1,500 m that separate us from the current 3,400 m. to the 4,900 m. of the definitive base camp.  It is going to be hard, not just because of the difference of altitude, which is indeed important, but because we will move all the time around 4,000 m and because we don't have the proper acclimatization yet, we will have to suffer a lot over these steep slopes.  Probably the first night at base camp will also be hard, because such a drastic climb will cost us on that first night.  However, there is not much to think.  There is not a good intermediate place for our porters'
caravan and it is wiser to get there with all the loads in perfect
conditions up to the definitive location, instead of leaving part on
the way, because they only want to do it in one stage.   So, we will
try to rest the most we can in the few hours we have left, because we will have fun tomorrow.

Despite this spiritual inconvenience, everything else is going
perfectly.  We have our loads in perfect shape, we could film very
nice scenes and we have enjoyed a beautiful trekking that is about to end.  In a few hours we will be crossing that threshold that divides the life of the valley from the life on the high mountain.  We will become inhabitants of the moraine again and although suffering because of the altitude, we will soon get used to our new situation.  I will tell you more later. Carlos Pauner

 

 

 

Manaslu, Tuesday, March 24, 2009

FINALLY… MANASLU

Finally… Manaslu, with its 8,163 meters, that is Carlos’ objective for this spring. Yesterday at 16:30 Carlos, with his climbing friend Javier Pérez, left to Katmandu in an Aeronia airplane, the airline where Carlos is a partner. With Carlos as a pilot, the flew to Madrid where they took a flight to Qatar, where they would connect to Katmandu.

They arrived at 5 in the afternoon, Nepal time. Now they have two days of paperwork ahead and it is expected that on Friday the 27th they will start trekking for 8 days to get to base camp in Manaslu. It is planned that they will install three high altitude camps, the last one at 7,400 meters. The forecasts say that there could be a possible summit between April 27 and May 5.

This year there are a lot of expeditions that will join base camp at Manaslu. On their arrival to Katmandu, they were confirmed that their expedition has twelve climbers. Among them French, German, Iranian climbers and Carlos and Javier. Carlos will be the chief of the expedition group.

We will tell about their progress here, wishing them luck, success and sending them a lot of support.

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

Manaslu, Friday, March 27, 2009

TOWARDS MANASLU

Katmandu receives us again with its mixed life. Noise, smells and colors bring us beautiful memories, although we don’t forget that our stay here is brief and that we have a lot of things to do. We picked up our cargo from customs, which we sent several days ago. We have checked the things, the tents, the food and equipment. We have also made the last shopping around the city and everything is going fine so far. Or course, we went to the Ministry of Tourism for the signature and the permit to climb Manaslu. We are going to be a big group, two French, two German, four Iranians, one Czech and three Spanish. Yes, that’s right, three. Alberto Sanmartín, from Zaragoza who planned to go this spring to Cho Oyu, has changed plans because bureaucratic matters with the Chinese and decided to join our team. He is a good friend, who has already been with me at Broad Peak in 2007 and wants to try his luck on this mountain of spirits.

After all this messy paperwork, which as chief of the expedition I had to do it, we are ready to go. We will take a vehicle to Arugat and from there we will start our journey to base camp. It will take us 9 days of march along the valleys of this beautiful region. We will change our chip these days and we will be able to relax a little, with no paperwork to do and with no rush. We will enjoy this trip and little by little we will get into the landscape of the high mountain. We can’t complain. Everything is going as planned and we are fine, knowing that everything has been taken care of. We plan to arrive to base camp around April 7 and from there we will install our little home which will shelter us during almost a month. I am excited, wishing to climb up to the summit of Manaslu and take one more step on this fascinating project of the Himalayas. So long Katmandu. We will be back, tired, darker, skinnier and I hope happier with the success of our summit. Our peculiar adventure begins.

Carlos Pauner

Translated from Spanish by Jorge Rivera

 




 

 

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