Manaslu Avalanche Report 3pm

The Himalayan Ascent team arrived safely back in Kathmandu on September 27th via helicopter from Samagoan. You can read details about the avalanche that occurred on Manaslu September 23rd 2012 on many expedition websites and climber blogs. This is just a summary from the Himalayan Ascent perspective about the events surrounding the avalanche.

Climbing Manaslu carries considerable avalanche risk, it’s a factor known by all who climb it. The days leading up to the avalanche, the mountain and base camp endured a storm that dropped metres of fresh snow including on its avalanche prone slopes. Wary of this, many teams were slow to restart rotation or summit bids after the storm passed. Eventually by September 21st most expeditions were back on the mountain but were ever watchful of the conditions. Unfortunately, no one anticipated that it would be seracs from 7400m ~4.15am to be the trigger for a colossal avalanche that swept down and over Camp 3 (6800m). The 31 people at Camp 3 were caught sleeping in their tents.

The 30-35 tents and some 100-150 people at Camp 2 (6400m) were saved by 3 large crevasses that consumed most of the avalanche debris above the campsite. Wind and snow piling over tents woke up most people at Camp 2. Angkaji and Anders’ tent was pushed about 1m forward, whilst Lakpa and Chris did well to keep their tent from collapsing. Once it became clear that the avalanche had directly hit Camp 3, Lakpa and Angkaji left to assist in rescue at 4.30am joining guides from other expeditions. What they found was the remains of Camp 3 pushed off its ledge to some 300m below, with tents, gear, bodies and survivors scattered haphazardly along the slope. Lakpa stayed at Camp 3 supporting helicopter rescue and body recovery. He worked with others to search and pull out bodies. Angkaji returned to Camp 2 to guide Chris and Anders back to the safety of base camp, where Sumit and the cook team welcomed them with relief. From base camp, Sumit assisted where he could working with the main rescue operation based at Himalayan Experience. Along with other guides, he listened into different radio frequencies to ascertain and monitor the rescue above. Once all the injured were airlifted for medical attention and when weather prevented further transfer of bodies, Lakpa returned to base camp to join the team. Later that afternoon, a meeting was held to confirm the numbers missing or dead, by accounting team numbers from every expedition. They also decided to send a team of international and national guides on helicopter surveillance the next day to scout for those missing. Lakpa joined the team. On September 24th from an aerial view, Lakpa observed the extent of the avalanche and examined the seracs that could potentially trigger further avalanches. Unfortunately they did not spot the 3 missing climbers. During a meeting of all expedition leaders, Sherpas and clients held later that afternoon, he and his fellow guides from helicopter surveillance reported the significant dangers still present on the mountain. Sumit mediated the meeting expressing the feelings and thoughts of the Sherpas to clients and Western leaders. Most Sherpas were unwilling to climb further, whilst Western leaders and clients had mixed feelings about continuing or departing. After seeing first hand the precarious state of seracs sitting along the summit route, Lakpa expressed that it was too dangerous for Himalayan Ascent to continue. Angkaji, now on his 7th Manaslu expedition, was not comfortable with the current climbing conditions, so it was decided that Himalayan Ascent would terminate the expedition.

The team packed up on September 25th and returned to Samagoan on September 26th. You can read a further detailed personal account of the avalanche from our expedition member, Chris Burke The events of September 23rd on Manaslu have not dampened the team’s climbing spirit. They feel renewed with life knowing how close they came to danger that day, but appreciate what a privilege it is for a mountain to allow safe passage. Chris and Lakpa are presently heading to Lobuche East, an old friend of Himalayan Ascent, and Anders has returned to family and friends in Sweden.