26,759 feet 8156 meters
Manaslu is considered
one of the 'easy' 8000 meter mountains. I am focusing on the Northeast
Ridge since it is the normal route and the one I climbed in 2013.
I am asked many questions about climbing especially since I am not a professional
climber. So here are the most popular questions with my answers. As always,
this information is based on my experience and are my opinions so always
consult with a professional before making any serious climbing decisions.
A: It is located in west-central Nepal about 50 miles from Kathmandu. It is the 8th highest mountain on earth at 26,759' and has a reputation as one of the "achievable" 8000m mountains. The nearest airport is Kathmandu. Most people fly into Kathmandu and take about a week by off-road vehicles and trekking to reach base camp. Some teams will helicopter in and out of base camp saving time but then spend time acclimatizing before going higher. View Larger Map
Q: When is it usually will climb?
A: As with most Himalayan peaks, pre and post monsoon but Spring is popular since every day it gets warmer with less threat of snow. The Fall season is just the opposite with colder days and increasingly unstable weather. I climbed in September and experienced the usual rain at Base Camp that marks Manaslu. Most guides climb in the Fall since they are occupied with Everest in the Spring.
Q: I understand that Manaslu is an easy 8000m climb. How hard was it?
A: It was not 'easy' - no 8000 meter mountain is easy. It is a serious high-altitude mountain where climbers lose their lives every year - 16 people died in the Fall of 1972 from a major avalanche and 11 died in 2012 also from an avalanche. The actually climbing was more difficult than had been advertised. While I was not climbing with crampons on smooth rock or doing extensive rock climbing; the snow sections were quite taxing given the altitude. The section between Camps 1 and 2 was technical with many sections of near vertical snow and ice climbing. The route between Camps 3 and 4 was very long and steep giving many people problems. Some climbers on other teams started using supplemental oxygen at C3, much lower than normal. The route was set by Sherpas with a fixed line mostly from Camp 1 higher.
Q: How does Manaslu compare with Denali or Aconcagua?
A: The climbing is significantly more difficult than either of these mountains. It is a longer climb but similar to Denali in spirit in that you climb on steep snow slopes most of the time but obviously at a significantly higher altitude. Also you are using fixed ropes continuously from Camp 1 on. Finally on Denali you are pulling a sled with personal and group gear whereas on Manaslu Sherpas usually carry the tents and stoves while you carry your personal gear including food, clothing and sleeping bag and pads. This depends on your expedition logistics. It is measurably more difficult than Aconcagua due to the snow, weather and length of the expedition. Huascaran is a better comparison than Aconcagua.
Q: How does Manaslu compare with Everest or other 8,000m peaks?
A: It is a great training climb for aspiring Everest climbers to see how their body reacts to high altitude - 8,000m. The climbing from Camp 1 to Camp 4 is harder on Manaslu than on Everest but the summit night on Manaslu is easier and much shorter than on Everest. Manaslu was much harder than Cho Oyu in 2013 and in my overall experience. There are no features on Manaslu like Everest's Hillary Step or the Yellow Band but the overall atmosphere is similar.
Q: Is a Manaslu climb dangerous?
A: Absolutely. You should only attempt Manaslu if you have the proper experience and logistics for emergency situations. Most deaths are a result of avalanches and falls but the weather and altitude takes it's toll. Two independent climbers from Slovakia got in trouble in 2013 narrowly escaping death.
Q: How many people had summited and how many people had died trying?
A: According to the Himalayan Database 64 people have died with about 672 summits through the Autumn of 2012. The success rate is about 60%. About half summit without using supplemental oxygen. The first ascent was in the Spring of 1956 by Japanese Yuko Maki.
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Q: How did you you train for this climb?
Everest legend Tom Hornbein explained it to the American Lung Association this way:
The lower oxygen stimulates chemoreceptors that initiate an increase in breathing, resulting in a lowering of the partial pressure of CO2 and hence more alkaline blood pH. The kidneys begin to unload bicarbonate to compensate. Though this adaptation can take many days, up to 80% occurs just in the first 48 to 72 hours. There are many other physiologic changes going on, among them the stimulus of low oxygen to release the hormone, erythropoietin to stimulate more red blood cell production, a physiological and still acceptable form of blood doping that enhances endurance performance at low altitudes. Adaptive changes are not always good for one’s health. Some South American high altitude residents can have what’s called chronic mountain sickness, resulting from too many red blood cells; their blood can be up to 84-85% red blood cells. The increased blood viscosity and sometimes associated pulmonary hypertension can result in right heart failure.
You cannot do much to acclimatize at low altitudes but there are companies that claim to help the acclimatization process through specially designed tents that simulate the reduced oxygen levels at higher elevations. I have no personal experience with these systems but you can find more details at the Hypoxico website. They cost about $7,000 or can be rented for about $170 a week. Outside Magazine posted an article in 2013 questioning their effectiveness.
Q: What kind of equipment did you you use?
Q: Which route is most popular?
A: Yes on September 25, 2013
Q: Why did you you choose Altitude Junkies Consultants as
a guide service in 2013?
The food was the best I have
ever had on an expedition and for the first time I did not loose significant
Sherpas were efficient, albeit a bit aloof, establishing the higher camps
with tents, stoves and fuel. They also helped Himex fix the overall route
to the summit. We carried all our own personal gear and food which was
substantial weight at times. A Sherpa accompanied each climber on the
summit push. The overall climb was run very independently as expected.
While Phil climbed with us he was not hovering or micro-managing anyone's
decisions. It was extremely independent. Some climbers might have need
a bit more attention but that is not what Phil does.
Q: Was there avalanche danger in 2013 similar to 2012 that
killed 11 climbers?
Q: Did you you use bottled oxygen?
Manaslu was a nice climb. The route required real climbing, not trekking or high altitude walking. It tested our compete repertoire of climbing skills. The mountain was stunning with the East Pinnacle looming above us each day at Base Camp. The summit itself was the scariest I have experienced being quite narrow with a soft edged cornice on both sides dropping off thousands of feet. Manaslu is a solid climb on its own or as a great prep for higher or more difficult Himalayan mountains.