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Manaslu: Lightning risk - Everybody down!
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May 19, 2005 12: 35 EST
The "United Climbers of Manaslu" (all expeditions joined forces to attempt the summit) could not believe their eyes when they reached Camp 2… or at least the place where it should have been.

“There was just a white plateau, with no trace of my tent, or the Russians’, or the Germans’, or anybody else’s,” reported Spaniard Nacho Orviz. “An intense storm had buried the entire camp under two meters of snow. We tried to dig it out, but the surface was covered with a crust of hard ice.”

Run for our lives

“We where thinking what to do next, when the storm hit again: Wind, snow, and lightning! The situation became really dangerous. We did the only thing we could: Run down to the base, leaving all our valuable gear up there, worth a fortune!”

“Some of us stopped in C1 to dismantle the camp. Some others continued down to BC. We (Nacho and his three climbing-mates from Navarra) are heading back home, sad about not reaching the summit but also happy to be safe. The mountain has bit us, as it bit everybody else for the last two years.”

Where are the Japanese?

Orviz didn’t mention a Japanese team from Japan Alpine Club, currently attempting Manaslu as well. Its members planned to leave BC for C1 yesterday, and were supposed to reach Camp 2 today. Apparently they launched their bid with all other teams. However, news is expected soon, confirming if the JAC climbers retreated to BC or if the went on for the summit.

Russian Serguey Bogomolov and Georgian Gia Torladze hag joined a Spanish expedition on Manaslu this season. A second Spanish expedition and a Japanese team were attempting the mountain as well.

German outfitter Amical team abandoned the place on Sunday after a failed summit bid. However, they left two Sherpas on the spot to dismantle the team’s higher camps.

Serguey Bogomolov, 44, has summited 11 8,000ers. In July 2002 he climbed Shisha Pangma by a new route, crossing to the formerly unclimbed North-East Ridge. Last year he attempted Annapurna’s South face as part of Piotr Pustelnik’s team.

Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest mountain, is located in the Gurkha massif of Nepal just east of the Annapurna range. After H.W. Tilman’s initial reconnaissance in 1950 and three subsequent attempts by Japanese expeditions, Manaslu was scaled for the first time on May 9, 1956 by Japanese climber Toshio Imanishi and Gyalzen Norbu Sherpa from India.

In 2003 the peak was scaled by Piotr Pustelnik and Krzysztof Tarasewicz. They were the only two climbers to reach the summit of Manaslu that year, and the mountain has remained unclimbed since. High winds caused the climbers to fall 300m, nearly knocking them off the mountain on their descent. The pair used a compass to guide them through the blinding snowstorm down to safety, but Pustelnik sustained frostbite on four of his fingers. Having summited twelve 8,000m peaks, he stated, “I found the expedition to Manaslu the hardest compared to my last three climbs. Maybe K2 in 1996 from the north was harder. I didn't have such a bad weather even on Kangchenjunga in 2001, and now I understand why even excellent climbers were talking about Manaslu with such a deep respect.”

To date, 240 climbers have summited Manaslu and the overall summit/fatality rate is 21.67%. In recent years, however, statistics show that while Manaslu’s rate has declined by more than half, it is still more than double that of Everest’s modern rate. Up until 1990, Manaslu's fatality rate was 35.16%. From 1990 until today, 20 out of 149 climbers have died, and thus, Manaslu’s fatality rate diminished to 13.42%. Yet this is still roughly three times Everest’s modern fatality rate of 4.4%.

Image of Manaslu courtesy of El Comercio Digital.

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