Manaslu debate: When is a summit a summit?

"True Summit" of Manaslu
“True Summit” of Manaslu

Once a topic is on the social media’s hot plate, emotions run high. Some are praised to the skies, others are banished to hell. Here the shining heroes, there the sinister villains. The more drastic the wording, the more hearts, thumbs up and clapping hands. The mountaineering scene is no exception. The latest example: the debate about the “True Summit” of the eight-thousander Manaslu.

On Monday, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa and Co. reached – with bottled oxygen – the (very) highest point at 8,163 meters, at the very end of the summit ridge. And immediately on Twitter and Co. all other climbers who turned around at one of the nearby and somewhat lower fore-summits of Manaslu are labeled as “cheaters” and “liars”. Others rail against the “Himalayan Database“, which records summit successes on Nepal’s high mountains. The chronicle “is no more reference regarding 8000 m peaks,” they say.

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Roger Schaeli and Simon Gietl: Six north faces in two weeks

Roger Schaeli (l.) and Simon Gietl (on the summit of Cima Grande)
Roger Schaeli (l.) and Simon Gietl (on the summit of Cima Grande)

“For me, this was probably my most beautiful mountaineering experience,” Roger Schaeli wrote on Instagram today after also climbing the North Face of the Grandes Jorasses with his team partner Simon Gietl. Simon also raved about a “new dimension of experiences, adventures and impressions”.

It was the sixth and last classic north face of the Alps that the 43-year-old Swiss Schaeli and the 36-year-old South Tyrolean Gietl had mastered in the past two and a half weeks – and they had done so according to the “fair to the mountain” principle: The two covered the distances between Cima Grande (2,999 meters) in South Tyrol, Piz Badile (3,308 meters), Eiger (3,967 meters) and Matterhorn (4,478 meters) in Switzerland as well as Petit Dru and Grandes Jorasses in France by road bike. On Piz Badile and Eiger, the two top climbers used paragliders to return to the valley after their ascents. “North6” was the name they gave their project.

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Manaslu: Highest point or fore-summit?

Summit ridge of Manaslu

“Congratulations to all our team members for the successful ascent of Mt. Manaslu (True Summit) at around 9:40 am local time.” This was announced today by Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, expedition leader and head of the Nepalese operator Imagine Nepal. He himself and all 21 other team members had reached the highest point at 8163 meters, he lets us know. Summit pictures are not yet available.

Mingma Gyalje – one of Nepali climbers who succeeded in the first winter ascent of K2 in Pakistan last January – had advertised his expedition by saying that, unlike his four Manaslu ascents to date, this time he would not settle for one of the fore-summits.

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Summit successes reported from Manaslu

Late evening to the summit

The first summit wave on the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu in western Nepal is rolling. According to expedition operator Seven Summit Treks, six Sherpas form the rope-fixing team reached the highest point late Thursday evening. Several dozen clients of commercial operators were said to be on their way to the summit. The Tourism Ministry in Kathmandu had issued permits for Manaslu to 171 foreign climbers from 17 teams this fall.

Fewer and fewer climbs without breathing mask

The eighth highest mountain in the world has already been scaled more than 2,000 times, about half of the summit successes were reported in the past four years. Until 2009 there was relatively little hustle and bustle on Manaslu, but since then the mountain has increasingly become a commercial “top seller” in the fall season. At the same time, according to the chronicle Himalayan Database, the proportion of those attempting Manaslu without bottled oxygen has declined.

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Simon Messner on climate change: “We can no longer look away!”

Simon Messner (r.) and Martin Sieberer (in the background Broad Peak)
Simon Messner (r.) and Martin Sieberer (in the background Broad Peak)

Climate change is also falling at the feet of mountaineers. Increasingly, we hear and read about top climbers whose projects fail because high temperatures make for dangerous conditions even at the highest altitudes. “I can’t say that I anticipated getting scorched off the second highest peak in the planet,” wrote American climber Graham Zimmerman with a twinkle in his eye after he and Canadian Ian Welstedt tried unsuccessfully to scale K2 via the seldom-climbed West Ridge in July. The avalanche and rockfall risk was simply too high.

South Tyrolean Simon Messner and Austrian Martin Sieberer also returned empty-handed from the Karakoram at the end of August because conditions on the still unclimbed 7,134-meter-high Praqpa Ri, located near K2, threw a wrench in their plans. “Two times we got stuck in bottomless powder at around 6.000 meters forcing us to turn around,” Simon Messner wrote on Facebook. The weather app had predicted temperatures of up to plus 10 degrees Celsius at 7,000 meters, wondered the 30-year-old son of mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner. Simon answered my questions.

Simon, you were on an expedition in Pakistan during the corona pandemic. How special were the circumstances?

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Manaslu – the “Everest of the post-monsoon”

Manaslu Base Camp
Much going on at Manaslu

Mount Everest has never been a fashionable mountain in the post-monsoon season. But it has rarely been as lonely as it is this fall on the highest mountain on earth. The Nepalese Ministry of Tourism has not issued any permits for Everest this season (as of September 14). Demand equals zero. Instead, mainly commercial expeditions are flocking to the 8,163-meter-high Manaslu in western Nepal. 171 foreign climbers from 17 teams received permits. If you add the local staff, Manaslu Base Camp at around 4,800 meters is again populated by around 400 people. The first high camps have also already been set up.

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Three climbers rescued from the 7000er Rakaposhi

The 7788-meter-high Rakaposhi in northern Pakistan

Happy end to a dramatic rescue operation: After being stuck for days on the 7,788-meter-high Rakaposhi in northern Pakistan at 6,900 meters, the two Czechs Petr Macek and Jakub Vlcek and the Pakistani climber Wajid Ullah Nagri were able to descend several hundred meters on their own yesterday (Tuesday). Today they were finally rescued by helicopter from an altitude of 6,200 meters. All three are said to be doing well under the circumstances.

Macek, Vlcek and Nagri had reached the summit on Thursday last week, according to media reports. On the descent, they got into trouble in bad weather and were stuck in their Camp 3 at 6,900 meters. Reportedly, one of the two Czechs was suffering from high altitude sickness, both of them from frostbite, it was said. Apparently, the trio also lacked ropes to continue their descent.

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