The mountaineering team led by Spaniard Alex Txikon has taken advantage of the short window of good weather on the eight-thousander Manaslu in western Nepal. According to the Spaniard as well as the Nepalese expedition operator Seven Summit Treks (SST), Alex and the Nepalese Tenjen Sherpa, Pasang Nurbu Sherpa, Mingtemba Sherpa, Chhepal Sherpa, Pemba Tashi Sherpa and Gyalu Sherpa reached the highest point at 8,163 meters at 9.30 local time. “The team braved harsh winter conditions and treacherous terrain to make it to the top,” let SST expedition manager Chhang Dawa Sherpa know. By evening, everyone had returned to base camp safe and sound.
Who ascended without breathing mask?
Alex Txikon has always refrained from using bottled oxygen in his previous projects and will therefore most likely have kept it that way this time as well. It is not yet known whether his six Nepalese companions also climbed without breathing masks. The team used the normal route via the northeast side of the mountain.
The first winter ascent of Manaslu had been achieved by the Polish climbers Maciej Berbeka and Ryszard Gajewski on 12 January 1984. They had climbed to the highest point through the South Face without bottled oxygen. The two Poles had already begun their expedition on 2 December, still in the meteorological winter. Txikon and Co. only moved into their base camp on 26 December, so in contrast to Berbeka and Gajewski they were completely en route in the calendrical winter.
Moro rejoices with the summiteers
For Txikon, it was success in his third attempt. In the past two winters, he and the Italian Simone Moro had failed due to bad weather and the masses of snow on Manaslu. Actually Simone had also wanted to ascent this time, but had to turn back because of diarrhea at 6,300 meters.
After the summit success of Txikon and Co., the 55-year-old reported from the capital Kathmandu: “Fate did not want me to be there, but for the whole team to accomplish the project,” Simone writes on Facebook, adding that he rejoices with the others. “I am happy that I shared so many winters with Alex and that he went to the top on the perfect day we had courted and waited for.” Now, he says, he is waiting for the team to return to celebrate together.
Txikon’s second eight-thousander winter ascent
With Manaslu, Txikon reached the summit of an eight-thousander in winter for the second time. In 2016, he had succeeded with Moro and the Pakistani Muhammad Ali Sadpara in the prestigious first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat. The South Tyrolean Tamara Lunger had then to turn back shortly below the summit.
In addition, Txikon had succeeded in 2013 (with his compatriot Jose Fernandez) in the first winter ascent of the 6,069-meter-high, shapely Laila Peak in the Karakoram. Alex had less success in his winter attempts on Mount Everest (in 2017, 2018 and 2020) and K2 (in 2019).
Update 7 December: Chhang Dawa Sherpa from SST writes me that all six Sherpas of the summit team used bottled oxygen. From Alex, he only knows so far that he wanted to try it without.