2008 Manaslu Expedition dispatches
Run by Project Himalaya and Altitude Junkies
Cho Oyu and Shishapangma were always going to be contentious and so we decided on
Manaslu as the next best peak.
We lost out in bookings because many climbers booked Cho Oyu with other operators, then many ended
up on Manaslu anyway...
Here are Phil's dispatches on a single page, very slightly edited from the
original dispatches on his site.
Photos to come.
Valerie was the first British woman to summit Manaslu.
(Note Adele Pennington apparently didn't reach the true summit).
Jamie's comments and conclusion
By all accounts it was a difficult autumn season, on all 8000m mountains,
not just Manaslu, so to get summits (and team two to get very high, to be beaten back by winds) was a real
achievement, even more challenging perhaps than usual.
We had a small team because we said up front that climbing in Tibet (Cho Oyu or Shishapangma),
was going to involve considerable uncertainty, and we wouldn't mess our team members around with
this. The reality of this turned out to be that most people booked elsewhere, hoping to go to Tibet.
Some expeditions (such as Adventure Consultants, Himex) switched to back up plans a month or two
out, choosing Baruntse or Manaslu. Several other expeditions were given permission (IMG) and a
similar number were refused permission (Summit Climb, half went, half refused) and had to switch
mountains at the very last minute.
Would we go back to Manaslu or do we still prefer Cho Oyu and Shishapangma? Having other
commercial teams on Manaslu certainly assisted us, and it sounds like a few companies might try the
mountain more regularly. We will definitely consider it again, and especially if there is real
uncertainty in Tibet. Phil has particularly strong connections and an affinity with the Tibetan
climbing guides (climbing sherpas) that he would prefer Tibet. Me? I really do want to nail
Shishapangma's true summit, but equally Manaslu would be satisfying. Those are selfish reasons only;
as 8000m guides-expedition managers, yes, Manaslu is viable and is a good peak to consider, we will
go again, with the caveat that the trek in and establishing BC during the monsoon is tougher than
simply driving behind the Himalayan range.
DISPATCH #1 - 1 SEPTEMBER 2008 - KATHMANDU
Welcome to the expedition dispatches from the combined Project Himalaya-Altitude Junkies Manaslu
Expedition 2008. Our team members are now starting to arrive in rainy Kathmandu for our first
expedition to to the 8,163-meter Manaslu. This year, Jamie McGuinness will not be making his annual
visit to Shishapangma or myself to Cho Oyu, as the new rules imposed by the Chinese Tibet
Mountaineering Association have made it very difficult for expeditions with several different
nationalities of climbers to obtain a climbing permit. Also the new 5 business day Tibet group visa
application process makes all expeditions spend an extra week in Kathmandu, so we decided to try the
less climbed Manaslu.
Several other commercial expeditions also decided that the new rules imposed were not worth the
hassle so this year it seems as if Manaslu has become the new Cho Oyu and will have some of the same
familiar Cho Oyu faces on it's slopes.
Our team this season is smaller than our usual expedition team size, as some of the Cho Oyu and
Shishapangma climbers are hoping that they will be able to climb with Project Himalaya and the
Altitude Junkies in Tibet in 2009.
The Manaslu expedition team consists of Phil Crampton, Guntis Brands, Valerie Parkinson and
Stuart Smith. Our staff will consist of climbing Sherpas Tarki Sherpa and Pasang Gombu Sherpa and we
will have Sarki Sherpa as our cook and his assistants.
We are scheduled to leave Kathmandu on September 4 for the eleven day trek to Manaslu base camp
and we hope you will follow our progress on this site.
DISPATCH #2 - 10 SEPTEMBER - SAMA GOAN
We have finally arrived at Sama Goan at 3530 meters where we will spend 3 nights for cautious
acclimatization. The trek to this point has been truly amazing with warm temperatures and lush green
fields. We traveled from Kathmandu with 40 porters plus kitchen staff and climbing Sherpas in two
separate buses. We started our trek 15 kilometers outside of Arughat as this was as far as the buses
could travel due to the washed out roads.
The team and porters are strong so we decided to shorten the trek by 2 days as the altitude gain
was not really a problem until we reached Sama Goan. Sarki, our Sherpa cook, has been keeping us
well fed and insists we break for a hot lunch each day. We take some time for the kitchen staff to
catch up with our speedy climbers. We quite enjoy our 3 hour lunch breaks.
Our team are all in good health and this year we have some very experienced climbers. Stuart has
summited Everest, Baruntse, Cho Oyu and Gasherbrum II and many other smaller peaks. I was fortunate
enough to climb on Cho Oyu with Guntis back in 2005. Valerie has been a trekking guide for 25 years
and has climbed many peaks including Stok Kangri 20 times.
We plan to arrive at Manaslu Base Camp on September 13 so we will report back from there.
DISPATCH # 3 - 14 SEPTEMBER - MANASLU BASE CAMP
Yesterday we reached Manaslu Base Camp at 4,800 meters. Last night it snowed about 6 inches at
base camp and today we will relax and make our campsite as comfortable as possible as it will be out
home for the next 30 days.
Camp 1 has already been established by the earlier teams' Sherpas. Camp 2 should be done in a few
days, as the trail has been re-routed from an earlier route, which was incorrect. Tomorrow we will
hold our puja ceremony and after that we will hopefully head up the mountain weather permitting.
We are all looking forward to getting our crampons on and making a carry to Camp 1. The campsites
on Manaslu are lower than both Cho Oyu and Shisapagma, our usual autumn expeditions. So, we intend
to use Camp 1 at 5,700 meters as our temporary advanced base camp. Weather permitting, we should be
able to leave for Camp 1 and Camp 2 respectively by the end of next week.
DISPATCH #4 - 16 SEPTEMBER - MANASLU BASE CAMP
Today we had a deserved rest day for the team as we all made a carry to Camp 1 yesterday. The
campsite is located 900 very cool meters above and around 5 kilometers in length long ways from base
camp. The weather was overcast and at the crampon point it started to snow, which aided us later in
the day. The Sherpas will carry another load today to Camp 1 and will take a rest day tomorrow.
We had another blanket of snow last night that dropped another 4 inches at base camp. Our Sherpas
are always so attentive and clear the snow from the tents during the night to avoid any damage to
our sleeping tents. We have had a cumulative snowfall over the past few days. The neighboring peaks
keep us alert with their frequent small avalanches.
Weather permitting, we plan to all sleep at Camp 1 tomorrow and after a couple of nights there,
we will move to Camp 2 at 6,200 meters. The line has now been established to Camp 2 by the earlier
teams' Sherpas. We may even climb to Camp 3 after spending a few nights at Camp 2 if all the team
DISPATCH #5 - 19 SEPTEMBER - CAMP 1
What a difference a few days make on Manaslu. We made the climb to Camp 1 on the 17th starting in
beautiful weather conditions, which turned to light snowfall just before we arrived at the camp.
Overnight, it snowed around 6 inches and the 18th saw more light snowfall all day. Our plan was to
spend 2 nights at Camp 1, and then climb to Camp 2 and spend the night there on the 19th. This plan
is obviously being aborted as the route to Camp 2 has received a lot of snow, around 1-2 feet, and
the avalanche danger is too high at the moment.
We had achieved our 2 nights acclimatization at 5,700 meters, so the morning of the 19th, we
decided to descend to base camp. After descending around 150 meters, we decided that the whiteout
conditions and the lack of visibility of the bamboo marker wands made it too dangerous to continue.
The trail had been completely obliterated and we made the climb back to Camp 1 retracing our
footsteps in a full scale blizzard.
We are all safe and sound at Camp 1 where we are sitting out the storm. We have enough food and
gas here for a week, but we are really hoping for a break in the weather so we can have more of
Sarki's cheesecake at base camp!
DISPATCH #6 - 20 SEPTEMBER - CAMP 1
We woke this morning to find our tents completely buried in fresh snow. After coming out from
inside the vestibule we cleared the tents to review the damage caused by the 3 days of continuous
snowfall, which had dumped around 2-3 feet of snow. Unfortunately, 2 of our 3 tents have received
some damage and will need fly sheets and poles replacing. We have taken turns when clearing the snow
from the tents and all the tents in Camp 1 are now buried completely by the heavy snowfall.
The weather forecast has mixed reports of improving and worsening conditions over the next few
days. Our Sherpas had hoped to climb to Camp 1 this morning with Sherpas from other expeditions
sharing the task of breaking a trail, but the weather at base camp is similar to Camp 1. Meanwhile
we are content to sit and wait out the storm as we feel the conditions for glacier travel down to
base camp are still not ideal. We originally planned to spend 5 nights away from base camp, so we
still have plenty of food and humor remaining.
UPDATE - 4 PM
We heard through radio contact with base camp that 2 Western climbers were heading towards Camp
1. With a slight lull in the snowfall, we decided to descend and meet them halfway. We broke the
trail, which was knee to waist deep in some sections descending around 300 meters until reaching the
heavily crevassed section, where visibility once again became zero. There was no sign of the 2
ascending climbers so using our GPS system and bamboo marker wands we once again climbed back to
Camp 1. We are now safely back at Camp 1 hoping for better weather tomorrow.
DISPATCH #7 - 21 SEPTEMBER - MANASLU BASE CAMP
This morning the view from Camp 1 was fantastic with clear blue skies and mountain views galore.
It snowed again last night about 6 inches and the only visible tent around was the large Spanish
dome that was bent out of shape and had lost its dome appearance. Camp 1 had housed around 60 tents
before the storm and now all that was visible was our footprints on the flat campsite with all the
tents buried. It was a surreal sight. We estimate around 4 feet of snow had been dumped at Camp 1 in
a 48 hour period.
Once again we broke trail and started to descend where we met 8 Sherpas from Himalayan Experience
at the halfway point to base camp. They had the arduous task of breaking the trail for all the
foreign expeditions who were happy to stay behind in their foot stream. The lead Sherpa was pleased
that we had broken the trail for them on the steep sections ahead and we were grateful that they had
negotiated the crevasse section for us.
We passed many climbers ascending asking about the condition of their tents at Camp 1 to which my
reply was, "What tents? They are all buried." We had lost one of our tents and this was constantly
maintained by us digging it out and so I am expecting there are a few broken poles and damaged nylon
once the Camp 1 excavation has been completed.
The weather forecast for the next few days predicts more snow but at the moment we are all happy
to be at base camp enjoying the elusive cheesecake.
DISPATCH # 8 - 23 SEPTEMBER - MANASLU BASE CAMP
Our second full rest day at base camp sees glorious sunshine for a brief moment before the snow
clouds roll in. There was a mad dash to do laundry, shower and shave before the temperature dropped
once again. We are now waiting for the snow to start falling lightly this afternoon and tomorrow,
the forecast predicts more snow.
The Sherpa Sirdars from the various expeditions are meeting to decide on a plan for most groups
to establish Camp 2 at between 6,400 and 6,700 meters. There has been a lot of snowfall above Camp 2
and we must all be patient and allow the snow to consolidate before climbing higher. We are still
waiting for that last dumping of snow and the good weather to decide when to get on.
A couple of expeditions have attempted Camp 2, but we are unsure of their status, as during the
recent storm many teams have damaged tents at Camp 1. Due to the recent snowfall, they are unsure if
they will even be able to locate their campsites.
With the possibility of more bad weather hindering our progress, we may decide on placing Camp 2
at 6,700 meters and high camp at 7,450 meters using 3 camps instead of the traditional 4.
The German commercial expedition is leaving to Kathmandu in a few days as well as the French
Canadian group. Some of the other commercial groups are now also getting close to their departure
dates and are deciding whether to extend their expeditions and reschedule their return flights from
Kathmandu. We are not scheduled to be back in Kathmandu until October 20 at the latest and we have
the option to extend our expedition if needed. We think this will be unnecessary as we are confident
the weather will turn in our favor with the conclusion of the monsoon drawing near.
I want to thank all those people who have sent messages of encouragement to our team members.
They are a tough bunch and are all looking forward to getting higher on the hill.
DISPATCH # 9 - 25 SEPTEMBER - MANASLU BASE CAMP
We had planned to climb to Camp 1 this morning in anticipation of making a carry to Camp 2
tomorrow. Yesterday, it snowed all afternoon and last night we received another 6 inches of snow
accumulation at Base Camp.
10 Sherpas from 2 separate commercial expeditions spent the night at Camp 1 yesterday and they
reported heavy snowfall with freshly deep snow in the camp. These Sherpas contemplated moving higher
but with the consistent snowfall, they are staying in Camp 1 today and hoping to move higher
Today, it snowed all day at Base Camp and we are now just waiting for the snow to stop. When it
does and the conditions are safe, we will climb to Camp 1 again and then place our Camp 2 at 6,700
meters. It is going to be a long day's climb from Camp 1 at 5,700 meters to 6,700 meters with fully
loaded packs. We have consulted Sherpas and climbers from the other remaining expeditions and the
general consensus is that a campsite at 6,400 meters is deemed too unsafe this season with the
present weather conditions.
This time we will have the company of our Sherpas, Pasang Gombu and Tarki, on our next
acclimatization climb, as they have been getting restless at Base Camp with all the bad weather
delays we have encountered so far. The monsoon officially ends in Nepal September 25, I think, so we
are hoping for a break in the weather and a nice summit window in early October.
DISPATCH #10 - 27 SEPTEMBER - MANASLU BASE CAMP
It looks as if the monsoon is going to keep its promise as today, we awoke to a beautiful
cloudless blue sky. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this is going to be the norm from now
The most frequently used words on these Manaslu expedition dispatches are snowfall and
accumulation and I am using them both again today. The latest news from Manaslu is pretty much the
same as the previous week's report apart from today's beautiful weather.
Another expedition has reported what they believe are traces of a large avalanche that has
destroyed Camp 2 located at 6,700 meters, as seen through their scope. Fortunately, this campsite
has been vacant for some days and everyone is safe.
One team has a Camp 2 located on a small safe protected area at 6,400 meters which is unaffected
by the slides. This campsite is somewhat small, hence the other teams avoiding the exposed slope
near to it, and opting for a higher campsite at the 6,700 meter level. I have personally not seen
this avalanche debris but the information comes from a very reliable source.
We believe that all climbers including all Sherpas are now at Base Camp waiting out the terrible
weather conditions that we are encountering this season. Camp 1 has received another heavy snowfall
accumulation according to our Dutch friends Katja and Hank, who have just returned from another
night at Camp 1. The top of our Trango 3.1 tents are just visible above the snow line, so we will
have to send our Sherpas to Camp 1 tomorrow to dig out again and assess any further damage to our
We send our thanks to Keith Sanford from the Canadian Manaslu expedition for the email regarding
the poor conditions we are encountering. Keith's team attempted Manaslu last season and encountered
similar weather and we appreciate his advice on the conditions of the route from Camp 1 to Camp 2.
It seems as if this is not a new weather pattern for Manaslu, and it is refreshing to see so many
different teams working together this season in the face of such adverse weather. We all have the
same goal and hope to achieve it safely.
I have been asked on several occasions if Manaslu can become a popular 8,000-meter peak, say a
new Cho Oyu, as all the new restrictions placed on today's expeditions are making climbers look for
other objectives. It is a difficult question to answer with such bad weather at present on Manaslu,
but I am told from another reliable source that both Cho Oyu and Baruntse are also experiencing
extreme weather conditions this fall climbing season. All I know at the moment is when we are
fortunate enough to get a clear view of the roof of Manaslu, it is beautiful, looks challenging but
also looks attainable for most.
DISPATCH #11 - 29 SEPTEMBER - CAMP 2
Yesterday saw beautiful weather for our trip to Camp 1 and halfway up the glacier we were
actually hoping for the weather to change to clouds to cool it down. We all climbed to Camp 2 today
with snowy conditions, which suited us fine. We originally planned to place Camp 2 at 6,700 meters,
but upon reaching 6,400 meters, the site of the traditional Camp 2, we decided to make camp as the
snow was getting heavier and visibility to Camp 3 was poor.
Upon reaching Camp 2, we witnessed a large number of climbers trying to locate their tents. The
intense snowstorm that Manaslu received on the 18th through the 20th of September had buried Camp 2
at 6,400 meters and Camp 3 at 6,700 - 6,900 meters. Originally, these groups had thought that an
avalanche had destroyed the camps but with more snow there is no sign of avalanche debris.
Two of the large commercial expeditions have suffered heavy losses of equipment and the Sherpas
from these respective expeditions tried in vain to locate their equipment with avalanche probes but
to no avail. All those climbers who had climbed to Camp 2 with us had to return to Camp 1 as they
had no shelter or provisions to be found.
Tomorrow, Stuart and Guntis will climb to Camp 3 for a night. Pasang Gombu Sherpa plans to leave
early morning and establish our campsite at around 6,800 meters. Valerie, Tarki Sherpa and I will
descend to Base Camp, as the idea is to break the group in to 2 teams of 3. With so many tents and
equipment being lost at Camp 2 and 3 respectively, we want to have extra tents available in case we
suffer the same fate. We will take a few days rest and climb back up again this time for a summit
push, weather permitting.
DISPATCH #12 - 1 OCTOBER - MANASLU BASE CAMP
The weather forecast starting today is looking good supposedly for around 4-6 days so tomorrow,
Valerie, Tarki Sherpa and I are making the climb to the respective camps for the summit push. The
wind speeds higher on the mountain are meant to drop to a manageable level for the next few days
although this morning the wind was howling through base camp.
Stuart has just returned from spending an acclimatization night at Camp 3 at 6,750 meters and
this morning Guntis decided to climb a little extra distance to the col at 6,900 meters and will
return to Base Camp this evening. They will both spend a few days at Base Camp before following us 1
or 2 days behind with Pasang Gombu Sherpa.
We plan to spend the night at Camp 1 at 5,700 meters, reach Camp 2 at 6,400 meters around
lunchtime and don our down suits for continuing the 3 extra hours to reach Camp 3 at 6,750 meters
for the night, and finally Camp 4 at 7,450 meters before making the summit push in the early hours
of October 5. Obviously this plan could change and the weather almost certainly will, but it's our
best chance for topping out this season with all this bad weather over the month of September.
We have donated 200 meters of Korean 9 mm rope and 120 meters of good quality static 8mm rope
plus snow pickets towards the rope fixing equipment pool, so hopefully the earlier teams' Sherpas
have enough combined gear to fix the route accordingly. We believe the first summits are planned for
October 3 and thereafter.
We hope to keep everyone informed with regular reports from the high camps via our General
Dynamics Go Book MR1 palm size computer connected to our satellite phone.
DISPATCH #13 - 3 OCTOBER - CAMP 3
Yesterday, Valerie and I had a rather long day. We left Base Camp mid morning for hopefully our
final climb to Camp 1 as we are on our summit push. We arrived at Camp 1 one and a half hours
earlier than expected so we decided to continue to Camp 2 at 6,400 meters. That's an elevation gain
of 1,600 meters for the day as we decided the longer days lower on the mountain would benefit us
more and we would have shorter gains above 6,400 meters.
Today we arrived at Camp 3 at 6,750 meters in just over 2 hours and are looking forward to
climbing to high Camp tomorrow at 7,450 meters. Guntis and Stuart are climbing to Camp 1 today and
hopefully tomorrow will be at Camp 3. Today we are seeing the first Sherpas and climbers heading to
Camp 4 and if the weather cooperates, they will hopefully reach the summit tomorrow.
DISPATCH #14 - 4 OCTOBER - CAMP 4
Today we arrived at Camp 4 at 7,450 meters. Tarki Sherpa, Valerie, and I have had a long day as
we have gained 700 meters elevation from Camp 3. The climb was uneventful except for a sick climber
who was being lowered by Sherpas in a sleeping bag. We also witnessed another two climbers who fell
and were stopped by the fixed rope.
Stuart and Guntis should be in Camp 3 this evening and they will move up to where we are
There have been numerous summits of the central summit but at the time of this dispatch the only
true summits we are aware of are two Italian climbers, and this we are told from a reliable source.
Tomorrow early morning, we leave for the summit with the Japanese and Spanish and we are hoping to
reach the true summit.
DISPATCH #15 - 5 OCTOBER - CAMP 3
There has been trouble with Thuraya Satellite phone services for the past 3 days, so therefore
there was a delay in dispatches.
This morning, Valerie, Tarki Sherpa and I summited Manaslu at 9:30 AM local time. The climb to
the summit took 6 hours and we are now hydrating in Camp 3. The summit this year is decorated by
prayer flags bearing an exposed corniced ridge that leads to the true summit, which many teams have
The Spanish expedition was first to summit this morning followed by the Japanese using
supplementary oxygen. Both of these teams went the extra distance and reached the true summit so we
all decided to climb to the true summit over Manaslu along with our Mexican friends both Yuri and
Laura. We have to say a huge thank you to the Spanish team for putting in the route along the
exposed cornice ridge.
Guntis, Stuart, and Pasang Gombu Sherpa are all in Camp 4 at 7,450 meters and will be leaving for
the summit in the early hours of tomorrow morning. We believe that Valerie has become the first
British woman to summit Manaslu without supplementary oxygen. Tarki Sherpa and I did not use oxygen.
Guntis, Stuart, and Pasang Gombu Sherpa are also not using oxygen.
DISPATCH 16 - 6 OCTOBER - MANASLU BASE CAMP
Guntis, Stuart, and Pasang Gombu Sherpa all departed Camp 4 for the summit around 3:30 AM. The
weather conditions have changed for the worse somewhat since yesterday and they have experienced
high winds and snow. This weather pattern was not meant to arrive until the 7th according to the
European weather forecast services.
They battled in vain against the fierce wind until reaching just below the summit and had to make
the decision to turn around as none of them were using supplementary oxygen and the risk of
frostbite was too high. They broke down Camp 4 as a precaution as not to have the camp destroyed and
descended to Camp 3 at 6,750 meters where they are all safe. They will spend the night there and are
hoping for a break in the weather tomorrow that will give them another shot at the top.
Unfortunately, the weather forecast is not looking good for a few days so we may see them back at
base camp tomorrow.
UPDATE 1 PM
Stuart decided to descend to Base Camp around 1 PM. He arrived at Base Camp around 8 PM later
than anticipated as he assisted 2 German climbers who were fatigued and without headlights descend
from Camp 1. Guntis and Pasang Gombu Sherpa will descend and will arrive at Base Camp tomorrow
DISPATCH #17 - 7 OCTOBER - MANASLU BASE CAMP
Stuart departed Base Camp today for the trek to Kathmandu. Gunther, one of the German climbers
who was assisted by Stuart, came over to thank him for his help in his absence. Guntis and Pasang
Gombu Sherpa are all back safe in Base Camp and in good spirits. We have ordered our porters for
Sama Goan to arrive on the 9th and hopefully we can get our porters from Kathmandu as the Dashain
festival is in progress.