The Himalayan fall season has long been when those planning on heading for Everest the following year, set their sights on the 8,000 metre peaks, Cho Oyu, Shishapangma or Manaslu.
With China seemingly opening, and then suddenly closing to climbers this year – that only leaves Manaslu. As of 15 September, 301 permits have been issued. This is currently down on last years numbers, but there could well be more headed into the mountain.
The greatest number of climbers are coming from China, the USA and Russia. And as much as China has closed for most, rumors persist that selective teams may be allowed in later in the season.
Climbing an 8,000 meter peak before Everest, obviously adds valuable experience and eliminates some of the uncertainty of going straight for the top of Everest. And it is a whole lot cheaper, just in case you decide to change your mind, or are hoping to gain the top of the world on your first attempt and it doesn’t work out quite as planned.
By facing the challenges of any 8,000 metre peak; of time away from home, dangerous climbing and using oxygen, while also building up your confidence (or not) that you are ready to climb Everest, can be a very good advance plan.
It is certainly a lot better preparation than just edging your way up to 6,500 meters as called for in the Nepali regulations, sliding back down, and thinking you are all set for Everest.
Whether going right now, at this time of the season, when the monsoon is still fading and avalanches are common, may be less ideal.
Last year many were on this schedule and soon found conditions were far from settled. While Kristin Harila snuck through to the top, very sadly Hilaree Nelson was swept down the mountain to her death. A host of other teams, beset by avalanches, also departed the mountain early.
Many commercial operators have been moving their dates forward in the fall season, so they can get back to Kathmadu and then move immediatly into the prime trekking season, as well as onto the lower peaks of the Khumbu, including Ama Dablam, Lobuche and Island Peak. Whether this makes mountain sense for Manaslu timing, is perhaps debatable.
Yet in the ever changing climate we now enjoy, this year the ropes are up and the first team, rather predictably, was Elite Expeditions led by Nims.
Manaslu doesn’t exactly have Everest numbers luckily, but it certainly won’t be a wilderness experience, and that final thin ridge or the traverse across leading to the real summit can easily get crowded.
This year the plan is to send climbers on a circle tour, up one way and down the other from the true summit. Yet you only have to look up the mountain from Base Camp to realize if you ever wanted to define a slope prone to avalanche, it is all right there in front of you.
While on the 8,000 meter peaks, Dhaulagiri comes in second place with 10 people this season, the other peaks only have a team or two each so far – many of which will increase as the season advances. The single team and 4 climbers on Makalu could have a real adventure.
Himlung Himal, a great 7,000 plus metre peak, with little objective danger, is becoming ever more popular and will certainly see additional climbers this season. With a magic trek in, most of the climbing done in civilized daylight hours and a 700 metre vertical summit day, it does allow you to actually enjoy a high Himalayan peak.
And many of the Himlung expeditions will start later in the season. Some operators will be hoping for a quick climb of Manaslu, then have their Sherpa’s hike over the pass to climb Himlung, then take a rapid trip back to Kathmandu and up to the Khumbu for Ama Dablam. The revenue opportunity is obvious, perhaps the timing for the climbs is less so?
The permit list tells us the divide between more adventurous climbs, and the most popular peaks, is just continuing to increase.
But it also gives a whole host of options, at much lower prices, where some real adventures can certainly be had and a small independent team can choose exactly when they want to start their climb.