With a record 400+ registered climbers on Manaslu, ropes fixed before the snow stopped falling and fears of hoards on the heights, the early season has seen a rush of triumph and tragedy.
Kristin Harila and her Sherpa team of Dawa Ongju and Pas Dawa Sherpa, reached the summit with marginal snow conditions in a grueling 19 hour push. This makes peak 12 of the 14 – 8,000rs in her record setting attempt.
With just Cho Oyu and Shishapangma to go, the rewards are closer than ever. Their ascent set the stage for others to move quickly into the heights.
Then, very sadly, extreme skier and alpinist Hilaree Nelson was lost on her descent, shortly after leaving the summit, with her body later recovered by her partner Jim Morrison.
A renowned athlete with a larger than life personality and drive, her loss is widely felt not only by friends and family, but also by the wide audience she had motivated through the years.
With an additional avalanche sweeping away over 10 climbers and killing Anup Rai on the upper slopes, the risks were self evident, with Madison Mountaineering and the team quickly opting to leave the mountain and climb no higher. There has quickly been a rush back to Kathmandu now by other teams as well.
With deep snow, wind slab building and séracs threatening the route, Manaslu’s reputation as an easy but exceedingly dangerous 8,000 meter mountain is well established.
Climbers are left weighing the risks and rewards of climbing, that on a good day can prove to be some of the best of one’s life. And on a not so good day, it can very quickly end your life.
Himalayan climbing has evolved so quickly, with ascent times ever shorter, and goals that were originally life long accomplishments, now condensed into 6 month time frames.
The mountains, and in particular the lure of the high Himalayan peaks is greater than ever as evidenced by the rapidly increasing number of climbers.
But as records are set climbing up, then skiing down or flying off, the mountains and the dangers they hold are the same as ever. With ever more people choosing to climb in these dangerous places, the triumphs will be great and memorable ones, and sadly, the tragedies more common.