A monsoon trek and first foray onto Manaslu

I’m sitting in a damp and misty Manaslu Base Camp, tired but excited. Yesterday we made our first foray onto the mountain when we went up to Camp 1 to deposit loads. It was a big jump in altitude from 4800m to 5800m and was consequently quite exhausting. It felt like a summit day as I approached camp, stopping every ten steps to draw breath, but it was a confidence boost to reach it in just four and a half hours.

Climbing to Camp 1, with the East Pinnacle on the left
Climbing to Camp 1, with the East Pinnacle on the left

The route to Camp 1 followed a short moraine ridge to begin with before ascending a relatively gentle glacier. There’s not been much snowfall and the glacier was very dry; although there were many crevasses they were easy to spot, and we were able to walk unroped, clipping into fixed ropes over some of the more intricate sections.

We’ve not seen much of Manaslu so far. Ever since we reached the village of Samagaon six days ago it’s been wet and miserable most days, with a grey mist obscuring the mountain. On the climb yesterday it was clear enough for views of the daunting East Pinnacle, behind which a more straightforward route to the main summit passes.

Before we reached base camp last Sunday we had a beautiful six day trek in, following the Manaslu Circuit up the impressive Budhi Gandaki gorge. Passing from jungle through bamboo, rhododendron and pine forests we walked along narrow pathways hewn into rock hundreds of metres above the river.

On the Manaslu Circuit up the picturesque Budhi Gandaki valley
On the Manaslu Circuit up the picturesque Budhi Gandaki valley

For most of its length the trekking was swelteringly hot. Every day I would be dripping with sweat, and every morning I had to put on the same wet clothes that I trekked in the previous day, but we were lucky with the weather. It’s still monsoon season here in Nepal, but the heavy rains usually came at around 4pm when we were safely in camp. Only once did we get a right soaking.

Tomorrow if the weather is fair we’ll be heading onto the mountain again, sleeping at Camp 1 tomorrow night and at Camp 2 (6400m) the following night. So far so good, but in the Himalayas you’re in the lap of the mountain gods, and there’s still a long way to go on this expedition.

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