Today is the last day of waiting. It’s six days since we came down from our false start of a summit push, and tomorrow we begin again. There’s been no serious precipitation for a few days now, and the heavy snow which prevented our first summit attempt has had time to consolidate. Many teams have left for the summit already, and if all goes well people should begin summiting Manaslu this season from 3rd October onwards. We in the Altitude Junkies team are aiming to summit on 5th after a five day summit push.
After reaction to my last blog post, when I made reference to hard-drinking Sherpas going AWOL down at a tea house in Samagaon, I ought to set the record straight about these tigers of the Himalayan mountaineering world. These guys like to party, but they are also superstars without whom we would have little chance of climbing this mountain. Most days as the snow pounded down over the last week or so, a team of our Sherpas went up to Camp 1 to dig out our tents and prevent them being buried like many other teams’ were. They’ve also been busy digging out and refixing ropes that everybody here, even those who see themselves as expert climbers, will be using to climb up. By the times we get to Camps 2, 3 and 4 on our summit push, our Sherpas will be there ahead of us digging out platforms and pitching the tents, an exhausting task at extreme altitude. On summit day a Sherpa will be carrying my spare 4kg oxygen bottle for me, and looking out for when my first one runs out. All this hard work at high altitude would kill me, but for these guys it’s nothing special, what we call in the UK a piece of piss. And with 8 Sherpas to 10 clients, we have plenty of support on our team.
There’s something else here on Manaslu to put our climb into perspective. Not many British climbers have summited Manaslu, but should I and my two friends Mark Dickson and Ian Cartwright make it, we may well be a little further down the list of UK summiteers. The Himex team climbing a day ahead of us includes the Walking Wounded, a group of ex-British servicemen with serious injuries picked up in battle, including missing limbs and debilitating burns, a couple of whom have already trekked to the North Pole this year with Prince Harry. Even with two healthy arms and two healthy legs I find climbing hard. When set alongside these guys our toils and achievements are trivial.
Still, we all have our own personal battles, however small. Let’s hope this time next week Mark, Ian and I, who have had our share of disappointments on the 8000ers, have something to celebrate.