Manaslu: Belgians To Risk Moving Above Camp 1

Manaslu Winter 8000ers
View of Manaslu from a helicopter today, showing an avalanche deposited between the sides (flanco) of a serac. 'Cicatriz' refers to the area where the snowpack broke. Photo: Alex Txikon

It’s not unusual for different points of view to divide members of an expedition. Sometimes this leads teams to split and take different strategies. That is the case on Manaslu, where at least two climbers will move up to check the going between Camp 1 and Camp 2 tomorrow.

In Simone Moro and Alex Txikon’s opinion, it is still too dangerous and the avalanche risk on the route remains high.

Climbers between Base Camp and Camp 1 on Manaslu yesterday. Photo: Sophie Lenaerts

Is the avalanche risk too high?

Sophie Lenaerts thinks differently. “I think you can only judge [conditions] when you are on the mountain,” Lenaerts told ExplorersWeb. “People looking out the window of their lodges or from a helicopter say it is still dangerous. But is a winter expedition possible without any risk? I don’t think so. Everyone interprets risk differently.”

“Risk assessment is personal,” Simone Moro agreed, “and therefore I do not allow myself to judge decisions and behaviors different from mine.” Moro is moving to Base Camp tomorrow, where he will be able to follow the events.

Lenaerts said that the expedition seems to have remained stuck somewhere between Camp 1 and Camp 2, which they have not yet been able to reach. “Every time, we have the same problem: It snows every week, we have to wait until it settles and we lose time breaking a new trail,” she said.

Left to right: Alex Txikon, Simone Moro, and Iñaki Alvarez in Samagaon village earlier today. Photo: Sendoa Elejalde

An aerial view of the route

Meanwhile, Simone Moro and Alex Txikon returned to Samagaon early this morning. Txikon took a reconnaissance flight along the route by helicopter. He shared some pictures of the route with ExplorersWeb. “The pictures speak by themselves, especially when you compare them with previous shots from December 25 and January 5,” Txikon said.

Conditions on the mountain today, with some potentially dangerous serac areas marked in red. The yellow line indicates their route. Photo: Alex Txikon

“The danger is mainly at the rising, cone-shaped icefall,” Txikon said. “There are metres of snow piled up there.”

The same section from Camp 1 on December 25, with the same danger spots marked in red. Photo: Alex Txikon

The situation on January 5.  Photo: Alex Txikon

After studying the pictures, the two climbers and their team have decided to remain in the village. Txikon’s cook and photographer are both leaving for home within the next few days. Climber Iñaki Alvarez is pondering his options, but Txikon and Moro are determined to remain until the end of February, to have a summit chance during meteorological winter.

Lenaerts and Maginelle to climb above Camp 1

Stef Maginelle, Sophie Lenaerts, Oswald Rodrigo Pereira, Paula Strengell, and some of the Sherpa team returned to Base Camp on Tuesday. They reported that damage to Base Camp tents was minimal and that conditions on the mountain were “okay”. It is not clear whether the climbers in Base Camp likewise intend to remain on the mountain until the end of winter, and how such deadlines might affect their decisions.

Oswald Rodrigo Pereira (left) and Stef Maginelle (right). Photo: Sophie Lenaerts

Lenaerts says that yesterday, Pereira and Maginelle “reached around 5,300m, breaking trail.” Tomorrow, Lenaerts and her husband, Stef Maginelle, want to go up again. “Stef and I are moving up to see how conditions are toward Camp 2,” she told ExplorersWeb today. “I don’t know if anyone else is going up.”

Lenaerts’ tracking device shows her position, below.

Sophie Lenaerts reached 5,142m yesterday and remained in Base Camp today.

In a later post, Simone Moro confirmed that the two Belgians are climbing with their Sherpa, followed by Pereira and Strengell. They all have tents and gear buried in the snow in Camp 1 that they want to retrieve. They may try to go further and reach Camp 2 tomorrow.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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Don Paul
Don Paul
8 days ago

“Risk assessment is personal” – a minor quibble with this. Risk acceptance is personal. Risk assessment should be objective and accurate.

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