Himalaya Fall 2012 Update: Tragedy On Manaslu

By now I’m sure most of you have heard the tragic news from Manaslu in Nepal, but for those who haven’t, yesterday a massive avalanche hit Camp 3 on the mountain, killing at least 12 people, including one Sherpa and eight French climbers. Four others remain missing with two of the climbers from the Moguls to Manaslu expedition amongst them.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been following the attempt by Glen Plake, Rémy Lécluse and Greg Costa to make the first climb and ski descent of Manaslu without the use of supplemental oxygen.

The team had been climbing very well and were in a position to make a summit bid a week and a half ago. But the weather turned bad, dumping as much as two meters of fresh snow on the mountain and like the rest of the teams, they were forced to wait for conditions to improve.

At the end of last week, the weather took a turn for the better and the teams started to move back up the mountain. The faster teams were in Camp 3 by Sunday and were preparing to make their summit bid when the avalanche hit at 7000 meters (22,965 ft).

It completely destroyed C3 and even wiped out tents in Camp 2, much further down the slope. At the time, there were approximately 25 people in Camp 3, 18 of which are now either dead or missing, including Rémy Lécluse and Greg Costa.

The team over at EpicTV have heard from Greg Plake and he is alive and coming home. After a tragedy like this one that is to be expected. Greg was in a tent when the avalanche hit and you can read his account of the incident here. He was pulled from a crevasse by members of Greg Hill’s team and reportedly Hill and his squad are all okay.

The other expeditions that we’ve been following are all okay and safely back in Base Camp at the moment. They will now decide over the next few days what their options are for proceeding.

The weather reports indicate that high winds are moving into the area, which means they won’t be able to make summit bids in the next few days. That will give them time to decide on whether or not they want to go up or go home. Amongst these teams is the Mountain Professionals and IMG, who were in Camp 1 and 2 respectively when the avalanche hit.

Earlier today the Altitude Junkies weighed in with some news. Part of the team was in Camp 2 when it was hit at about 4:30 AM local time yesterday. Everyone in their squad is fine as well, although they had to spend several hours locating all of their gear, including footwear, before proceeding back down the mountain.

They mentioned that a Sherpa who was in C3 at the time of the accident stumbled into camp without boots while they were there. The man was suffering from a head wound, shock and hypothermia. For a time it was touch and go as to whether or not he was going to make it but he was evacuated to Kathmandu this morning and appears to be fine. The AJ team will now spend a few days in BC recovering but the plan is to make a summit bid later in the week.

Finally, I heard from Edita Nichols‘ home team yesterday that she is fine and back in BC, although rather shaken by the experience. Today an update was posted to her blog saying that before any of the teams head back up the mountain, they’ll first hold a second Puja ceremony to honor the dead. That should happen tomorrow as Edita’s team will begin their summit push on Wednesday. They plan is to stand on top next Sunday, September 30.

That’s the latest news, although I suspect we’ll be hearing more about this tragedy over the next few days. I want to express my deepest condolences to the friends, families and teammates of the fallen. This will be a dark day in the mountaineering community.

Kraig Becker