As the fall 2015 Himalayan season slowly grinds to a halt, it is good to reflect on the events that have transpired. If you’ve been reading my reports with any regularity, you probably already know that the weather has been unpredictable, and generally bad, all season long. As a result, it has been difficult for any teams to summit their intended mountains. This has been particularly true on the 8000 meter peaks, where success has been fleeting this autumn. But way back in late September and early October, there was a lot of action taking place on Manaslu, the 8156 meter (26,759 ft) mountain that saw the most climbers this season.
If you were reading my updates back than, the situation probably seemed a bit confusing. As the climbing season was unfolding, the teams on Manaslu seemed to be making progress, despite poor weather conditions. But as they grew closer to the time when they would potentially make their summit bid, several high profile teams (Himex, Altitude Junkies, Adventure Consultants, and others) decided to cancel their expeditions and head home. It appeared that the mountain simply wasn’t safe enough to climb, as heavy snow made the risk of avalanches extremely high.
But as these big commercial teams departed for Kathmandu, a funny thing happened. The weather improved, conditions on the mountain got better, and just a few days after they left Base Camp, other teams went up to the summit. In fact, 80 people managed to top out, although sadly one lost his life and another had to be rescued from Camp 4.
So what exactly happened on the mountain that caused some teams to head home, and others to say and find success? That is the subject of the most recent blog post from Alan Arnette, who monitors the climbing seasons in the Himalaya very closely. Alan has heard directly from a number of people who were there, with each weighing in with their thoughts on how things developed. The article isn’t meant to point fingers or cast blame in any way at all, but is instead a study of how teams weigh the risks of the climb, and decide whether or not they should go for the summit, or pull the plug altogether and go home.
For those of us who follow these kinds of expeditions closely, reading Alan’s article is very interesting. It offers some insights into how decisions are made in these situations, particularly when the lives of clients are at risk. His conclusion is that the larger commercial teams will be more conservative in their assessments, while the smaller teams may be willing to accept more risk for the chance of successfully summiting.
Read the entire article here and draw your own conclusions. It is definitely a good report on what happened on Manaslu this season, and the thought process that went into making those choices.
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