Autumn 2022 Himalayan Season: Avalanche Danger Stalls Summit Bids

Manaslu Avalanche

The recent heavy snow has stalled summit bids on Manaslu. Around 30 cm, ~1 foot of fresh snow is reported between C3 and C4. Phunuru Sherpa with International Mountain Guides reported that 120 people turned back due to avalanche conditions today, September 21, 2022. They are back in Base  Camp now. Also, several cases of COVID are being reported at Manaslu.

Many teams were hoping to summit this week, but most are reporting to have fallen back to base camp to let the conditions settle. One of my Summit Coach clients told me this morning:

We rocked up to Camp 3 only to be turned around by crazy avalanche activity.
Day one Kathmandu to Samagon
Day two Samagon to BC
Day three BC
Day 4 BC to C1
Day 5 C1 to C2
Day 6 C2 to C3
Day 7. Dropped back to BC due to Avalanche concerns.

We think it’s snowed 1-1/2m since we arrived. We were ready to head to C4. The team is feeling good. Not even a little headache. Those hypoxia tents work like a dam.

Kristin Harila, Pasdawa Sherpa, Dawa Ongchu Sherpa, who are with 8k Expeditions trying to get all 14 of the 8000ers in six months, were part of the groups that turned back.

Chris Tomer of Tomer Weather Solutions is providing forecasts to clients on Manaslu. He told me this morning that,

Manaslu is finally drying out after two weeks of heavy snow and rain.  A bullseye of roughly three feet of snow (or more) accumulated at the higher camps while rain fell below 18,000ft.

Why so much precipitation?  The pressure pattern supported a rich feed of tropical moisture straight out of the Bay of Bengal.  An area of low pressure moving out of the Bay of Bengal helped transport and focus the tropical moisture across the Manaslu region.  Atmospheric moisture over Manaslu was running 200-300% of normal.

Manalsu is statistically one of the safer 8000ers with 2,172 summits (including the fore summit)and 88 deaths for a death rate of 1.49, putting it seventh out of eight in comparison to the other 8000ers in Tibet and Nepal. Of those, Cho Oyu is the lowest at 0.59, and Annapurna is the highest at 5.56, according to the Himalayan Database. The five 8000ers in Pakistan lie in the middle of this range.

Many operators have avoided Manaslu for avalanche reasons since the tragedy in 2012 when 11 people died in an avalanche. It was caused by a large serac releasing above Camp 3 at 7,400m. This triggered a slab avalanche which hit Camp 3 directly and impacted Camp 2 with a severe wind blast. Many of the 11 killed were in their tents, most sleeping, at Camp 3 around 4:45AM Sunday, September 23, 2012, Nepal time.

Avalanche debris was spread from 7,400m to 6,300m. Rescue efforts started immediately with teams climbing up from Camps 1 and 2. A B3 high-altitude helicopter from Simrik Air performed 18 total flights that day with 14 evacuations. 31 people were caught in the avalanche. Eight bodies were recovered, and three were listed as missing and presumed dead.


Manaslu Avalanche
2012 Manaslu Avalanche

As I previously reported, the Nepal government has issued 404 permits to foreigners. Combining this with a 1:1.2 support ratio, there are around 1,000 people currently attempting Manaslu. With this heavy snow, the route to the true summit may become even more treacherous. The ridge is usually heavily corniced, and this will exacerbate that danger. And the route from below the ridge rises directly to the summit after a short traverse. If this slope is heavily snow-laden, it could also be dangerous. We will see what the first teams find after this recent snow.

Time for patience on Manaslu.

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