Debris field on Manaslu. Photo: Garrett Madison/Alpine Ascents International
In the wake of the deadly avalanche that swept through Camp III on Manaslu this past Sunday, climbers shaken by the events have decided to pack up and return home or go for the summit. As teams report on their decisions by email, phone and blogs, new details have emerged about what happened this past Sunday morning.
Expedition leaders estimate that somewhere between 4:30 and 4:45 a.m. Nepal time a massive serac collapsed above Camp III and led to an avalanche that tore down the mountain. Russell Brice estimated the slide began above Camp III at an elevation of roughly 23,600 feet and came to a rest at an elevation of 20,700 feet. It destroyed Camp III, leaving bodies and gear strewn about in a mess that skier Glen Plake said looked like a "war zone," and rumbled into Camp II with enough force to partially bury tents. By 5:30 a.m. Brice said he phoned the main Himex expedition office in Kathmandu and requested helicopters. They arrived at 9:45 a.m. and started evacuating injured climbers. Over the course of the day, pilots flew 18 missions to the rescue site. In all, Brice estimates the avalanche caught 31 people. He said 14 climbers were evacuated alive, eight bodies were recovered, and three climbers remained missing. Garrett Madison of Alpine Ascents International said in an email that at least one injured climber who left Manaslu on a helicopter may have since died, which would bring the death count to nine.
The Nepal Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Civil Aviation has released the names of the eight climbers confirmed dead and three missing. The confirmed dead are Fabrice Priez (France), Phillppe Lucien Bos (France), Catherine Marrie Andree Richard (France), Ludovic Paul Nicolas Challeat (France), Marti Roig Gasull (Spain), Alberto Magliano (Italy), Dawa Dorji Sherpa (Nepal), and Christian Mittermeyer (Germany). The missing climbers are Dominique Quimet (Canada), Remy George Lecluse (France), and Gregory Ugo Costa (France).
In the last few days, climbers on many teams have chosen different paths. Phil Crampton said in a post today that three members of his Altitude Junkies team decided to leave, but that the remainder will wait on the mountain and watch for a summit window. A representative for Sebastian Haag and Benedikt Böhm’s speed ascent said the two climbers have decided to remain on the mountain. They will attempt to be the first expedition to summit and ski down Manaslu without the use of supplemental oxygen. Their teammate, videographer Greg Hill, will not join them. He and Glen Plake, of the Moguls to Manaslu expedition, will return home. after dealing with the avalanche while in Camp III. Hill had climbed to Camp III to record video of Böhm and Haag arriving from Camp II. The pair avoided the slide and arrived at Camp III to aid in the rescue and recovery.*
*Greg Hill was not in Camp III when the avalanche hit, as a representative for his expedition said. He had been sleeping in a tent near Camp II, and ventured up to Camp III after the avalanche.