Simone Moro’s third winter expedition to Manaslu (8,163 meters)— this time on a team with Alex Txikon, Iñaki Álvarez, and four Sherpas named Chepal, Calden, Gelu and Namja—started slow this season, due to the difficult weather conditions and the expected large amounts of snow on the first section of the normal route. Moro and Tixkon’s initial intention was to tackle the climb in light, if not full, alpine style, but they abandoned these tactics in favor of heavier rope-fixing tactics due to the adverse conditions they discovered.
[Also Read Winter Manaslu Teams Blocked By A Huge Crevasse; Some K2 Summiters To Join Tenji Sherpa And Vinayak Jay Malla]
At the time of writing, the other team at Manaslu this winter, the Nepalese duo of Tenji Sherpa and Vinayak Jay Malla Sherpa, officially announced the end of their expedition: not being able to carry out the climb in alpine style, as they had hoped to, plus the vain wait for reinforcements by some unnamed members of the first K2 winter ascent team, led them to this decision
Meanwhile, Moro, Txikon and Co. have finally found a way through what appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle in the form of a huge crevasse near 6,000 meters, that they discovered between C1 and C2 last week. This crevasse forced the two veterans to find a new route, a variant of the normal route, and their perseverance and strength has paid off: they pioneered a path through the glacier and the upper slope to the right of the crevasse, and have reached 6,600 meters. The terrain took them through deep snow and serac-laden territory, but they deemed the variation safer thanb the huge crevasse that blocked their progress for several full days.
I reached Simone Moro at Base Camp, and the Winter Maestro kindly answered some questions about the teams progress and future steps towards the top of Manaslu.
Q&A with Simone Moro
Simone, in the last few days we have followed your and Alex’s progress opening a new variation to the normal route on Manaslu, forced by the impassable crevasse before Camp 2. Do you think the route you found is safe? Did you have to equip long stretches with fixed lines to reach 6,600 meters?
Actually today we [pinned] my altitude at 6,508 meters. As I write this, a rotation of Alex with three Sherpas has managed to climb the great serac which now leads to the plateaus where Camp 3 is normally located. We have not yet set up any Camp 2, and therefore for us it will be our C2. Let’s see what altitude will we set it at…
The route is quite safe, a new and useful variant also for future ascents, should they encounter the problems of the large crevasses that stopped us this year on the normal route.
Do you plan to establish a C2, and if so have you identified a spot and the altitude? Do you aim to sleep above 6,500 to complete acclimatization in the next rotation?
On Nanga Parbat [in winter], I slept one night at 6,100 meters and I had never gone above 5,800 before that. So I think we will sleep at C2 and perhaps C3 during the attack on the summit [on Manaslu].
The conditions this year are extremely snowy, requiring Lots of work to open the route. Do you expect more of the same in the upper section?
With all the wind there has been, I hope, trust and pray that above 7,000 meters we will find hard snow or ice. It would be a nice gift of fate for my third winter expedition to Manaslu…
The composition of the team allowed you a nice alternation strategy up to this point, but I imagine that at some point the attempt to summit, weather permitting, will be collective. What will be your approach in the good weather window that seems to be approaching?
We will make a joint attempt, Alex, Iñaki, and I, and Chepal Sherpa, Calden Sherpa, Gelu Sherpa, Namja Sherpa will bring us tents and food. The attempt could be made on Februay 9 or 10.
Immediately after the interview, Simone sent me a message that today, February 4, he would make another rotation, together with Gelu Sherpa, up to about 6,500 meters, to bring up additional gear for the final summit push.
Yesterday, Alex Txikon together with the Sherpas reached 6,650 meters, thus finishing equipping the route and bringing more gear to the high camps.
We shall see in the next few days if the good weather forecasted by famed meteorologist Karl Gabl, whom Moro calls a “precious team member,” comes to pass.