The two-man Nepalese team of Tenji Sherpa (29) and Vinayak Jay Malla (32) are currently attempting a winter ascent of Manalsu (8,163 meters), the eighth-highest mountain in the world. Initially, the duo, who planned on tackling Manaslu via the standard route up the Northeast Ridge, were attempting an alpine-style climb, which would entail eschewing the fixed lines used by traditional mountaineering parties. They are also climbing without supplemental oxygen.
Both experienced mountaineers, Tenji and Vinayak have each summited Everest (8,849 m/29,032 ft) multiple times, along with Lhotse (8,516 meters) and Manaslu, though this will be their first winter 8,000er attempt. Tenji was a trusted partner of the late Ueli Steck. Steck died at the beginning of an expedition in April 2017 which he and Tenji were going to attempt the full Everest-Lhotse Traverse.
Unfortunately, the team has encountered some obstacles, and when Rock and Ice spoke with Tenji, he indicated that although they were still shooting for a summit, alpine style was out of the question. This was due to a large crevasse at 6,200 meters, which couldn’t be navigated without more ladders.
“Following the impassable crevasse on the approach to Camp 2, we returned to Camp 1 Wednesday afternoon,” Tenji reported. “Subsequently, we descended to Base Camp Thursday afternoon.”
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A second team made of Simone Moro, Alex Txikon, Iñaki Alvarez, Cheppal Sherpa, Kalden Sherpa, and Namja Sherpa are also on Manaslu with Tenji and Vinayak, and were reportedly blocked by the same crevasse. Moro has made the first winter ascent of four unique 8,000ers, including Nanga Parbat, the ascent of which Txikon took part in as well.
In a press release from his team, Txikon described the crevasse as a “huge, ugly and complicated crack” a few hundred meters shy of their intended Camp 2. On their first attempt to find a way across, even the three long ladders they had with them were insufficient.
The climbers are reportedly working to pioneer a new section of the route that avoids the crevasse.
Tenji and Vinakay are now waiting to team up with a few other Nepalese climbers recently returned from the successful winter K2 expedition, though the exact team members and timeline are unknown yet.“Though disappointed to have to change our original approach and goal, we have decided to wait here at Base Camp and will team up with some of the Nepali legends who recently conquered K2,” Tenji wrote. “The exact team members and timeline are yet to be confirmed.”
On the decision to give up on an alpine-style climb, Tenji was unequivocal. “Safety is our priority. Considering the conditions and safety, alpine style is not possible at this time,” he said. He added that the winter conditions have been intense, with brutal cold and wind adding to the challenge.
Despite the setbacks, Tenji and Vinayak are in high spirits. “Our Manaslu Winter Expedition has not gone as we hoped,” Tenji said, “however, we are healthy and well, developing Plan B.” He added, “We are dependent on clear, safe weather windows, and so the waiting can be hard. Supplies need to last as long as the wait for an open weather window and, carrying all on our own, the equation is not a guaranteed balance.”
If they summit, the pair (and perhaps additional Nepalese team members coming from K2) will become the first all-Nepalese climbing team to successfully tackle a winter 8,000er in their home country (K2 is in Pakistan).