An insight into climbing Manaslu

Manaslu by skis
Photography by Piotr Drzastwa

Every year runners in the Manaslu Trail Race look up at Manaslu from the hotel roof in Samagaun, and consider what climbing the mountain above them must be like.

We’ll send them this article. Not as a chronological and exhaustive explanation, but more for its evocation of walking at the edge of potential death, in majestic, other-worldly surroundings.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

Anna Tybor, a seasoned ski mountaineer, attempts to summit and descend Manaslu, the eighth-highest mountain in the world, without supplementary oxygen, aiming to be the first woman to do so. Unlike conventional expeditions with support teams, Anna’s team is small, consisting of friends Federico and Marco, and Piotr with his camera. Facing challenges and doubts, she realizes that these Himalayan mountains are vastly different from the Alps.

The journey involves acclimatization climbs, battling adverse weather conditions, and making tough choices. Anna’s dream of a single-push alpine-style ascent is tested as she grapples with fatigue and illness. Compromises, such as waiting out a snowstorm at Camp Two and resting at Camps Three and Four, challenge her original plan. The delicate balance between achieving her goal and ensuring her survival becomes evident.

As Anna stands on Manaslu’s summit at 8,163m without supplementary oxygen, a sense of accomplishment is overshadowed by the realization that the descent with skis won’t be the continuous flight she envisioned. The team must carry their gear down, respecting the mountain by not leaving equipment or rubbish behind. The descent is slower than expected, marked by pauses to pack gear and navigate crevasses.

Despite the challenges, Anna, Federico, Marco, and Piotr reach Base Camp after dark, exhausted but content. Anna reflects on the journey, feeling a strong bond with the mountain. The article highlights the intricate decision-making process, the physical and mental challenges, and the respect for the mountains that define high-altitude ski mountaineering expeditions.

Here is the article with beautiful images.

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