After a few slow days in Samagaun, it was time to make the trek up to base camp. Located at 4,800m above sea level, Manaslu Base Camp would be our home for the next month. The porter team had already set up the extensive camp and would carry most of our duffels and gear while we carried just our personal items and camera gear up to camp.
As we rolled out of Samagaun, it felt as though the adventure had finally begun. We would be sleeping in tents from here on out as we experienced life in the mountains. The trek from Samagaun to Manaslu Base Camp was 7.5km with 1270m of incline. It’s a slow migration of climbers winding their way up the cliffs above Birendra Lake. At a leisurely pace with lots of photos, the trek took us just over five hours but can easily be completed in about three hours.
When the clouds aren’t causing havoc, the views from along the trail provide spectacular vantage points of Samagaun Village, Birendra Lake, and the rugged glaciers. It’s a great hike in itself and can be done as an acclimatization day-trip for trekkers on the Manaslu Circuit.
We edged over the final, rocky ridge before peering down into the expansive base camp setup. It started to feel real. With 157 permits granted to climbers for the Manaslu Climb this year, there were more than 400 climbers and crew in total at base camp. It looked more like a mountain village than a tented base camp. This was our new home.
The weather was pretty rough for our first few days at base camp. The idea is to basically sit at base camp and then make your foray up into the mountains when the weather allows. Our plan was to make either one or two rotations before our summit push depending on the conditions.
Before any type of climbing begins, there is an important ceremony that takes place up at base camp for each expedition team. A traditional Puja ceremony is held to ask for safe passage from the spirits of the mountain. The Sherpa/Tibetan tradition involves the reading of prayers, some customs such as the spreading of rice, and offerings of various foods and alcohol. The Puja is finalized by the raising and hanging of Tibetan prayer flags from the Stupa across the camp.
We began our mountaineering on Manaslu with a small training day, which led us up to the foot of a small inclination nearby where we practiced ascending with the Jumar and descending via belay back down the course. Snowy conditions made this a good test of our gear, skills, and attitude. Several of our team were already well adept with these skills and had a refresher while for myself and others it was only the second time using a jumar. It’s a relatively straightforward skill to ascend or descend and having the physical strength and coordination before arriving is much more important. A winter mountaineering skills course is recommended before taking on an 8000m peak like Manaslu.
To read my full article about the expedition you can click here: CLIMBING MANASLU MOUNTAIN (8163M)