Asia, Nepal, Manaslu

Publication Year: 1990.

Manaslu. The Esprit d’Equipe expedition led by Benoît Chamoux hoped to carry out its program by climbing a new route on the south face of Manaslu. After an eight-day approach, we established temporary Base Camp on April 5 at the end of Thulagi Lake at 3800 meters. Three days later we were able to place our real Base Camp at 4250 meters up the Thulagi Glacier. To gain access to the glacial Butterfly Valley at the foot of the summit pyramid, we ascended a rocky, 800-meter-high buttress squeezed between two avalanche zones. Difficult walls, overhangs, chimneys made up the climbing on rock of good quality. It took several days to fix ropes and ladders. Because of the verticality of the route, we had to make a kind of aerial tramway to raise our gear. After the buttress, we continued on mixed terrain and then glacier to place Camp I at 5500 meters in the Butterfly Valley on April 18. Our progress was seriously hindered by violent winds and daily fresh snow. On April 23 we succeeded in setting up two tents in the bergschrund of the Pungen (South) Col at 6500 meters, but intensified bad weather forced us back to Base Camp for a relatively long time. On May 2, after several unsuccessful tries to move up the south ridge beyond 7000 meters, we changed our strategy and route, heading for the west ridge, the route pioneered by Messner in 1972. The gale winds and windslabs gave us no hope to complete the still unclimbed ridge. For that reason, we established a new Camp II on the Butterfly Col at 6300 meters on May 3. The next day Italian Soro Dorotei and Czech Josef Rakoncaj placed a tent at 7400 meters before descending. A new start from Base Camp on May 6 allowed the installation of a second tent at 7400 meters. After waiting there for two days and nights, Chamoux and Pierre Royer managed to struggle against the wind and cold and get to the summit of Manaslu (8163 meters, 16,780 feet) on May 9. They were followed on May 10 by Dorotei and Rakoncaj, on May 11 by Frenchmen Yves Detry and me, and on May 12 by Italian Mauro Rossi, Briton Alan Hinkes and Tamang Tirta.

Frédéric Valet, l'Esprit d’Equipe