Manaslu Tragedy. Our climbing members were Nancy Jackson, John Petroske, Dr. Charles Schertz, Steve Stockmyer, Howard Weaver, Canadian Dr. John Haigh and I as leader. Dave Gordon was Base Camp manager. We left Gorkha on March 3 with 120 porters and approached via the Buri Gandaki River and the village of Sama. On March 15, we reached Base Camp at 13,700 feet on an alpine slope above the Manaslu Glacier. The site for Camp I was located at 16,200 feet on March 18. Carries to Camp I began on the 20th and the camp was occupied on March 21 by Jackson, Schertz, Stockmyer and Sherpas Nima Wangchuk and Zangbu. Late on the 21 st, it began to snow. Heavy snow and high winds continued for five days. Nine feet of snow accumulated at Camp I and five feet at Base Camp. On March 27, it was decided to have the Camp I personnel return to Base Camp while those at Base Camp would break trail towards Camp I and restock with food and fuel the now depleted camp. The Base Camp team started up at 7:30 A.M. and the Camp I team headed down at 8:45. While descending a low-angled bowl at 15,500 feet at nine o’clock, the Camp I team was struck by a 400-foot-wide slab avalanche. Jackson, Schertz and Nima Wangchuk were completely buried and Zangbu partially. Steckmyer, who was last, was out of the avalanche path. Using his avalanche beacon, he located Schertz’s position, shoveled five feet of snow off him and performed CPR, but without response. By now it was 9:45. Zangbu had been able to extricate himself and stumble down to the Base Camp team not far below. They dropped their loads and hurried to the avalanche site with shovels and beacons, arriving at ten o’clock. Steckmyer had located Johnson’s position and was relieved of digging by the Base Camp team. She was uncovered at 10:10 and CPR started immediately. Nima Wangchuk was located near where Zangbu had been partially buried. Dr. Haigh pronounced all three dead at 10:50. The bodies were removed over the next five days to near the monastery of Sama Gompa. A traditional Tibetan cremation was peformed for Jackson, Schertz and Nima Wangchuk on April 5. The expedition was abandoned.
Donald J. Goodman