More news trickling in from the Himalaya about Chamonix crew kicking back and relaxing on their days off. This time it’s Chamonix-based mountain guide Guy Willett of Dream Guides and news about a leisurely weekend of skiing over on Manaslu (8156m). More specifically, on September 28 he and his friend/client, Emma Jack, made what could well be the first complete ski descent of the world’s eighth highest mountain.
Willett and Jack climbed and skied the North East Face route using siege tactics including fixed ropes, on-mountain Sherpa support and supplementary oxygen. The descent from summit to basecamp is around 3,300 meters (10,827 feet).
Based on scattered reports from the interweb, Willett and Jack left Camp 4 (7450m) on September 28 at around 2:30a.m. followed by a group of Himex climbers. They climbed to within 15-20 vertical meters below the summit and waited while the Himex crew, led by Adrian Ballinger, fixed a rope to the top. After the Himex team had descended Willett and Jack continued to the apex arriving around 9:00. The pair then downclimbed the fixed rope and clicked in about 15 meters below the summit. From a dispatch on EverestNews.com Willett reported,
“Emma and I skied back to C4 in difficult crusty snow and spent maybe an hour warming up our super cold feet in the tents before continuing down. We skied the line of ascent til about 7,200m. At this point the ascent line negotiates very steep ice and we traversed a long way to the right side to avoid these ice cliffs.”
“We then skied down (in great snow) for about 100m or so before traversing back to C3 at the north col (6800m). From there we skied the line of ascent all the way back to ‘crampon point’ – the point at about 5050m where one joins the rocky moraine for the 30 minute walk back to BC.”
“I took my skis off once for a short abseil (5m) down an ice wall at about 6250m, as by then we were in white out visibility and finding a safe way through with skis on was not possible. Emma downclimbed maybe 250m in the icefall. We were at BC by 4pm the same day. We stopped using oxygen at C4.”
According to unconfirmed reports, the first ski descent of Manaslu was made in 1981 by an Austrian team. At this time it’s uncertain whether the Austrians made a complete descent. Another Austrian ski descent was made from 7,000m to basecamp on May 2, 1993 by Sepp Brunner, Gerhard Floßmann, Sepp Hinding and Dr. Michael Leuprecht who reached the summit via the normal route.
Based on the pending verification of the ’81 descent it seems there is a strong possibility that Willett and Jack’s achievement could be the first complete ski descent of Manaslu. Whatever the outcome, 3,300m of fresh tracks starting at over 8000m is a noteworthy achievement worthy of respect.