No fewer than 200 people have attempted to climb Manaslu since early September. No fewer than 100 people claim to have reached the summit in the last few days. But did they? On 27 September, a determined Nepali, Mingma G. Sherpa, reclimbed Manaslu’s true summit, which lies about 30 metres further along the narrow ridge from the point hundreds of summiters believed to be the highest point. A series of spectacular drone images confirm Mingma G’s claim.
Over the last few days social media have seen a steady stream of messages announcing successful ascents of Manaslu (8,163 m), in Nepal, the world’s eighth-highest peak. The most recent post was from Polish ski-mountaineer Anna Tybor and her two companions, Federico Secchi and Marco Majori, who reached the summit last Wednesday afternoon. Their announcement, which appeared on Tybor’s Facebook page a mere two hours after they had topped out, included a summit photo and a statement in Polish, almost certainly written by someone other than the three climbers. The statement read: “We’ve done it! At around 3 pm local time, the team of Anna Tybor, Federico Secchi and Marco Majori reached the summit of Manaslu. After a quick summit photo, all three began skiing down to basecamp…” The post has received more than a thousand reactions and a hundred congratulatory comments. The summit of Manaslu? Yes, but which summit?
At least 200 people from all around the world have made for Manaslu’s north-east face route since the autumn season began in early September. This is the route climbed by Tybor and all the other people who have announced — or not — their successful ascents in recent days. First climbed by a Japanese expedition, two of whose members (Toshio Imanishi and the Sherpa Gyalzen Norbu) made the first ascent of Manaslu on 9 May 1956, it is considered one of the “easiest” routes on the Himalaya’s fourteen 8,000-m peaks. To date, more than 2,000 people have “summited” Manaslu, making it the third most frequently climbed 8,000-m peak after Cho Oyu (8,201 m, approximately 3,000 summiters since the first ascent in 1954) and Everest (approximately 10,000 summiters since Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay made the official first ascent in 1953).
Stop. You have just read false information.
Where is the true summit? Jackson Groves’ photos leave no doubts
“We had been in the starting-blocks since the beginning of the season and now, finally, the public can see and understand”, reveals Rodolphe Popier, a member of the group put together by the founder of 8000ers.com, Eberhard Jurgalski. Under Jurgalski’s supervision, Popier, Australian mountaineer and explorer Damien Gildea and Tobias Pantel, from Germany, meticulously examine the truth of the claims made by climbers in Nepal, especially those concerning the 8000ers. Detailed analyses of photographs of their summits have shown that some of these mountains, notably Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and… Manaslu, are highly complex. So, where is Manaslu’s true summit? Is the summit climbers say they have reached actually a false summit? These are the questions Popier, Gildea, Tobias and Jurgalski have been asking. Thanks to their research, since last spring we have had precise descriptions of the summits of Annapurna, Dhaulagiri and Manaslu, and these descriptions are available to everyone, including Himalayan climbers, via Jurgalski’s website.
According to Popier… “only 5% of the 2,000 summiters reached the true summit of Manaslu.”
What does this mean? According to Popier, it means that approximately “95% of people who say they have climbed Manaslu are mistaken. In other words, only 5% of the 2,000 summiters reached the true summit of Manaslu.”
Look at the photos taken by Jackson Groves, an Australian who was on Manaslu’s normal route on 27 September. Groves used a drone to photograph the summit from almost every angle. What can we see? A crowd on the peak Jurgalski and his group have named “Shelf2” and, to the right, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, who descended from Shelf2 and then traversed below the summit ridge before going back up to Manaslu’s true summit (labelled “4” on Jurgalski’s photo).
Mingma Sherpa has reclimbed the (true) summit
Mingma reached the summit of Manaslu on Monday, 27 September 2021, at 9.40 am local time. He was followed by several other Sherpas from his expedition and eight of their clients; the others decided not to tackle the steeper slopes after Shelf2. Popier points out: “it is on the crowded point you can see here, in Jackson Groves’ photo, that 95% of the people who claim to have climbed Manaslu since its first ascent stopped.” The Savoyard columnist, who has often visited Nepal and spent many hours exploring the Himalayan Database, compiled from Elizabeth Hawley’s expedition archives, continues: “It is important to remember that the first ascensionists in 1956 reached the true summit, and that it is only 30 metres from today’s ‘accepted’ summit. But those last 30 metres of the normal route are usually much more difficult than the rest of the route.”
Mingma has confirmed that it is indeed him we can see in Groves’ photos: “It was me who led the route to the true summit, and it is part of my team that is waiting on the ridge. It wasn’t hard and I’m sure that people will now be able to climb the true Manaslu for the rest of the season…”
It’s simply about basic competence, honesty and transparency. Damien Gildea.
Summit or not
So, did Anna Tybor reach the true summit of Manaslu? Did she ski the first few metres, which are extremely steep? And what can we say about the superb performance by the young Frenchman Vadim Druelle, who also reached the summit of Manaslu, without oxygen, on Monday 27 September?
Let’s give the final word to Damien Gildea, who wrote about the story for Alpine Mag and on his Facebook page: “It is now clear that the summit of Manaslu is at the end of a narrow ridge, not at the beginning and, to follow [the ridge], you have to descend slightly to a notch and then go back up to the summit. If you haven’t done that, or climbed up from below as Mingma’s team did, then you have NOT climbed the summit of Manaslu. No ‘professional’, no ‘guide’, no ‘national hero’ who has climbed Manaslu in recent years has the slightest excuse for not knowing what the summit looks like. Given all the science, all the geography, all the photo-analysis and all the rest, it is not really about climbing; it’s simply about basic competence, honesty and transparency.”