The Shock Wave on Manaslu Continues

8000ers Manaslu
Jill Wheatley on the summit of Manaslu. Photo: V. Malla /MountainsofMyMind

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at Manaslu’s Base Camp. While some climbers continue toward the summit, down below the mood is decidedly mixed.

Some have retreated from previous statements. Others stubbornly claim summits that are not. A few assume that they’ll have to climb the mountain again. And a stony silence persists from the agencies that were well aware of both the summit/foresummit controversy and of Mingma G’s intentions to reach the highest point. Still, both before and after Mingma G succeeded, they took their clients to the usual photo point.

This has led to some surreal situations. A number of outfitters keep claiming that they reached the summit, even after their photos show them on an obviously lower point. “Manaslu done, 100% success,” said expedition leaders and guides like Kami Rita Sherpa and Nirmal Purja. Meanwhile, one of Purja’s own team members, Jackson Groves, filmed the group from all angles by drone. The footage proves that they stopped below the final ridge.

A bitter prize

Nepal’s Department of Tourism has duly distributed official summit certificates to all those who reached a foresummit. But this has become a bitter booby prize for some of those recipients.

Shehroze Kashif of Pakistan, for example, had proudly unfurled his country’s flag on his supposed summit. But he faced a major backlash on social media after Groves’ drone footage appeared.

At first, the 19-year-old climber stated on social media that he had reached the highest point that anyone had in autumn since 1976. Then he discovered back in Kathmandu that Mingma G had reached the actual summit. Kashif then decided that it was “his duty and his job, as part of his project to become the youngest 14×8,000m summiter, to return to Nepal and, inshallah, climb Manaslu to the real summit.”

Shehroze Kashif shows his summit certificate, right before announcing that he will return to Manaslu. Photo: Shehroze Kashif/Facebook

The fact is, however, that wherever climbers had chosen to stop in recent decades, others in the past had reached the actual summit. The question now is how many climbers knew that they were stopping short. It is not likely that any in the last five years were unaware of the controversy around Manaslu.

How many knew, and how many just played along?

The hundreds of climbers who had topped out at a foresummit, either guided clients or independent climbers following the fixed ropes to where they ended and no further, were either assured that they were on the summit or had tacitly agreed with the fiction and did not stir the pot. They pocketed their certificates and went home.

This would have continued if a Sherpa guide had not decided to press further, and if drone footage had not powerfully shown that maintaining this convenient hoax just didn’t make sense anymore.

The outfitters are now under scrutiny for their role in the scam. Every climber has a right to stop before the highest point on a mountain for any reason, and still feel his climb has been complete and rewarding. But no climber, no expedition leader, and no outfitter should claim a summit that is not.

The situation has also confused those who were in Base Camp or busy with their own summit pushes, as the drone images spread everywhere. Yesterday, Lukas Furtenbach heard from his team on the mountain, reporting perfect conditions on the “real” summit. Twenty-four hours later, Furtenbach himself contacted ExplorersWeb to amend his previous statement.

Furtenbach corrects

“After analysis with guides and Sherpas, I have to correct: They stood at the last of the foresummits, not the one Mingma G made,” he told ExplorersWeb. Furtenbach apologized for the confusion, which he attributed to bad communication with the summit team.

“It was confusing,” Furtenbach added. “Our guide, Rupert Hauer, climbed several metres further than the end of the ropes and stopped at the next bump.”

He confirmed that his team had not taken the traverse, but tried to follow the summit ridge itself. “The rope Mingma G left and the footprints were not visible at all,” he said. “[This] makes sense, because since the Imagine Nepal team summited on September 28, it has been snowing.”

Rustan Nabiev at a higher camp on Manaslu. Photo: RussianClimb

Furtenbach’s information suggests that no one else reached Manaslu’s true summit yesterday. For Russian double amputee Rustam Nabiev, however, reaching the foresummit is a remarkable triumph. Nabiev lost his legs when the military building in which he served in Omsk collapsed and killed 24 of his colleagues. Miraculously, he survived. Details about his climb will follow in the coming days.

Manaslu was also an added challenge for visually impaired Canadian Jill Wheatley. Still, on September 28, Wheatley properly summited Manaslu with her Imagine Nepal group. She became not just the first visually impaired woman on that summit, but possibly the first Canadian — and one of the first women? There is a lot to research and possibly a lot to change in the history of Manaslu.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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OldHikerDude
OldHikerDude
15 days ago

I would like to believe that most climbers that attempt 8,000’ers actually do some research on the mountain they’re attempting. There are many images on the net that show climbers on the “summit” of Manaslu. When scrolling through the images, it’s pretty easy to see that something is not quite right. There are older images showing a roped climber on the end of a sharp ridge with nothing higher around them. Then there are many images showing many climbers on a high point with lots of snow and prayer flags. Even if you account for the different seasons, and wet and… Read more »

MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
15 days ago

It’s obviously bad to mislead clients and the public about which “summit” your expedition reached. But to do so when there is video and photos of the actual summit (not the one your guides and clients reached) is not only bad, it’s just plain STUPID. Kudos to Furtenbach for being honest and transparent. I can understand miscommunication on the mountain caused his first mis-statement, but he corrected it quickly. The silence from other operators tells us all we need to know about them. There is no shame in deciding to keep safer and stop, but there is great shame in… Read more »

W W
W W
15 days ago

Are Lobuche and Pobeda next? Manaslu isn’t the only mountain facing this issue in its climbing history.

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damiengildea
Editor
14 days ago
Reply to  W W

True. People have always stopped short of the summit of Lobuche East, and it seems most now stop even shorter than that. Mera Peak the same, most parties do not go to the highest point, as on approach it does not look the highest and often has a problematic crevasse in the way. Pobeda is an interesting one, less known so probably more excusable at this point in time, but yes, it seems the more eastern top is higher than the western one where most stop. There are some others with questionable highest-points too, such as Peak Lenin in Kyrgystan… Read more »

W W
W W
12 days ago
Reply to  damiengildea

Summited Lenin in a whiteout myself – unfortunately I am fairly sure that the Lenin bust and flags may not be the absolute highest of the various rocks. Perhaps the point with the bust ‘counts’ for Snow Leopards?

Pobeda is enormously problematic, as the normal route is absolutely not conducive to climbing the Eastern summit.

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Kelmo
Kelmo
15 days ago

To summit mountain means to reach its highest point, how isn’t this clear and obvious??? Seriously !!!

+2
Sheeny
Sheeny
14 days ago

Guess its all personal what people do and think. Its like on Everest. To the average Joe, and climber they get to the summit and when they get down theres no distinction of how they made it there and how much they used of others to get there. If someone did all the work and ‘only’ got to Manaslu’s foresummit compared to someone who followed fixed ropes etc etc and got to the very top would that mean they climbed the mountain? When does it end? For me I would know I didnt get to the very top and that… Read more »

Anya
Anya
13 days ago

I by no means am an experienced climber, but my interest in these magnigicent mountains and the men and women who climb these , I am in awe, to summit one of these mountains must be on par with standing on top of the world, so what if the foresummit is your “top of the world” in John Lennons words “Let it be” with so much crap going on in the world just Let it Be. 💕

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Louis-Philippe Loncke
13 days ago

Same since 2019 for the highest peak of Sweden. There are 2 summits: Kebnekaise South (icy, glacier) and Kebnekaise North (Rocky). The Icy summit is melting and since 2019, Kebnekaise North is the highest summit of Sweden. Thing is is the normal “tourist” route” goes to Kebnekaise South. The Northern summit is 650m further one-way. There is an icy ridge that is dangerous and requires crampons and a bit of mountaineering experience. He I’m coming back from the Northern summit and walking up towards the Southern summit. I believe since 2019 more than 99% of the people stop at the… Read more »

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