The season hasn’t started yet, and we’re already in mourning.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, a huge serac broke near the peak of Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest mountain. Its weight triggered an avalanche that swept through 6,800m Camp 3 where 29 climbers were trying to sleep before heading for the summit. They included extreme skier Glen Plake, who was part of a team aiming to ski the peak without the aid of supplemental oxygen.
Accounts of what happened next make harrowing reading. Plake was in a tent with a sleeping Greg Costa when the avalanche hit and swept them a thousand metres down the mountain. Fighting his way out of the canvas afterwards, he found everything that had been in the tent with him except for his climbing partner. Costa is one of three presumed dead in the wake of the slide.
Revelstoke climber and skier Greg Hill was lower down the mountain in Camp 2 when the blast from the avalanche alerted climbers that something terrible was happening above them. His blog account of digging survivors out of the snow and then watching the life fade out of them is heartbreaking. It’s hard to imagine losing one companion in an avalanche; seeing eight dead and numerous others injured in spite of your best efforts to save them is beyond my comprehension.
This was the single most devastating avalanche in Himalayan climbing history. The lives that were lost belonged to people who believed in pushing limits, testing boundaries, and living life to the full. It’s so hard for me to be objective about the risks that they take, and the consequences they face. I’m a risk taker by nature, but I’m by no means an extreme or hardcore athlete. At this point in my life I’m also aware of consequences in a way that I wasn’t when I was younger. I want to test my own limits and push myself out of my comfort zone whenever possible, but the most important thing is that I come home safe to my family at the end of the day. It’s the people left behind who have to live with the cost, day in and day out.
My heart goes out to the folk lost on Manaslu, the survivors who did everything they could to save as many lives as possible, and the loved ones left behind.