Friday, April 24, 2009

nepal update

Photos courtesy of Nicholas Rice

By Guy McCarthy

A 24-year-old climber from Hermosa Beach says he has battled winds approaching 100 mph and endured temperatures 40 below zero Fahrenheit and colder to stock high camps for his solo summit bid on the eighth-highest mountain in the world.

Nicholas Rice called Watershed News early today via satellite phone from his base camp on Manaslu in the Nepalese Himalaya to say he will begin his summit push before dawn Saturday.

Getting to the top may take five days or more. Even if the weather holds he may not make it.

"The biggest challenge right now is the depth of the snow - and the winds," Rice said. "It's waist-deep at times, making progress difficult. Winds at high camps knocked me down a few times. Some tents have been destroyed."

The summit of Manaslu rises to 8,156 meters - more than 26,750 feet above sea level - where jetstream-force gales have blown other climbers to their deaths, according to Himalayan climbing records.

More than 50 climbers have been killed on Manaslu in the past six decades. Record-keepers estimate Manaslu has a fatality rate of 22 percent - meaning for every five climbers who reach the summit, at least one has been killed during ascent or descent. A pair of Japanese climbers made the first ascent of Manaslu in 1956.

Rice is attempting his climb solo, but he is not alone on the mountain.

As many as 50 other climbers were attempting to climb Manaslu this week, Rice said. He arrived in Nepal a month ago today. The journey from Kathmandu to Manaslu included a nine-day trek through rugged backcountry and remote mountain villages.

Rice with Nepalese children on approach to Manaslu

Experience has taught Rice when to go for it, and when to back off.

Nine months ago, Rice was high on K2 in northeast Pakistan's Karakoram Range when 11 climbers died in one of the deadliest episodes in recent mountaineering history.

Rice opted to retreat on the world's second-highest mountain due to a delayed start on summit day, avalanche dangers, and crowding on the treacherous route to the top. News of the missing climbers, rescue efforts and deaths unfolded over several days and made global headlines.

The Nepalese Himalaya is roughly halfway around the world from Los Angeles and Rice's hometown. When it's sundown here, the sun is rising where he is.

For more on Rice's current expedition, visit his Web site here.

For previous reports on Rice's ordeal on K2, click here.

View from Camp 1 on Manaslu


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