Manaslu: First Ski Descent Achieved
In the wake of tragedy, an impressive feat
Just one week after a massive avalanche swept down the face of 8156-meter Manaslu, killing 11 people in its path, Benedikt Böhm pressed on to the summit, then skied back down. In doing so, he became the first-ever person to ski the Nepalese peak without oxygen and, more impressively, did it round-trip from base camp in less than 24 hours.
Böhm and the rest of the Dynafit team, including Greg Hill and Sebastian Haag, were among the first to respond to the scene of the avalanche and begin searching for victims. Glen Plake (who was caught in the avalanche and also spoke with CNN about the experince) told EpicTV, "Those guys are flat out the heroes of all this. The rescue took place because of them." Many climbers and skiers abandoned the mountain then, including Böhm's teammate Greg Hill, who wrote a harrowing account of the avalanche on his blog.
But Böhm, for his part, elected to stay on after the rescue operation wrapped up, and continue with his expedition to honor the victims. "The decision to try for the summit after such a tragedy was a difficult one, but ultimately I decided to climb in their honor," he told EpicTV. "It also helped me cope with the emotional challenges I was also going through from being first on-scene to such a tragedy."
Along with teammates Sebastian Haag and Christian Pade, Böhm set out for the summit at 6pm on Saturday, Sept. 29. Fifteen hours and 3,300 meters of climbing later, after pushing through a brutal storm, he made the summit solo, as Pade and Haag had turned back to conserve energy for the dicey ski descent. Böhm called that descent the "worst ever," noting wind-packed, unpredictable snow, icy traverses, avalanche debris, open crevasses that had to be crossed with ropes and technical gear and fallen seracs. In all, the descent took 8.5 hours, for a 23.5-hour round-trip. It sounds grueling, but was way faster than the four-day average for mountaineers. It was an awesome feat, and a fitting personal tribute to the mountaineers who lost their lives on Manaslu.