Manaslu is the most incredible mountain I have ever seen. It reminds me of a snow leopard as its peaks resemble cat ears. It is the 8th highest mountain in the world and the 4th most dangerous to climb. There is some tension between the local people and climbers in this area because they believe climbing Manaslu angers the mountain gods. This being said, they are open and happy to see trekkers along the way and it brings in tons of money. The area has been open to trekking since 1990, but the mountain was first climbed in 1950. If you want to go into this area you need a permit and a guide. The area is scrambling to keep up with the demand of trekkers and there are new tea houses being built all over the place.
I did the first part of the Manaslu/Tsum Trek with in the fall of 2014 with my parents. We couldn’t complete the full circuit because we didn’t know how safe the pass was at that time. There had been a huge snowfall a week earlier that caused many fatal avalanches in the area. So, we played it safe, had an incredible trip, and I cannot wait to go back and do it all again. We experienced temperatures ranging from 30 degrees, sunny, and humid to -10 degrees with dry, thin air. The trail passed waterfalls, hot springs, villages, farm land, cliffs, forests, and scree slopes. We slept in tea houses, people’s homes, monastery floors, and storage rooms. We met trekkers from all over the world and local people from all over Nepal.
We hiked into Tsum Valley which deserves a whole book of stories on its own. We visited several monasteries that have been there for hundreds of years and met several incredible monks and nuns that have lived in that area for their entire lives surrounded by breathtaking mountains. It took us 15 days of hiking to get to Manaslu and it was worth every step.
You cannot see the mountain for the majority of the trek. You would get your first glimpses just before the small village of Sho, but the clouds were low as we walked into Sho for the night so we didn’t know what magnificence lay ahead. There is a day hike that starts just past Sho that goes to an amphitheater where you get to see the mountain in all its glory and see the Pung Gyen Gompa (monastery). Most people skip this day hike as there are better day hikes to help with acclimatization before the high pass. In the morning was clear so we headed out. The trail is not very long but I started feeling the altitude as I was anxiously walking too fast. There were prayer flags lining some of the trails and the wind would sway them back and forth, sending prayers up into the wind. The ground got more and more saturated as we hiked higher and soon snow was surrounding us.
My parents, our guide, and our porter were all there. Our guide, had been there a million times and was comfortable with the area. Our porter, had never seen snow and he was in awe. We made mini snowmen and I showed him how to make a perfect snowball.
As the trail flattened out we rounded a corner into the amphitheatre. The mountain was still just out of sight but I could feel it pulling me in. I think everyone felt it because we all started running along the trail. The view was absolutely breathtaking. We spent several hours sitting and just looking at the incredible 270 degrees of mountain with the monastery at its base. We were at the foot of Manaslu. We were still about a kilometer away from the base but I felt like I could touch it. Manaslu means ‘mountain of the spirit’ and I get why- I could feel its power.
If you have never been to the Himalayas I urge you to go. They give you peace and a sense of awe that stays with you forever.
Mount Manaslu, Nepal
- Bridget Mahaffey