At this time last year I was preparing for my first 8000-meter peak expedition on Manaslu, the 8th highest mountain in the world. The climb was a fantastic learning experience. It showed me exactly what I had to do to prepare for the ascent of Everest, which I successfully completed last May. As those of you, who have been following my adventures for a while, know, I did not reach the summit of Manaslu last fall. When I was leaving the mountain, I wished but doubted that I could return one day – to thank it, in a way, for exposing to me my every weakness and, therefore, helping me grow as a climber and individual, as well as for introducing me to some of the best of my current friends. However, I didn’t think I would be coming back soon.
My original plan for this fall was to climb another 8000-er in the Himalaya called Makalu. The world’s 5th highest, the Black Mountain, as it is known, would have been a much more challenging ascent than any of my previous ones. Needless to say, I was very excited about it. I went to Khan Tengri with the sole purpose of training for it and, although the expedition in Kazakhstan was by no means a success, it did – paradoxically – give me the confidence I needed to attempt Makalu. However, my plans changed unexpectedly once I arrived in Kathmandu – the Makalu expedition had to be cancelled – and I was left with a hole in my schedule, plans and dreams the size of an 8000-er. The fact was all the more disappointing because I was dying to go back to the Himalaya, and go I would.
‘But why on Earth are you going to Manaslu again? Surely, you’re not one of those people, who can’t live with themselves unless they reach the summit?’ a lot of my acquaintances asked when I gave them the news. No, I don’t believe I am one of ‘those people’. However, I wanted to return, and I wondered what it would feel like to see ‘my first BIG love’ again. I don’t think of climbing Manaslu now as taking care of unfinished business: in coming back to the mountain, I will simply be returning to a place, which is dear to me in the company of people I enjoy climbing with.
‘It’s the same mountain! You’ll be bored!’ Not at all: just like a stunning opera performance is worth hearing again, a large wreck deep in the sea is worth a second dive, and a pristine white beach somewhere at the very edge of the world and its worries – another trip, Manaslu is more than worth coming back to, whether or not I have, in fact, changed as much as I like to think – which, I believe, I have. I am a different person now from the overwhelmed girl, who stumbled into base camp last year; I am certainly a different climber. With this in mind, I feel Manaslu 2012 will be nothing like Manaslu 2011, for better or worse.
To climb Manaslu I will once again join Phil Crampton’s Altitude Junkies. The expedition team leaves Kathmandu on the 1st of September, and should return after 40-45 days. You can follow us online via Phil’s regular dispatches at http://altitudejunkies.com/dispatchmanaslu12.html
This time I won’t promise to update my blog while I’m on the mountain (I never manage to do it, anyway), however, do check back once in a while because there will be access to Internet at base camp, and I may have the time and the inclination to blog. Otherwise, I will, as always, post a detailed account of the expedition when I return to Kathmandu. Drop by if you’re curious :)!
P.S.: I would like to dedicate the climb to my friend, Christophe Manfroi, who was lost in the Alps at the beginning of August.
You are with me always, mon ami: in my every step, in my every smile, in my every prayer to our mountain Gods, among whom I know you to be now.