A record number of climbers are attempting Nepal’s Himalayan peaks this autumn, and the renewed interest is due to the backlog of expeditions cancelled during the pandemic, as well as two Netflix films.
Many first-time mountaineers and trekkers appear to have been drawn to climb in Nepal after watching the globally popular Netflix documentary 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, which follows Nims Purja’s ascent of the world’s highest 8,000m peaks. Also popular was the French language animation, Le sommet des dieux, about a fictional Japanese climber on Everest searching for Mallory.
Purja climbed 14 eight-thousanders in Nepal, Pakistan and China in 2019 within a span of 6 months and 6 days, smashing the previous record by a South Korean climber of more than 7 years.
The ex-British Gurkha commando’s climb of Manaslu has been questioned because he supposedly only reached a fore-peak, although Purja did return to stand on the true summit last autumn. Most climbers have stopped a few metres short of the main peak because of its dangerous knife-edge ridge (see box, below).
Purja is back on Manaslu this season and hurt himself while trying to take off on his paraglider on Monday. He was flown by helicopter to hospital in Kathmandu for x-rays and has returned to the mountain.
Manaslu, at 8,163m, is by far the most popular mountain this season in the Nepal Himalaya, with over 400 climbing permits issued. There are another 400 Nepali high-altitude guides from over 15 expeditions on the mountain.
Most expeditions helicopter to Samagaon and trek up to Base Camp located on a broad moraine at 5,850m. This has raised concern that the lodges along the Budi Gandaki trail, that were hit by the pandemic collapse of tourism, have not been able to benefit from the revival of trekking and mountaineering.
The reason for Manaslu’s popularity is that the route to the top is not technical, except for the last bit to the true summit and avalanche risk between Camp 2 and 3. It is therefore the preferred ‘acclimatisation peak’ for those preparing to climb Mt Everest. Cho Oyu (8,201m) used to be the other eight-thousander popular for acclimatisation, but its easier northern approach from the China side has been closed.