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Manaslu 2003 featuring Piotr Pustelnik

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Facts & History
Piotr Pustelnik
Manaslu, at 8163 meters, is the eighth highest peak in the world. It is located in the west-central part of Nepal.

Piotr Pustelnik has summited 11 of the world's 14 highest peaks. If he summits Manaslu, he will only have Broad Peak and Annapurna left.

Final report mBank Manaslu Expedition reached Kathmandu on March, 30. Team consisted of: Piotr Pustelnik (PL) - leader, Krzysztof Tarasewicz (PL) - deputy, Piotr Klepacz (PL) - doc, Anna CZerwinska (PL), Jozef Gozdzik (PL), Dariusz Zaluski (PL), Barbara Drnovsek (SLO), Gia Tortladze (GEO) and Mamuka Tsitshivli (GEO).

We headed for Manaslu on April, 7 on the board of RNAF military chopper MI-17. Team and three tons of equipment left Samagaon on April, 9 toward BC at an altitude 4800 m. on the snowy hill at the bottom of Manaslu Glacier. Rearranging the gear took us two days. In the base camp we met an American expedition with leading climber Jeff Justman. They have been there more two weeks working on the way up. American team fixed ropes almost to the camp II and established camp I. We set up camp I at the altitude 5800 m. on the Naike Col. In next couple day taking advantage of good weather and fixed ropes, we set up next camp on the lower lip of great crevasse at altitude 6300 m. In that moment weather pattern was following: from early morning to midday sky was clear, no significant wind and temperatures not lower than -15 C. Afternoon sky used to cover with heavy clouds, fog was going to show up together with snow fall and increasing wind.

During Easter Friday, two teams spending night in camp II has been trapped by violent storm with hurricane winds and thunderbolts. At the same time, wind demolished base camp destroying tents with equipment inside. Also mess tent and kitchen has been destroyed. At least we were lucky because in the neighboring Slovenian expedition, two members were moved away together with tents for couple hundreds meters. All repair works and recovering from this storm took us another couple days and we started for higher camp on April, 22. Weather was still promising as far as The weather forecasts. We took more fixing ropes and together with Slovenian team and supporting one American Sherpa, we established ropes on the way toward camp III. Finally, Polish and Slovenian teams set up tents on the altitude of 6800 m, at the bottom of steep and icy slope leading to seracs and possible location of camp IV. We didn't know yet that it was last period of good weather. On April, 27 we were all together in BC celebrating good progress. Also Slovenians and Americans could do the same. The way to the top was almost ready. We didn't know that we would face extremely bad weather and more we didn't know that the way to the top was still long and dangerous. In the next days, weather collapsed completely with huge snow fall and low visibility. Two teams sent to protect camp I spent horrible nights, barely surviving fighting with the snow and wind. When storm has ended we were sure that all expeditions job has been totally lost. We could expect that all camps had disappeared under the snow so that fixed ropes and belays. Unfortunately, our estimations appeared correct. A quick visit in camp I assured me that higher up we shouldn't expect any signs of tents and equipment. I can understand the feelings of American expedition leader who seeing us filming their destroyed camp I showed us ..... In these difficult circumstances, Slovenians and Dutch people decided to complete the expedition. We and American team led by Jeff Justman decide to stay and try once again. Our all team in two groups left base camp on May 9th with additional tents to replace destroyed ones. Weather improved a bit but was still windy with not significant snowfall. Retrieving material from camp II, we started to head toward our last camp III. New camp III we set up in the crevasse, where the old Slovenian camp was located. The place was quite safe but windy like hell. From this place the team of Tarasewicz, Gozdzik and Zaluski started toward summit ridge to find and established camp IV. Due to Gozdzik throat decease, team retreated from altitude approx. 7100 m. They left climbing gear and tent in the highest point they had reached and came back to camp III, which we in the meantime moved down to the place occupied by Americans. Thanks to Jeff Justman teammates and himself we could put Josef in their tent, pouring him with hot tea and giving him medical help. He quite quickly recovered but I didn’t allow him to go up again. Next day, team of Pustelnik, Drnovsek, Tarasewicz and Czerwinska started to camp IV. With us also strong American team and Sherpas negotiated steep, icy slope fighting with huge, cold wind. After heavy climb having many hesitations about sense of climbing up, we finally got to usual place of camp IV and set up two small tents. In the same time, Georgians Gia and Mamuka not believing in weather improvement during next couple days, decided to come back to base camp and finish the climb. Night from May 16 to 17 was very exhausting in small, not comfortable tents with hurricane outside. But on May 17 sunrise appeared cloudless but windy. Not convinced to sense of summit bid, all our team and Darek Zaluski, who started from lower camp in the midnight started to the top. Anna retreated from climbing almost at the beginning, Barbara was fighting but cold and wind won and she also retreated soon. Darek went up quite high but also stopped summit push at the bottom of second steep slope. I and Krzysztof continued climbing fighting bitterly with wind and cold. Weather deteriorated quickly and near the summit furious blasts of wind and zero visibility reduced my motivation almost to zero. Due to Krzysztof's enthusiasm we finally got to the top at 2 pm. After 15 min on the top we slowly started descent. After few steps I have been kicked by the wind and pushed me on Krzysztof's back. We both lost balance and started sliding on steep slope toward huge col between main summit and east foretop. I don't know exactly how long and how much we traveled in this way, but we I stopped this crazy rollercoaster I found myself laying on the snow not broken and conscious. Krzysztof was near me with blood on his face. Happily it was only cut on lip not dangerous for further walk. We did quick inventory finding that we lost ice axes, gloves (me) and goggles. It was a miracle that after such a long fall, we haven't been broken or hurt more severe. Thanks to compass we could not without difficulties find the way toward camp IV.  We informed lower camps and base camp about accident after three hours. I was sure that nobody but we could help us in these circumstances. Unfortunately when we negotiated steep, ice slopes on the way down, four my fingers got frostbites. Finally, almost at the sunshine we exhausted appeared in camp IV were Anna and Barbara invited us with full canteen. Next day, early in the morning Jeff entered our tent with information that one of his Sherpas is sick. We at once gave him my remaining oxygen and anything from our medical box. Happily, Jeff came back bit later saying that oxygen was not necessary. Moment later, American Sherpas took from us our climbing rope to put it on the way back. Almost in the midday, both teams left camp IV descending in deteriorating weather. All climbers reached camp III safely. Next day our odyssey has ended in base camp, were we arrived in the evening totally exhausted but extremely happy. On May, 21 expedition left base camp going to Samagaon and further more with trek to Arughat.

mBank Manaslu Expedition 2003 has been passed to history. Piotr Pustelnik



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