Manaslu also known as Kutang is the eighth highest mountain in the world at 8,163 metres (26,781 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Mansiri Himal, part of the Nepalese Himalayas, in the west-central part of Nepal. Its name, which means "mountain of the spirit", comes from the Sanskrit word manasa, meaning "intellect" or "soul". Manaslu was first climbed on May 9, 1956 by Toshio Imanishi and Gyalzen Norbu, members of a Japanese expedition. It is said that "just as the British consider Everest their mountain, Manaslu has always been a Japanese mountain.
Manaslu is the highest peak in the Gorkha District and is located about 64 km (40 mi) east of Annapurna. The mountain's long ridges and valley glaciers offer feasible approaches from all directions, and culminate in a peak that towers steeply above its surrounding landscape, and is a dominant feature when viewed from afar.The Manaslu region offers a variety of trekking options. The popular Manaslu trekking route of 177 kilometres (110 mi), skirts the Manaslu massif over the pass down to Annapurna. The Nepalese Government only permitted trekking of this circuit in 1991. The trekking trail follows an ancient salt-trading route along the Burhi Gandak River. En route, 10 peaks over 6,500 metres (21,300 ft) are visible, including a few over 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). The highest point reached along the trek route is the Larkya La at an elevation of 5,106 metres (16,752 ft). As of May 2008, the mountain has been climbed 297 times with 53 fatalities.The Manaslu Conservation Area has been established with the primary objective of achieving conservation and sustainable management of the delimited area, which includes Manaslu.
Set in the northern Himalayan range in the Gorkha District of Nepal, Manaslu is a serrated "wall of snow and ice hanging in the sky. The three sides of the mountain fall in steps to terraces down below, which are sparsely inhabited with agricultural operations practiced on the land. Apart from climbing Manaslu, trekking is popular in this mountain region, as part of the Manaslu Circuit, a notable path by trekkers in Nepal.
The Manaslu Conservation Area, declared as such in December 1998 under the National Parks and Wild Life Conservation Act, subsumes Manaslu within it. The area covered under the conservation zone is 1,663 square kilometres (642 sq mi) and is managed by the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) of Nepal. The status of "conservation area" applied to the Manaslu area or region was with the basic objective "To conserve and sustainable management of the natural resources and rich cultural heritage and to promote ecotourism to improve livelihood of the local people in the MCA region.
Manaslu Himal, as it is popularly known among trekkers, provides views of the snow-covered mountains of the Himalayas and allows close interaction with the different ethnic groups who live in hill villages scattered along the trek route.The trekking route is through mountainous terrain prone to the consequences of monsoon rainfall, land slides and land falls. Encounters with passing yaks, and hypothermia and altitude sickness, are common. Trekking to Manaslu is thus a test of endurance.
Manaslu from base camp
The region, which is also termed the Manaslu Conservation Area, comprises sub-tropical Himalayan foothills to arid Trans-Himalayan high pastures bordering Tibet. Starting from Arughat and extending into the Larkhe La pass, the area covers six climatic zones: the tropical and sub-tropical zone, elevation varies from 1,000–2,000 metres (3,300–6,600 ft); the temperate zone (within elevation range of 2,000–3,000 metres (6,600–9,800 ft); the sub-alpine zone elevation range of 3,000–4,000 metres (9,800–13,100 ft); the alpine zone, a range of 4,000–5,000 metres (13,000–16,000 ft)) meadows; and the arctic zone (lying above 4,500 metres (14,800 ft)). The zones coalesce with the variation of the altitude from about 600 metres (2,000 ft) in the tropical zone to the 8,156 metres (26,759 ft) summit of Manaslu in the arctic zone.Manaslu is known in the Tibetan language as Kutan, in which tangmeans the Tibetan word for a flat place. It is a very large peak with an elevation of 8,156 metres (26,759 ft) (the world’s eighth highest mountain). In view of its favourable topography of long ridges and glacial valleys, Manaslu offers several routes to mountaineers. Important peaks surrounding Manaslu include Ngadi Chuli, Himalchuli and Baudha. A glacial saddle known as Larkya La, with an elevation of 5,106 metres (16,752 ft), lies north of Manaslu. The peak is bounded on the east by the Ganesh Himal and the Buri Gandaki River gorge, on the west by the deep fissures of the Marysyangdi Khola with its Annapurna range of hills, to the south is the Gorkha town at the foot of the hill (from where trekking operates during the season), which is an aerial distance of 48 kilometres (30 mi) to the peak. There are six established trek routes to the peak, and on the mountain the south face is reportedly the most difficult for climbing.
The permanent snow line is reckoned above 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) elevation. Precipitation in the area is both from snowfall and rainfall; the average annual rainfall is about 1,900 millimetres (75 in) mostly during the monsoon period, which extends from June to September.Thetemperatures in the area also vary widely with the climatic zone: in the subtropical zone, the average summer and winter temperatures vary in the range of 31–34 °C (88–93 °F) and 8–13 °C (46–55 °F) respectively; in the temperate climatic zone, the summer temperatures are 22–25 °C (72–77 °F) and winter temperatures are −2–6 °C (28–43 °F) when snow and frost are also experienced; in the subalpine zone, during December to May snowfall generally occurs and the mean annual temperature is 6–10 °C (43–50 °F). The arctic zone is distinct and falls within the permanent snow line; there, the temperatures lie much below freezing zone.
Major peaks of Mansiri Himal range (left to right): Manaslu, Ngadi Chuli, Himalchuli
There are other major peaks in the region, namely Himalchuli (7,893 m.a.s.l), Ngadi Chuli (7,871 m.a.s.l), Shringi (7,187 m.a.s.l), Langpo (6,668 m.a.s.l) and Saula (6,235 m.a.s.l)
Unlike many other regions, this valley is a sanctuary to many highly endangered animals, including snow leopards and pandas. Other mammals include lynx, Asian black bear, grey wolf, dhole, Assam macaque, Himalayan musk deer, blue sheep, Himalayan tahr, mainland serow, Himalayan goral, woolly hare, horseshoe bat, Himalayan mouse-hare and black-lipped pika. Over 110 species of birds, 33 mammals, 11 butterflies and 3 reptiles have been recorded. Conservation of wild life in the area has been achieved by monks of the monasteries in the area by putting a hunting ban in place. This action has helped the wildlife to prosper. The area is now an important habitat for the snow leopard, grey wolf, musk deer, blue sheep and the Himalayan tahr.A total of 110 species of birds have been identified in the area, including golden eagle, Eurasian griffon, Himalayan griffon, blood, impeyan, kalij and koklass pheasants, Himalayan and Tibetan snow cocks and the crimson horned pheasant.
Three main categories of vegetation have been identified in the area. These are categorised on the basis of the altitude as Low hill, Middle mountain and High mountain types with its exclusive types of dominant forests and other associated species. The types of vegetation, however, tend to overlap the adjoining ones at places. Depending on the microclimate and other aspects, an overlap of vegetation is noticed in adjacent areas. However, the forest types are fairly well defined. The flora in different forest types also does not show much variation. The valley basin has a rich ecotone diversity and includes nineteen different types of forests, most prominently rhododendron, and also Himalayan blue pine, which is flanked by Ganesh Himal and the Sringi ranges. Medicinal herbs and aromatic plants, have also been recorded in different forests types and adjoining vegetation. Overall, the presence of 19 types of forests and other forms of dominant vegetation have been recorded from the area. An estimated 1,500-2,000 plant species grow here.
There are two ethnicities mainly inhabiting this region; Nubri and Tsum. The branching off of the river at Chhikur divides these two ethnic domains. While Nubri has been frequently visited after Nepal opened itself for the tourism in 1950, Tsum still retains much of its traditional culture, art, and tradition. In the central hills of the region, Gurungs are the main ethnic group who have joined the Gurkha army in large numbers. Closer to Tibet, the Bhutias (also spelled Bhotias), akin to the Sherpa group, of Tibetan ethnicity dominate the scene as can be discerned from their flat roofed houses, and they are distinctly Buddhists. The region is dotted with austere monasteries, mani walls, chortens and other Buddhist religious landmarks.
Manaslu from Timang Village
In 1950, H. W. Tilman was the first European to lead an expedition to the Annapurna Range with a small party of five compatriots. They walked on foot from the Kathmandu valley (six days of trekking from the valley), and using Manang as their base camp they started exploring the mountain ranges, peaks and valleys of the Annapurna massif. During this exploration, while making a reconnaissance of the higher reaches of the Dudh Khola, they clearly saw Manaslu from Bumtang. Three months later, after their aborted trip to Annapurna IV, Tilman, accompanied by Major J. O. M. Roberts (who later became popular as "the father of Himalayan trekking") trekked to Larkya La pass and from there saw Manaslu and its plateau and concluded that there was a direct route to the summit, although they did not make an attempt on it.After the reconnaissance visit by Tilman, there were four Japanese expeditions between 1950 and 1955 that explored the possibility of climbing Manaslu by the north and east faces.In 1952, a Japanese reconnaissance party visited the area after the monsoon season. In the following year (1953), a team of 15 climbers led by Y. Mita, after setting up base camp at Samagaon, attempted to climb via the east side but failed to reach the summit. In this first attempt by a Japanese team to summit via the north-east face, three climbers reached a height of 7,750 metres (25,430 ft), before turning back.
In 1954, a Japanese team approaching from the Buri Gandaki route to the peak faced a hostile group of villagers at Samagaon camp. The villagers thought that the previous expeditions had displeased the gods, causing the avalanches that destroyed the Pung-gyen Monastery and the death of 18 people. As a result of this hostility, the team made a hasty retreat to Ganesh Himal. To appease local sentiments, a large donation was made to rebuild the monastery. However, this philanthropic act did not ease the atmosphere of distrust and hostility towards Japanese expeditions. Even the expedition in 1956 which successfully climbed the mountain faced this situation and as a result the next Japanese expedition only took place in 1971.In 1956, Toshio Imanishi (Japan) and Gyaltsen Norbu (Sherpa) made the first ascent of Manaslu on May 9, 1956. The Japanese expedition was led by Maki Yuko, also known as Aritsune Maki.In 1956, David Snellgrove, a noted scholar in Tibetan culture and religion, undertook a seven-month sojourn of mid-west and central Nepal. The route that he followed, accompanied by three Nepalese people, was via Bumtang and Buri Gandaki river and crossing over to the Larkya La.1970s The next successful climb to the summit of Manaslu was in 1971. On May 17, 1971, Kazuharu Kohara and Motoki, part of an 11-man Japanese team, reached the summit via the north-west spur Also in 1971, Kim Ho-Sup led a Korean expedition attempt via the north-east face. Kim Ki-Sup fell to his death on May 4 In 1972, the south-west face was climbed for the first time by an Austrian expedition led by Wolfgang Nairz. In 1972 only, the Koreans attempted the north-east face. On April 10, an avalanche buried their camp at 6,500 metres (21,300 ft), killing 15 climbers including 10 Sherpas and the Korean expedition leader Kim Ho-sup, and Kazunari Yasuhisa from Japan. On April 22, 1973, Gerhard Schmatz, Sigi Hupfauer and a Sherpa climber reached the summit via the north-east face. In the same year, a Spanish expedition led by Jaume Garcia Orts could reach only to 6,100 metres (20,000 ft).The first Japanese women expedition led by Kyoko Sato was successful on May 4, 1974, when all members reached the summit after a failed attempt from the East ridge. They were thus the first women team (Naoko Nakaseko, Masako Uchida, Mieko Mori) with Jambu Sherpa to climb an 8,000 metres (26,000 ft) peak. However, one climber died on May 5 when she fell between camps 4 and 5.