Dominik Mueller: “I feel absolutely safe”
The 8,136-meter-high Manaslu is probably the only mountain in Nepal, where currently almost everything is as usual in fall. “We have about 15 expeditions here, many of them small teams”, Dominik Mueller tells me by satellite phone from the about 4,800-meter-high Manaslu Base Camp in western Nepal. “All in all we have probably 120 to 130 summit aspirants.” Dominik is leading an expedition of his German operator Amical alpin, along with the mountain guide Rainer Pircher. The other members are ten clients, three Climbing Sherpas, a cook and four kitchen helpers. The Base Camp is not too crowded, says Dominik. “We have found a very nice place for our tents.” On Wednesday, the puja will be held, the traditional Buddhist ceremony to get the gods’ blessings for the climbers. Some expeditions – such as the group of Himalayan Experience that is led by the New Zealander Russell Brice – have been on the mountain for a while already.
Neither better nor worse
“The route is already secured with fixed ropes as far as up to the plateau (on about 7,400 meters) “, says Dominik. “There was a long period of fine weather. Accordingly, there is very little snow.” Three steep steps in the icefall above Camp 1, which are ten to 15 meters high each, could become the key points of the route. Yesterday there were 30 centimeters of fresh snow. “The conditions on Manaslu are neither better nor worse than in previous years”, the 44-year-old resumes. Before reaching the Base Camp, Mueller had been hiking with his group first on the Annapurna side, had crossed the Larkya La, a 5,135-meter high mountain pass, and reached Samagaon, a village located at an altitude of 3,500 meters at the foot of Manaslu.
Even closer together
“On our way, we have seen virtually no earthquake damage”, says Dominik, “only one or two minor rockfalls, but it was not clear whether they were triggered by the earthquake or the monsoon.” Heavier damage was reported from the other side of Samagaon, in the region below the village. “The residents have already begun to rebuild. I have the feeling that the earthquake has brought them even closer together.”
Up to 70 percent fewer tourists
Neither in the capital Kathmandu nor during the trek, he and his teammates felt aftershocks, says Dominik: “I feel absolutely safe. There was a very peaceful and positive atmosphere everywhere. We were extremely well received. The Nepalese people are happy about every trekking tourist and expedition climber who comes to Nepal.” The tourism market has obviously slumped much more than officially announced. “The government estimates that the number of tourists has declined by 50 percent. But the representatives of the Nepalese agencies who I met, spoke of up to 70 percent”, says the head of Amical alpin. “When we were hiking on the Manaslu Circuit, we met only seven other trekking tourists. This is as good as nothing, compared with previous years.”
Date15. September 2015 | 19:36