THE MANASLU TRAGEDY
by Per Jerberyd © 1997 – 2002
In 1972, Reinhold Messner participated in a Tyrolean expedition led by Wolfgang Nairz. Their intention was to climb the South Face of Manaslu.
The south face had never been climbed before and they pioneered new terrain. Reinhold reached the top alone after his summit partner Franz Jäger had turned around when he felt ha wouldn’t have a chance and just was slowing down Reinhold.
While descending from the summit, a storm was blowing up fast. With nearly no visibility and hurricane winds, Reinhold got lost on the high plateau between 7.500 and 8,000 meters. How would he be able find his way back to the tent? Somewhere he out in the whiteout he heard his partner Franz shouting for him. He must have left the tent to try guiding Reinhold down through the blizzard. Still lost, in near panic Reinhold managed to figure out that the right way must be towards the wind since he had seen the bad weather coming from a certain direction. Not many persons would be able to think so clear under such conditions, once again a clear mind and the fast and right decision saved his life. He fought his way through the storm and found the high camp with the tent.
When he finally got into the tent, Franz was not there to welcome him back. Instead Horst Frankhauser and Andi Schlick greeted him. Where’s Franz??? Out in the storm! Reinhold was 100% sure he had heard him shouting to guide him down the mountain. Franz must have left the tent to try to help Reinhold down through the storm. Horst and Andi left the tent to search for Franz. Reinhold was in bad condition and stayed lying in the tent with snow blowing through the fabric. Soon there where 10 centimeter covering his sleeping bag. By now Reinhold was freezing desperately and shivering uncontrolled.
Horst and Andi were by now out in the storm. The wind was terribly and the darkness and heavy snowfall made the sight nonexistent. They searched and searched without result. Suddenly they also realized that they too where lost! They dug an emergency bivouac and found some resonable shelter. It was at this point both Hans and Andi where sure they could hear Franz crying and shouting for help out there somewhere! Horst and Andi now left their snow hole to search once again, but found nothing but darkness and snow… They digged out a second bivouac hole and crawled inside.
Andi was not happy with that his friend Franz was left out there somewhere in a desperate need of help, he suddenly left the snow hole and stumbled out in the dark. Horst followed, but he couldn’t locate Andi any longer. He returned to the bivouac and merely survived the night. Badly frostbitten he returned the next morning to Reinhold and the tent. Now both Franz and Andi where missing! The catastrophe was a fact! Desperately Reinhold and Horst searched for their missing friends. It had snowed more than a meter and they found no trace.
Upon returning home, several articles where written by people never having climbed or tried any 8,000 meter mountain, they all blamed Reinhold for causing the whole accident. Reinhold was badly hurt by the accusations, though all the expedition members knew the real truth and supported him in his story. This was Reinholds second 8,000-meter mountain and also the second time he lost his summit partner. From now on Reinhold decided not to go on any large-scale expeditions. Never again!
“A chain of unfortunate circumstances had led to the Manaslu tragedy; and if Reinhold had not done all he did to survive, it would have been very much worse.”
– Wolfgang Nairz