Off the beaten track: Manaslu North Side chat with Peter Hamor

Posted: Apr 17, 2015 10:00 am EDT

(Tina Sjogren) In this interview series we've heard from different mountaineers climbing Himalaya "their way". There are ski descents, back-to-backs, without supplementary oxygen, in independent teams and all the way to full commercial support. Each for their own reasons, following their particular heart. 


Today we feature Slovak Peter Hamor, roping up with Romanian Horia Colibasanu for a different attempt on Manaslu.  Style is more important than summit to him, Horia says, and Hamor couldn't agree more.  Horia climbed all his eight 8000ers without supplementary O2 and sherpa support. Shishapangma became Hamor's 12th successful 8000 meter peak last year, climbed with Horia on the Inaki route.


There is a human-aspect history to the two men's tales. In 2008 Horia ran single-handed up the treacherous slopes of Annapurna to try and rescue a dying mate, the storied Spaniard Inaki Ochoa. Two years earlier Hamor summited Annapurna alone, spending a cold night on the dreaded summit in a dug out bivouac, as part of the technical high altitude Himalayan Trilogy dream team which included Polish Piotr Pustelnik and (the late) Piotr Morawski. 


Returning to Manaslu this season (which he summited via the normal route in 2006 with Inaki) Horia may attempt a ski descent. The climb will go off the beaten path, light and unsupported as usual. Instead,  Peter says, it will all boil down to the bacon!


Explorersweb: You're off to Manaslu north side with Horia, what route do you plan?


Peter Hamor: Manaslu North has been neglected in a way. There are a few options but our choice will depend on actual conditions, mostly snow conditions after last month's heavy snowfall, that's what will impact our decision. It's sure our expedition will start on the normal route.


Explorersweb: What is the approaching trek on that side like?


Peter: Trekking around Manaslu ranks among the most beautiful trekking tours in the Himalayas. I made it with my wife Marika two years ago. On the way to Larke Bhanjyang, or rather Larke Pass as known by many tourists, you can spot the Syacha Glacier and its valley with a path which takes you to Manaslu North. So the access from the north is just as easy as access from the east or from the west.


Explorersweb: How will you acclimate on the normal route?


Peter: We plan to spend a couple of nights at 6,000 or 7,000 meters to acclimate and check conditions on upper levels of Manaslu. We've brought our skis because there's loads of snow in the Himalayas this year but I believe it won't be that dramatic and that we'll survive safely those two or three weeks on the normal route.


Explorersweb: What’s the schedule and plan for the north side?


Peter: Nothing special. We plan to start out from Base Camp ready for a ten-day trip (standard light style with bloody heavy backpacks :), going round Naike Peak via Samdo to Dharmashala.


From there we'll continue across the moraine to the face, then up its right part to the main summit after which we'll try to join the normal route along the ridge via the Dutch summit.


However, that might all change since we're talking about an ascent of a serious Himalayan peak, not a romantic stroll :)


Explorersweb: Horia plans to ski down if possible, will you try it as well?


Peter: I'm more of a climber than a skier and I use skis mainly to make the access to and descent from my climbing exploits easier. However I've already been to expeditions which were more about skiing than climbing, such as Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus mountains or Mount McKinley in Alaska, and I found them quite nice.


Yet, my goal is to climb on Manaslu, not to ski down the mountain so I've brought my skis for easier access and descent in case there's a lot of snow on the mountain.


Explorersweb: Any cool gear you'll be using this season?


Peter: Nothing special beside the skis. Only standard gear just like on previous expeditions. I usually don't change things which work well for me. Electronics is the only thing than changes most dramatically and that is probably most often upgraded by alpinists. I'm sure some new gadgets will be seen in Base Camp this time again.


Explorersweb: The Koreans on Lhotse last fall told us food is important to stay strong - being a Slovak and a Romanian, what do you guys eat for power in camps?


Peter: I totally agree with the Koreans – food is very important, that's why we were extremely attentive to it in our preparation. We've brought several kilos of high altitude smoked sausage and salami, not forgetting our secret weapon bearing the same name in our respective languages Slovak and Romanian – „slanina” (EN: bacon).


It's made by some friends of ours in line with secret recipes and ingestion thereof during sports activities and climbing ascents is being the object of study by the intercontinental-anti-doping and anti-cholesterol committee. So far it has not been banned!


Explorersweb: You've climbed a lot with Horia lately, what’s so special about him? :)


Peter: Have a look at his mountaineering CV and there's the fundamental answer to your question. An experienced high altitude climber, he's been through a lot at the world's highest mountains. I know I can rely on him in difficult situations, which is crucial in climbing.


His summit drive has always been very strong and contagious, and he's ready to suffer a bit for achieving his goals. Enough said, I think, or if I praise him more and he happens to read this it'll make him proud. Oh, and here goes a bonus: he's twelve years younger :)


Explorersweb: Horia says style is important to him, do you agree?


Peter: Absolutely. The climb wouldn't be worth it all if I were to end up with a feeling that I wasn't fair to the mountain and even rude to her. Help from high altitude porters, use of supplemental oxygen, “tactical” waiting for others to break trail through the snow or lay fixed ropes... simply anything that goes beyond what is correct behavior - as well as any advantage taken only to increase your chance of “success” - actually deprives you the feeling of sheer happiness gained by a nice and worthy ascent.


Explorersweb: You guys killed it on Shisha last year (first spring summit) what was the key to that success?


Peter: Nothing special. Our summit drive was simply immense, we did not rely on anybody or anything, we did our job, we also had a pinch of good luck and a great weather forecast. On top of that, we were first to arrive and the mountain was all ours, which all in all resulted in a very pleasant and romantic ascent.  


Explorersweb: What’s your greatest concern about the upcoming challenge?


Peter: Manaslu is notorious for heavy snowstorms and unpredictable weather. Last fall and this year's early season only confirmed that reputation, so I hope for nothing but better conditions and that we won't have to fight heavy snowfall.


Explorersweb: You've done 12. Which has been your greatest climb yet?


Peter: Each ascent was different and each brought me something regardless of whether I reached the summit or not. It's like you asked a mother which of her children she loves the most.


The important part are the friends you are united with for a couple of months thanks to a particular mountain. I think my most cherished memories are the climbs I did with Piotr Pustelnik and Piotr Morawski, because those expeditions were about more than mountaineering and Himalayan ascents.


Explorersweb: Which one do you save for last and why?


Peter: Only God knows which mountain will be my last. I hope I'll be able to climb nice mountains, not necessarily the fourteen most famous, with good friends for many years ahead.


Previous with Hamor:


2015: Horia and Hamor Rope Up for Manaslu North Side Climb and Ski Descent

2014: Shisha Summit! Hamor, Horia and Ionescu grab first top this season

2013: Interview with Peter Hamor: Lhotse and the ‘Mecca‘ of high altitude mountaineering

2012: K2 current, interview with Peter Hamor: "They were friends you'd steal horses with"

2012: Kanchenjunga summit: Hamor on top, Horia turns around

Best of ExplorersWeb 2006 Awards: Piotr Pustelnik and the Himalayan Trilogy team


Himalaya 2015 Spring climbing interviews


Wanted: 6 tops in six months. Himalaya then and now, Nick's story (2 part)

Interview, Stitzinger and Melle: Everest North Side Without Oxygen

Explorersweb interview with Alan Arnette: "I now know I can do most anything I set as a goal in life" (3 part)

Hello from Kathmandu: Tunc Findik going for Annapurna (2 part)



Himalaya 2015 Spring climbing coverage


‘Other’ Eight-Thousanders Round Up: Snow and More Snow

Everest Update: Unusual Snow at South BC, Rope Fixing

Everest summiteer lost on lonely climb: Farewell Malli - updated

Annapurna Keeps Spoiling Summit Push Schedules

Horia and Hamor Rope Up for Manaslu North Side Climb and Ski

Annapurna: Holding back Summit-Bids, Other Climbers Start Acclimatization

R.I.P. Samuli Mansikka

Annapurna Rescue Mission Launched: Not Everything is alright

Annapurna: List of Summiteers

Annapurna: Climbers on Final Summit-bid! (Update: Summits)

Annapurna: First Summit Push of the Season Begins

Spring 2015: Early Birds Have Reached Annapurna

10 things to do before going off to climb Everest

Wildcard: Everest Rules and Permits 2015








File image of Peter Hamor on the 7, 5 km (4, 4 miles) long east ridge connecting Annapurna east (8010m) and Annapurna main summit (8091m) at the far end of the ridge.
courtesy Piotr Morawski, SOURCE
Peter Hamor and Horia Colibasanu on Kang in 2012.
courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Tippity top: Last rock with prayer flags en route to the summit of Kanchenjunga.
courtesy Peter Hamor, SOURCE
Horia tried in vain to rescue Inaki Ochoa de Olza on Annapurna. Last year he and Hamor repeated the late mountaineer's route on Shisha.
"Dos Pedros"; the late Piotr Morawski (left) and Peter Hamor back in the day.
Manaslu BC covered by several meters of snow. While Simone and Tamara have returned to Italy, Romanian-Slovak duo Horia Colibasanu and Peter Hamor are on the way to Manaslu BC. "Hopefully, we'll be there soon," Horia tweeted this week.