In the chaotic aftermath of an avalanche early Sunday that killed as many as 15 people on the Nepalese peak Manaslu, it has been revealed that one of the few known survivors is a legendary American skier.
Eight climbers have been confirmed dead and there are reports of a ninth body having been found. Six climbers remain missing but the search, which was hampered Sunday because of fog, was called off Monday afternoon.
Glen Plake, 48, a free-skiing pioneer from Lake Tahoe, California, told Trey Cook of Epic Tv, from Manaslu base camp: “I’m OK, a bit beat up; missing some teeth and a bruised eye but write in big capital letters: GLEN PLAKE IS ALIVE AND HE’S COMING HOME.”
Another prominent survivor is Canada’s Greg Hill, who in 2010 set a record for climbing and skiing two million vertical feet in one calendar year.
Two of the missing are Greg Costa and Remy Lecluse, who were part of Plake’s ski-mountaineering team.
The massive avalanche struck several climbing parties high on the 26,759-foot peak during the predawn darkness. Many were asleep at the time.
Basanta Bahadur Kunwar, a police officer in the western district of Gorkha, told BBC that 29 people were on the mountain when the avalanche struck. However, reports about the number of climbers vary.
Of the eight killed, four are French, one is Italian, one Spanish, one German, and one a Nepali national. Ten injured climbers were flown to the capital city of Kathmandu.
Plake stated that the avalanche, which measured nearly 2,000 feet across, swept through Camp 3 (about 20,000 feet), destroying about 25 tents. The slide also tossed around tents farther down at Camp 2, where Hill had been sleeping. Some of the Camp 2 climbers assisted in a dawn search that became impossible after heavy fog swept over the slope.
Plake, a longtime freeskier who recently developed a passion for ski-mountaineering, had been sharing a tent with Costa. Lecluse was in a separate tent.
The avalanche swept Plake about 900 feet down the mountain. The flamboyant athlete known for his gigantic Mohawk hairstyle came to rest still in his sleeping bag, with his headlamp on.
“We all went to sleep with avalanche transceivers on so I punched my way out of the tent and started searching,” Plake said. “I searched for 10 minutes before I realized I was barefoot in the snow.”
Plake added: “Greg had been using my down suit for a pillow and I found my suit. I found everything that was in my tent–camera, sleeping bag, ski boots. It was like someone had thrown my gear in the back of a pickup–but there was no sign of Greg. Remy and his tent are nowhere to be found.”
Lecluse was one of Plake’s regular ski partners. John Stifter, editor of Powder magazine, recalled that in 2011 the pair completed a first descent of the southeast couloir of the 3777-meter Pointe de la Lune (Punta Ceresole) on the Cresta Gastaldi of Gran Paradiso near Chamonix.
Manaslu is the world’s eighth-highest peak, and considered one of the most dangerous to climb. Dozens of climbers have perished on its slopes in recent years.
Photos (top to bottom): American skiing icon Glen Plake was all smiles during his climb to Camp Two on Friday; Greg Costa crossing over a crevasse between camps; Plake, with missing climbers Remi Lecluse and Greg Costa in base camp. Photos courtesy EpicTV.
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