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.
T. Imanishi (Japan) and Gyalzen Norbu (Sherpa) made the first ascent of Manaslu on May 9, 1956. The team was led by Yuko 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.
The next successful climb to the summit of Manslu 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. 1972, an Austrian expedition led by Wolfgang Nairz made the first ascent via the SW face. On April 22, 1973, Gerhard Schmatz, Gerhard, 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. On April 26, 1975, Gerald Garcia led a 12 member Spanish team for a second time. Two members of the team Jeronimo Lopez and Sonam Sherpa of a Spanish reached the summit via the north-east face. On April 26, 1975, Gerald Garcia, Jeronimo Lopez and Sonam Sherpa of a Spanish expedition reached the summit via the north-east face.
In the pre-monsoon period of 1980, a South Korean team led by Li In Jung reached the summit via the normal route, which was the eighth ascent to the peak. The year 1981 marked several expeditions: the largest contingent of 13 climbers of a team organized by the Sport-Eiselin of Zurich led by H. V. Kaenel, made it to the summit along the normal route; in autumn, French mountaineers opened a new route, a variation of the west face route; and a Japanese team, led by Y. Kato, made an ascent via the normal route. In 1983, two climbers from Yugoslavia, trying to climb the peak from the south face, were buried under an avalanche. A Korean team reached the summit in the autumn of the same year. A German team led by G. Harter was successful in climbing the peak via the south face, which followed the "1972 Tyrolean Route". During the winter of 1983-84, a Polish team led by L. Korniszewski successfully followed the Tyrolean Route. In the spring season of 1984, a Yugoslav team led by A. Kunaver climbed the peak via the south face. During the same year, in autumn, Polish teams climbed the south ridge and south-east face. On January 14, 1984, Maciej Berbeka and Ryszard Gajewski of a Polish expedition made the first winter ascent via the normal route. On November 10, 1986, Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer reached the summit via a new route, in Alpine style, with no supplementary oxygen. Carlos Carsolio climbed the east summit of Manaslu, and then Kukuczka and Hajzer climbed the main summit. In 1986, a joint team from Poland and Mexico led by Kukuczka opened a new route along the east ridge, descending via the north-east face.
On May 2, 1993, Sepp Brunner, Gerhard Floßmann, Sepp Hinding and Dr. Michael Leuprecht reached the summit via the normal route and descended on skis from 7,000 metres (23,000 ft) to the basecamp. The Austrian expedition was led by Arthur Haid. On December 8, 1995, Anatoli Boukreev summited Manaslu with the Second Kazakhstan Himalaya Expedition. On May 12, 1996, Carlos Carsolio and his younger brother Alfredo, reached the summit of Manaslu. For Carsolio it was his fourteenth and final eight-thousander, becoming the fourth person in history and the youngest to achieve the feat. In 1997, Charlie Mace made the first American ascent, and on May 13, 2002, five Americans and two Sherpas reached the summit.
During the spring of 2000, there were four expeditions to Manaslu. One climb was on the east face by the 'Japan 2000 Expedition' led by Yoshio Maruyama. The other three were on the north-east ridge: the ETB 2000 Expedition of Spain led by Felix Maria I. Iriate; the 2000 Korean Manaslu Expedition of Korea led by Han Wang Yong; and the Manaslu 2000 Expedition from Italy led by Franco Brunello. On May 22, 2001, a three-member team of Ukraine Himalaya 2001 Expedition comprising Serguiy Kovalov, Vadim Leontiev and Vladislav Terzyul successfully summited Manaslu via the challenging south-east face; all climbed without oxygen support. During the autumn of 2001, three members and a sherpa of the Japan Workers Alpine Federation climbed the peak via the north-east face on October 9, 2001.
Piotr Pustelnik and Krzysztof Tarasewicz climbed Manaslu on May 17, 2003. However, Dariusz Zaluski, Anna Czerwinska and Barbara Drousek, who started the climb after Piotr and Krzysztof, had to turn back due to strong winds and bad weather. With this ascent Pustelnik has summited 12 of the world's 14 highest peaks (Broad Peak and Annapurna are left).
On May 29, 2006, Australian mountaineer Sue Fear died after falling into a crevasse on her descent after summiting. In 2008, Valerie Parkinson was the first British woman to climb Manaslu.
Traditionally, the "spring" or " pre-monsoon" season, is the least hazardous for bad weather, snowfall and avalanches. Manaslu is one of the more risky 8000ers to climb: as of May 2008, there have been 297 ascents of Manaslu and 53 deaths on the mountain, making it "the 4th most dangerous 8000m peak, behind Annapurna, Nanga Parbat, and K2."