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Andrew Lock on Annapurna tragedy: "I wanted to keep on climbing"
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Jun 6, 2005 13: 46 EST
He was there when a serac fell on Annapurna’s north side route, injuring three climbers and killing Christian Kuntner. The lethal rock and ice chunks flew over Andrew Lock, his American mates Charlie Mace and Brendan Cusick, Silvio Mondinelli,and Christian Gobbi, to hit with full force a second group of climbers who were in a narrow couloir just meters below.

Currently at home in Australia, Andrew Lock looks back at the event honestly: He wanted to keep climbing, but could not afford to try alone.

A question of luck

“The avalanche that killed Christian was very unfortunate - bad timing for those still in the gully and very lucky for those of us who’d already climbed out of the gully and into the cover of some seracs,” he says.

Silvio Mondinelli took care of the injured climbers’ camps and escorted the wounded and Kuntner’s body in a helicopter back to Kathmandu. Devastated, he immediately abandoned his plan to climb Lhotse and headed home. Silvio was long time friend of Kuntner and team leader Abele Blanc, whom he left in a state of shock in hospital.

Deserted killer mountain

Meanwhile, an international team attempting Dhaulagiri and planning to head for Annapurna immediately afterwards also changed its mind and called it quits on Dhaula, tired of being rejected by poor conditions one time and another. As the news spread on Kuntner’s death, they returned home without giving a second thought to Annapurna. It seemed nobody wanted to step on the mountain’s blood-stained slopes, at least for this season. No one, that is, except Andrew.

“Unfortunately nobody other than me wanted to continue with the climb after we’d completed the rescue, so I was forced to abandon the mountain,” he says. “I’d been hoping that the international team on Dhaulagiri who were thinking of coming over to Annapurna would still come but they decided not to, so that was it.”

Not the best moment to climb alone

Of course, he could have chosen to climb the entire route on his own. But that was far beyond the limit of risk he could assume.

“I’ve soloed a couple of 8000ers in the past but the general weather and snow conditions of this hill prompted me not to try this one alone,” Andrew reckoned. “So on the 20th May, I climbed up alone to camp 2, cleared out my equipment and returned to base. On the 21st I flew out to Pokhara with the Americans from my team and the remaining Italians of Silvio Mondinelli’s team.”

Back at home, the Australian mountain guide is now focusing on the future.

“That’s it for me this season - back to work now to earn some money for the next season,” Andrew says. “I am planning to guide on Cho Oyu and then to quickly climb the south face of Shisha in autumn, as I’d hoped to do last autumn before cracking my pelvis.”

Andrew Lock is Australia’s most accomplished altitude climber. His 8000 metre summits include: 1993 K2, 1997 Dhaulagiri, 1997 Broad Peak, 1998 Nanga Parbat, 1999 Hidden Peak, 1999 Gasherbrum 2, 2000 Everest, 2002 Manaslu, 2002 Lhotse, 2003 Shishapangma, 2004 Everest.

An experienced Antarctic veteran, Andrew has led, trained and guided members of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions on multiple expeditions and guided commercial groups across Antarctica and the sub Antarctic.

Andrew is an experienced mountain and wilderness documentary cameraman and in 2004 was contracted to film and climb Mt Everest for the Discovery Channel.

Image of Andrew with Everest behind, courtesy of Andrew-lock.com.

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