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Annapurna - "This is our last attempt"
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May 14, 2004 21: 27 EST
Bad weather and a highly difficult route on the Southern Face of Annapurna forced the mBank team down to BC earlier this week. After escaping avalanches, being battered by high winds, getting covered by snowstorms, and half the climbers falling ill, the team finally decided to take a rest.

“They descended to BC after setting Camp 3 (6800m). The amount of work they have had to put in is exhausting and the guys are wiped out. Out of a planned 700m of fixed rope they were only able to set 100m. Time is getting short and the team is trying to recharge their energy,” said Sergey Bogomolov from the team.

Piotr Pustelnik now have this to say in his latest e-mail:

"We have made plans for the next days. Tomorrow (that's today May 14) two sherpas will go upwards. They will take food, gas and some equipment with them to supply the Camps.

On Saturday a four-person team: Me, Dariusz Zaluski, Sergey Bogomolov and Peter Hamor will climb up. Sunday, Martin Gablik and Aljosa Markac will follow. Because of his health problems, Vlado Strba has to stay in BC.

This is our last attempt, if it is possible we will fix Camp III, and from there we will try to reach the summit. Otherwise we will surrender. There is no third option.

Today we had a good weather with a good visibility, so we could take a look at the face. This observation has given us the general knowledge of where we should go, so we decided for the optimal route for us. Thanks to everyone who feels for us, keep your fingers crossed for us.

Piotr Pustelnik"

Oh, we feel for you guys:

"It's easy to fight when everything's right,
And you're mad with the thrill and the glory;
It's easy to cheer when victory's near,
And wallow in fields that are gory.
It's a different song when everything's wrong,
When you're feeling infernally mortal;
When it's ten against one, and hope there is none,
Buck up, little soldier, and chortle:

Carry on! Carry on!

Things never were looming so black.
But show that you haven't a cowardly streak,
And though you're unlucky you never are weak.
Carry on! Carry on!
Brace up for another attack.
It's looking like hell, but -- you never can tell:
Carry on, old man! Carry on!
(Part of Poem "Carry On" by Robert Service.)

Piotr's team is climbing Annapurna South Face via the classic Bonnington route. "We want to establish ABC near the wall and three camps up above. We need to put fixed ropes in the most dangerous places on the wall."

Serguey Bogomolov, 43, is joining the team. For Serguey this will be his 12th 8,000er. In July 2002 he climbed Shisha Pangma by a new route, crossing to the formerly unclimbed North-East ridge. Serguey is a member of the Kazakhstan National team’s Mountain Peaks project, who are climbing Makalu this spring.

Year after year, climbers return to Annapurna despite its reputation as a difficult, dangerous mountain (a reputation earned in large part due to the high risk of avalanche.) In autumn 2002, an International Expedition team including Carlos Pauner and Silvio Mondinelli called off their attempt after heavy snows rendered the route too dangerous to continue.

Avalanche risk also prevented Ed Viesturs from summiting the peak in spring that year, his second attempt in two years. For Viesturs, whose own climbing career was inspired by reading Herzog’s book when he was 16, Annapurna remains his final 8,000m summit in his Endeavor 8000 quest to scale the fourteen 8,000m peaks. Ed is returning to Annapurna this year, and is currently on Everest.

Other climbers this year are the Italian/Kazakh combo of Simone Moro and Denis Urubko, who first attempted the North Wall on Baruntse, 7129m. They reached the Kali Himal (Black Summit), also known as the North Summit at 7014m via a new route up the North Face. The new line is named "Ciao Patrick" as a tribute to Patrick Berhault, lost to Dom this month. Simone and Denis will move to Annapurna’s North Face tomorrow morning, attempting a new line on it, possibly in alpine style.

Annapurna (8,091 m) is statistically the most dangerous peak of all the eight thousanders. The overall summit/fatality rate is 41% (although not all climbers summit of course).

Annapurna was the very first 8,000m peak ever summited. In 1950, French climbers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal used only a rough map as a guide, and picked their way up an untried route to the summit. Their descent turned into a hellish nightmare, leaving them near death, with their extremities completely deadened by frostbite. Herzog and Lachenal survived their ordeal, but too many others have tragically lost their lives over the years.

On Christmas Day 1997, Anatoli Boukreev was killed in an avalanche, an event that shocked the mountaineering community. In total, only 130 climbers have summited Annapurna.

Image of typical Annapurna conditions for this expedition, courtesy of Piotr.




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