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Annapurna North: Climbers blocked by the wind in Camp 3
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May 11, 2005 09: 54 EST
“There is nothing we can do,” reported Silvio Mondinelli earlier this morning. “We are blocked in Camp 3 due to strong winds.”

Silvio is stranded in C3 along with four Italian team mates, American Ed Viesturs and Finnish Veikka Gustafsson.

Summit bid tomorrow, wind permitting

“From the moment we reached Camp 3, wind gave us no brake," explained Silvio. "We were not able to leave the tents earlier this morning. We talk from tent to tent though the canvas and over the roaring wind. All our hopes are with a possible improvement of the weather conditions: Forecasts announce winds will calm down tomorrow. If that happens, we will go for the top tomorrow in the early morning. Meanwhile, hours seem to go by frustratingly slowly. Annapurna is proving to be a tough challenge.”

Two months long test

“The experience is testing our capacity of self control to a maximum level: We know that the ongoing summit bid will be the last for us this season; we are running out of supplies. Besides, after two months on the mountain we are exhausted both physically and mentally.”

Silvio Mondinelli is climbing Annapurna with his regular climbing mate, Mario Merelli, and also Mario Panzeri, Daniele Bernasconi, and, on his first Himalayan experience, Silvio's friend Christian Gobbi.

Mondinelli’s ambition aims far beyond Annapurna though. He wants the 14 8000ers and he wants them now. “I can't waste much time. I'm getting old!” he told ExplorersWeb, only half joking. After Anna he plans on climbing four more 8000ers - If he succeeds, he'll finish the year as a brand new member of the 14 8000er summiteers’ club.

For Ed too, this summit is special: If he succeeds, Ed will become the first American to join the small number of climbers who have stood atop the summits of all 14 8,000 meter peaks in the world, and climbed them without oxygen.

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.) Annapurna (8,091 m) is statistically the most dangerous peak of all the eight thousanders. The overall summit fatality rate is 40% (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 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 135 climbers have summited Annapurna - last year Ralf Dujmovits, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Denis Urubko summited the mountain from the North side.

Image of Annapurna this season, courtesy of Silvio 'Gnaro' Mondinelli.

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