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Annapurna North: Ed Viesturs and Andrew Lock joining the game
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May 2, 2005 14: 15 EST
Mario Merelli just called over news over the satellite phone. The Italian team led by Silvio Mondinelli is waiting for good weather to launch their second push for the summit, with higher camps set and the route’s difficult sections fixed.

The waiting game can be unnerving but, at least, the Italians are not alone on the mountain anymore. Besides Abele Blanc and Christian Kuntner, who reached the mountain last week, two other teams have shown up today: those led by Ed Viesturs and Australian Andrew Lock.

”The waiting game”

“This morning the weather was beautiful, and we thought that we could resume our climb at last. But soon after the conditions deteriorated quickly and now the mountain is completely wrapped in clouds. We keep waiting…”

Mario reported the arrival of Andrew Lock and Ed Viesturs expeditions who made their first trip up to C1 this morning, loaded with gear and supplies.

Beer and salami

“They have all set BC lower than ours, about a 20 minute walk away. Thus they all stopped at our Camp on their way down from the mountain, to enjoy a beer and a few slices of our genuine Bergamo salami,” reported Mario.

Both Ed Viesturs, Abele Blanc and Christian Kuntner aim to complete the ascent of all the 14th 8000ers on Annapurna. Australian Andrew Lock has been studying different climbing options for this spring. His first choice was Kangchenjunga, but he couldn't find any affordable expeditions. Thus he has finally chosen Annapurna as his 11th 8000er.

Silvio climbs with his regular climbing mate, Mario Merelli, and also Mario Panzeri, Daniele Bernasconi, and, in his first Himalayan experience; Silvio's friend Christian Gobbi. 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.

Viesturs have been acclimatizing on Cho Oyu, along with Veikka Gustafsson and Jimmy Chin. Gustafsson reached the summit whilst Ed turned back to help Jimmy - suffering from symptoms of Cerebral Edema - down the mountain.

Andrew Lock is Australia’s most accomplished altitude climber. He has summited 10, 8000ers, including Everest twice.

Image of Mario Merelli in BC courtesy of the Expedition team/Mario Merelli

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