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Annapurna North: Italians ready to pounce
image story

May 5, 2005 10: 45 EST
The Italians led by Silvio Mondinelli were hoping for the weather to improve, but they just can’t wait any longer. They need to move, preferably up. After almost two weeks feeling like prisoners in their tents, yesterday they fought the blizzard and went up to C2, returning to BC that same evening, according to Mario Merelli.

On their marks, and ready

The plan was not just to train, but more importantly, to carry enough food and rope up for the push to the summit. On the way back down they picked up the tents and gear from Camp I, since they won’t need it any longer.

Mario pointed out that the wall is overloaded with fresh snow; there is no choice but to wait until the snow stops falling, and settles. Silvio Mondinelli commented it would take at least three or four days for the circa 1 meter fresh snow to be stable again. Back in their BC tents, the climbers cross their fingers and repeat the mantra: “Patience, patience…”

The Italians have already fixed all the difficult sections on the normal route, and set their camps. They launched a summit bid two weeks ago, but they were forced to retreat due to poor weather conditions. “There was only a plateau between us and the summit,” commented team leader Silvio Mondinelli. “Next time we go up, we will get to the top.”

Viesturs’ Hollywood-like arrival

Meanwhile, Ed Viesturs’ climbing team has finally come to town. The first wave that came to BC included photographers, journalists, representatives from the sponsors, and porters. Yesterday, Ed, Veikka Gustafsson and Jimmy Chin literally “dropped in.” They arrived by helicopter, according to the expedition’s reports on Microsoft/Messenger’s site “First and Best.” Along with the climbing stars was David Breashears (the “Spielberg of Everest filming”), apparently taking some shots of Ed and company.

Lock's team in Camp 2

Meanwhile, Andrew Lock´s Australian team has progressed fast. According to Mondinelli, they have departed C1 and both teams met in Camp 2.

Silvio Mondinelli is currently climbing Annapurna through the French route on the North side, along with his regular climbing mate, Mario Merelli, and also Mario Panzeri, Daniele Bernasconi, and, on 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.

Image of climbers on Annapurna North last year, courtesy of Simone Moro.
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