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Annapurna North summit push: Italians and Australians in C2
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May 17, 2005 10: 15 EST
“Tomorrow it will be two months since we left Italy,” reported Silvio ‘Gnaro’ Mondinelli today. “Let’s hope that the date is a good omen and we end up succeeding on this mountain, which has proven a tough nut to crack.”

“On Saturday we celebrated the departure of our companions. We were extremely happy to learn that none of them were suffering from frostbite after having spent a night at 7700m. On Sunday we dismantled BC, leaving just one tent for Christian and I and the minimum gear we will need for our new attempt.”

Farewell time

“Yesterday morning the weather was beautiful. A helicopter came to pick up our mates and their gear, including some snow samples conserved in fridges, needed for some scientific research back in Italy. Watching them go made me somehow sad.”

“However, the remaining climbers here – Christian and I, five Italians from Aosta valley and three Australians – set off for C2. Unsurprisingly, 60 cm of fresh snow forced us to break the trail again. By the afternoon, the clouds came and snow started to fall. Snow kept on falling until 3 am today, only to be replaced by increasing wind. Thinking positive, we hope that the wind will sweep away the fresh snow and leave behind safer conditions on the route.”

Hoping for the best in C2

“Right now we are all stuck in C2, hoping for an improvement in the weather. Forecasts predict a small break from this evening until Thursday. Our staying here may prove essential for the Italian climbers, who are not yet acclimatized.”

“Our spirits are undergoing a tough test, but our will to go on remains firm.”

Mario Merelli, Mario Panzeri, Daniele Bernasconi, Ed Viesturs, and Veikka Gustafsson reached the summit of Annapurna on May 12th, 2005. Ed Viesturs has therefore become the first American to summit all the 14 8000ers.

Silvio Mondinelli did not make it to the summit due to cold. Christian Gobbi had returned to BC one day before. They have joined Abele Blanc’s team for a new summit attempt. Australian Andrew Lock and his crew are going up as well.

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 Italian team member on a previous trip to C2 on Annapurna this season, courtesy of Silvio Mondinelli.

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