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Annapurna: SUMMIT PUSH from both sides!
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May 16, 2005 12: 15 EST
Abele Blanc and Andrew Lock’s teams are leaving BC tomorrow for a new summit push on Annapurna’s North Side, according to Mario Merelli. Mario is already on his way back to KTM, extremely happy after reaching the summit on May 12th. His climbing mates Silvio Mondinelli and Christian Gobbi, who had to retreat during the previous summit bid, have chosen to stay and join forces with fellow Italian Abele Blanc, who offered to share his supplies with them.

Mario Merelli and Mario Panzeri also had their share of excitement on the way back down from the summit. They started their descent slightly behind Viesturs, Veikka and Daniele, but fog caught them by surprise. Night fell and they had to seek shelter in a crevasse at 7600m. The next morning they made it down to BC extremely tired, but at least they were safe.

Don’t loose your way, guys!

After resting for several hours in their tents, they met Abele and Silvio, who outlined their summit push plans. “Conditions might not be ideal, as the wind is expected to blow strongly until Monday,” they said. “However, there is a positive factor in it: That wind will sweep away the fresh snow which fell on the route during the last days.”

Mario suggested that Abele and his crew fix 200 meters of extra rope, and to take along as many wands as they could carry.

Catching their breath on the South Wall

Meanwhile, on the south wall, Piotr Pustelnik, Piotr Morawski, Marcin Miotk and Sherpa Rita made it past the difficult sections and reached 7300 m yesterday.

“They had planned to set up an additional camp on the way to the top,” reported their home team earlier today. “However, it got dark and they could not find a proper place, so they decided to return to Camp2 for the night. Today they are remaining there to catch their breath, and tomorrow they will try to go up.”

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 and Christian Kuntner’s team for a new summit attempt. Australian Andrew Lock and his crew are going up as well.

Piotr now has 12 of the 14, 8000ers completed. Only Anna and Broad Peak remain on his quest to summit the world's tallest mountains. He has climbed Gasherbrum II twice (1990 and 1997), Nanga Parbat in 1992, Cho Oyu and Shisha Pangma Main in 1993, Dhaulagiri in 1994, Everest in 1995, K2 from the North in 1996, Gasherbrum I in 1997, Lhotse in 2000, Kangchenjunga in 2001, Makalu in 2002 and Manaslu in 2003.

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 Polish team members departing C1 on Annapurna South, courtesy of Piotr Pustelnik.

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