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Annapurna South Face - It's over
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May 20, 2004 17: 42 EST
The guys fought a hard battle, but Annapurna - and the weather - beat the team in the end. The good news are that the team is alive. Piotr, Sergey and the others at least have a chance to come back, for another try, another day:

"Day 52 (20th of May)

Good Morning this is mBank Era Annapurna South Face Expedition. As we had planned, we started preparing for the final attack at midnight tonight...

Unfortunately the latest predictions of the last weather forecast turned unsuccessful. Instead of expected pretty good weather, there was a terrible storm with heavy snowfalls.

Camp II was ruined within 2 hours and in the morning we were forced to descend to Camp I, as there was no chance to climb up in such terrible weather conditions. Well, you can't always win...

We still feel satisfied as we reached the parts of the face that we could have easily crossed, if only the weather had let us. We were a great team and everybody did a great job here.

Thank you all very much and...see you!

Piotr Pustelnik"

Bad weather and a highly difficult route on the Southern Face of Annapurna forced the mBank team down to BC earlier this week. After escaping avalanches, being battered by high winds, getting covered by snowstorms, and half the climbers falling ill, the team decided on one more push. But Piotr also said:

"This is our last attempt, if it is possible we will fix Camp III, and from there we will try to reach the summit. Otherwise we will surrender. There is no third option."

This is Piotrs 13th 8000er and then he has only Broad Peak left. Last year, Piotr Pustelnik and Krzysztof Tarasewicz were the only two climbers to reach the summit of Manaslu. High winds caused the climbers to fall 300m, nearly knocking them off the mountain on their descent.

The pair used a compass to guide them through the blinding snowstorm down to safety, but Pustelnik sustained frostbite on four of his fingers. Having summited twelve 8,000m peaks, he stated, “I found the expedition to Manaslu the hardest compared to my last three climbs. Maybe K2 in 1996 from North was harder.

The Spanish GMAM expedition attempted Manaslu this year, but aborted their attempt May 7. They said: "We have climbed 7000ers in one week, and two of them in less than 20 days, but on Manaslu we couldn't get past 6300 meters in a months work."

Piotr's team was climbing Annapurna South Face via the classic Bonnington route. "We want to establish ABC near the wall and three camps up above. We need to put fixed ropes in the most dangerous places on the wall."

Serguey Bogomolov, 43, is joining the team. For Serguey this will be his 12th 8,000er. In July 2002 he climbed Shisha Pangma by a new route, crossing to the formerly unclimbed North-East ridge. Serguey is a member of the Kazakhstan National team’s Mountain Peaks project, who are climbing Makalu this spring.

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.) In autumn 2002, an International Expedition team including Carlos Pauner and Silvio Mondinelli called off their attempt after heavy snows rendered the route too dangerous to continue.

Avalanche risk also prevented Ed Viesturs from summiting the peak in spring that year, his second attempt in two years. For Viesturs, whose own climbing career was inspired by reading Herzog’s book when he was 16, Annapurna remains his final 8,000m summit in his Endeavor 8000 quest to scale the fourteen 8,000m peaks. Ed is returning to Annapurna this year, from Everest.

Other climbers this year are the Italian/Kazakh combo of Simone Moro and Denis Urubko, who first attempted the North Wall on Baruntse, 7129m. They reached the Kali Himal (Black Summit), also known as the North Summit at 7014m via a new route up the North Face. The new line is named "Ciao Patrick" as a tribute to Patrick Berhault, lost to Dom this month. Simone and Denis will move to Annapurna’s North Face tomorrow morning, attempting a new line on it, possibly in alpine style.

Annapurna (8,091 m) is statistically the most dangerous peak of all the eight thousanders. The overall summit/fatality rate is 41% (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 tragically 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 130 climbers have summited Annapurna.

Image of the climbers on Anna, courtesy Piotr.
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