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Annapurna North: Summit push tomorrow, again!
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May 3, 2005 12: 51 EST
“Finally, the sky is clear!!! There is a limpid sky and the wind has dropped,” reported Silvio Mondinelli earlier today from BC. “Weather forecasts announce good weather for the next three days at least. We are already acclimatized, so tomorrow morning we will leave BC for our second, and hopefully definitive, summit bid!”

Tough waiting days

“Last week was a test of psychological endurance,” reckoned Gnaro. “Bad weather gave us no brake: Thunder and lightning, abundant snow falling. Yesterday for the first time in days, we were able to enjoy the sun for several hours. It was a joy not just for our eyes, but for our spirits as well. At last we could vent or tents, dry wet sleeping bags, wash up, etc.”

Psychological tension

“During previous days, while bad weather remained, we did our best to pass the time and entertain ourselves. We visited the other climbers in BC for a chat; we filled snow containers for some environmental tests… Most of the time though, we spent long hours sheltered from the wind in our tents, wrapped in our down sleeping bags. These moments, common in every Himalayan expedition, are in my opinion some of the toughest, due to the psychological tension they cause.”

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.

Mondinelli was born in Gardone (Italy) in 1958. Since beginning climbing at 18, he has done major climbs all over the world, including nine 8000ers: Manaslu, Cho Oyu, Everest, GI, GII, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, Kangchenjunga and K2, plus Shisha Pangma’s central summit.

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 Silvio’s toilette in BC before the summit bid, courtesy of Silvio Mondinelli/Italian Annapurna Expedition.

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