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Annapurna snows - Simone and Denis back in BC
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May 25, 2004 12: 20 EST
The latest from Simone and Denis on Anna's North Face:

"Trusting in the weather forecast and in our instincts we decided to return to base camp today, where we are now.

We will stay here for only 48 hours. We will recover our energy. Gerlinde, Ralf, Hirotaka and Boris remained at C2 and today they will work on fixing rope in the last part of the ice fall. Tomorrow they would like to reach C3 at 7000 meters. From there they will try to summit.

We had been sorry to leave C2 without helping our friends fix the rope but we were worried about avalanche danger and Denis' physical problem. We still want to open a new route and we need as much energy and good weather as possible. Our friends understood our position.

Ciao
Simone & Co."

First off, the Italian/Kazakh combo Denis Urubko and Simone Moro, along with Camos, climbed the North Wall on Baruntse, 7129m. They reached the Kali Himal (Black Summit) of Baruntse, also known as the North Summit at 7014m via a new route up the North Face. The true summit was left untouched due to hard wind. The new line is named "Ciao Patrick" as a tribute to Patrick Berhault, lost to Dom this month. Now, Simone and Denis have moved to Annapurna’s North Face, attempting a new line on it. Denis climbs Anna to honor Boukreev's memory.

The most recent addition to the who’s who on Annapurna is the trio of Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Ralf Dujmovits of Amical Alpin, and Hirotaka Takeuchi along with Boris Korshunov. The trio were all on Kangchenjunga together last year, but were thwarted by poor weather.

Japanese climber Hirotaka has summited Makalu, Everest, K2, and most recently Nanga Parbat in 2001. He summited Everest and K2 back to back in 1996 and became the youngest ever to summit the world's two highest mountains at the age of 25. Ralf Dujmovits is the owner of Amical Alpin and has summited Dhaulagiri, Everest, K2, Cho Oyu twice, Shisha Pangma, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum II, and most recently Nanga Parbat in 2001.

Gerlinde, an Austrian woman, has summited Cho Oyu, Makalu, Manaslu, and most recently Nanga Parbat this past summer. Before Annapurna, the trio got their feet wet on Xifeng Peak and then Shisha Pangma’s South Face, where the team had to abort the expedition due to a rock fall that injured Ralf's leg.

Annapurna (8,091 m) is statistically the top 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.

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.

Image from Anna courtesy of Simone Moro.

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