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Be gentle, Annapurna
13:58 p.m. EST Apr 13, 2004
Annapurna (8,091 m) is statistically the most dangerous peak of all the eight thousanders, mostly due to avalanches. At a 41% summit/fatality ratio (although not all climbers summit), Annapurna demands great respect and very skilled climbers.

This spring, a handful of veterans are braving her relentless slopes. They are Piotr Pustelnik, Serguey Bogomolov, Ed Viesturs , Simone Moro and Denis Urubko, Ralf Dujmovits, Hirotaka Takeuchi and the female Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner among a few others. No doubt, this will be the mountain to watch this spring.

First out, and dispatching straight from Annapurna is Piotr Pustelnik. Below, his two latest dispatches and a Annapurna 2004 special wrap up:

This is mBank Era Annapurna Expedition, we welcome everyone from Base Camp. Peter Hamor, Sergey Bogomolov and two sherpas, went upwards today. Their task is to check the way up to ABC.

About 12.00 (local time April 11) they informed us that the way was quite easy, but we will see what will be higher. They took the tents, ropes and some other equipment. If it is possible they will reach ABC or put the stuff a little lower. Tomorrow most of the members will go upwards with the plan to settle the ABC, and put some fix ropes on the face on the way to Camp I.

I think rope fixing should take about one day, because itís only 400-500 meters of fix ropes. We hope that in two, three days we will settle Camp I, and see what the conditions are on the face. The weather, as I said earlier, is variable. Till about 2.00 pm it is sunny and very warm, and later it gets cloudy. We have checked our walkie-talkies, it works OK. Iím feeling a little tired, but Iím also very excited with what is going to happen.

And today (April 12):

Good evening, this is mBank Era Annapurna South Face Expedition. Iím greeting everyone from the altitude 4900 m, from ABC. Six members of the expedition are here. The weather is not very kind, but it could be worse. We managed to cross the glacier and we have two, maybe three hours left to the place where we will start attaching the fix ropes.

Tomorrow all six are going upwards with the equipment, and we will fix ropes there. Even if we find old rope, we will put the new ones anyway. If the weather is good tomorrow, maybe we will settle Camp I, but I have some doubts. If it doesnít work out tomorrow, maybe we will finish the next day.

Tomorrow Martin Gablik and Paweł Jůzefowicz, and on Wednesday two sherpas will reach ABC. Tuesday is the Nepal New Years Day, and our sherpas will celebrate a little. I wonder how they will look after that. We all feel very well.

Iím sending a big hug for everyone.
Piotr Pustelnik

(The connection was received in roaming of Thuraya satellite system thanks to Era mobile operator)

Piotr Pustelnik is Annapurna bound this spring and might also be going for Broad peak. After his ascent of Manaslu last spring, Annapurna and Broad are the only two he has left in his quest to complete all 14 8000m peaks.

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

Piotr's team is going to climb 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 fix 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 teamís 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 Herzogís 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.

Other climbers this year are the Italian/Kazakh combo of Simone Moro and Denis Urubko, who will first be attempting the North Wall on Baruntse, 7129m. After getting acclimatized, Simone and Denis will move onto Annapurnaís North Face, possibly attempting a new line. Both climbs will be in Alpine style.

The most recent addition to the whoís who on Annapurna is the trio of Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Ralf Dujmovits of Amical Alpin, and Hirotaka Takeuchi. 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 will get their feet wet on Xifeng Peak and then Shisha Pangmaís South Face.

Image of Annapurna ExWeb files

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