11:51 a.m. EST Nov 3, 2003
Abele Blanc looks back at Annapurna 2003
“In the final analysis it can be said that the group was "betrayed" (even if it wasn’t really their own fault) precisely by those persons who in the decisive moment should have been able to put in the balance all their experience acquired over years of expeditions to the Himalayas. For this, I ask pardon from my companions of the expedition for having been in this predicament the weak link in the formidable chain, which we created right from the first day we met in Aosta and decided to take on the great Mountain.”
The great thrill in following the Annapurna 2003 expedition was not the anticipation of Abele Blanc reaching the summit of his 14th 8000m peak; nor Christian Kuntner making his 13th 8000er. These are of course remarkable achievements and reaching the summit was the goal of the expedition – they did not succeed. But Abele managed to give us something equally as compelling in his wonderfully candid and honest dispatches from the mountain. Nearly every day, this world class climber revealed his heart and soul as he chronicled the events of the expedition.
Staying on in Nepal for another month while the rest of the Annapurna 2003 team has returned to Milan, Abele sat down in his Kathmandu hotel room yesterday to write the last journal entry of the expedition.
While Annapurna is not the highest 8000er, Abele believes its south face represents one of the most ambitious projects for climbers from around the world. The technical difficulties of the route, he says, are not beyond the capabilities of high level climbers today – up to a high fifth grade on the rock and stretches of vertical ice up to forty meters. But he writes, “the near vertical wall with the suspended seracs and smooth sheer rock faces seem to crush the mountaineer under an unbearable weight.” The constant climbing amid stone and icefall is nerve-wracking, “it’s like having to fight against a much stronger and invisible enemy!”
However, the beginning of October marked the arrival of the good weather, and the team began steady progress on the face. “In only 10 days, Corrado, Marco, Alex and Massimo overcame all the difficulties of the route and resolved practically the problem of the south face of Annapurna.” The guys ascended to 7500m on the first attempt at the summit. There remained only and 500m to go. Abele wrote, “Success seemed only a hand’s breadth away, almost too easy, and still that day up there at 7500mt something jammed the mechanics of progress, the weather was splendid, no wind and acceptable temperatures and in the evening the moon would have illuminated the mountain almost like the sun.”
But exhaustion took its toll and rather than risking an accident, the team turned around. By the time they tried a second attempt a few days later, Alex was out because of bronchitis, Abele decided he was not fit to proceed and stepped aside, and strong winds combined with bitter temperatures ultimately thwarted the effort.
"Now, a page of the diary of my life and that of my companions has closed, many other things remain to be written. "
Abele's diary entires can be found in the link to left.
Italian climbers Abele Blanc and Christian Kuntner are out to scale the world's fourteen 8000m peaks. To date, Abele has succeeded in climbing 13, and Christian, 12. Annapurna will complete the quest for Abele.
Image of Corrado's sketch of Annapurna route courtesy of blancabele.com.