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Ed Viesturs on Annapurna North SUMMIT PUSH!
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May 11, 2005 21: 19 EST
MSN "First and best" has posted a report that the climbers began their push at 3 a.m. local (4 hours ago). In his earlier voice dispatch on the website, Ed said it would be a do or down pending weather. The team has two weather reports, one said winds would stay, the other said winds would go down a bit tonight.

35 mph OK but not ideal

The AdventureWeather forecast for Annapurna predicted high winds (25-30 m/s or 56-67 mph) at the summit Tuesday night through Wednesday morning (local time). By Wednesday evening however, winds were forecasted to drop down to 15 m/s (34 mph); a significant decrease, although not ideal conditions.

However, the forecast shows the wind speed jumping back up to 20-25 m/s (45-56 mph) on the morning of Thursday, May 12. After that, the wind is expected to level off to 10-15 m/s (22-34 mph) from Thursday evening through Friday, May 13.

Short on supplies, and already exposed since several days to very high altitude, the guys simply don't have other options than to take a chance this morning and hope for the best. The Jet is still positioned over the mountain, but sits higher than Anna's 8050 meters.

Looked good midday today

In a new update earlier today, Silvio said that by midday the wind dropped down - it looked great and they could even see the summit. They would wait for a new weather forecast, and if it was not too bad - they'd go for it. Silvio also confirmed that Christian went down today, he had no physical problem - but "he could not stand the psychological pressure".

All the guys need now is a great deal of luck, and strength enough to make the summit in anything but good conditions. In earlier interviews with ExWeb, Ed has however stressed that he will strive to put safety first.

Silvio Mondinelli is climbing Annapurna 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’s ambition aims far beyond Annapurna though. He wants the 14 8000ers and he wants them now. “I can't waste much time. I'm getting old!” he told ExplorersWeb, only half joking. After Anna he plans on climbing four more 8000ers - If he succeeds, he'll finish the year as a brand new member of the 14 8000er summiteers’ club.

For Ed too, this summit is special: If he succeeds, Ed will become the first American to join the small number of climbers who have stood atop the summits of all 14 8,000 meter peaks in the world, and climbed them without oxygen.

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 courtesy of edviesturs.com.

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