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Everest and Himalaya daily wrap-up: Deadly avalanche strikes Annapurna
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May 18, 2005 12: 57 EST
Annapurna, statistically the most dangerous of the 8000ers, claimed another life this morning. Christian Kuntner was killed in an avalanche/serac fall on the North Side. His climbing mates (including Silvio and Abele) have already been evacuated. As the news continues to pour in, it appears that none of the climbers had reached the summit before the avalanche struck. Some reports indicate that the avalanche may actually have been a falling serac that hit the climbers on their way up. It would have been Christian’s 14th and final 8000m peak. See separate stories on Christian and the Annapurna climbers published earlier today.

Last night on Everest, the German climbers from Leipzig reported that two expeditions had reached C4 on the South Side, and were pressing on to the summit. However, there is still no news of a summit, and a phone call from BC said that teams are returning from C2 on the South Side, although some are going up to C3. The Valencia team reported that Brazilians Waldemar and Irivan left for Camp 2 early this morning, with a summit push in mind.

Reports yesterday indicated that the ropes had been fixed up to the Hillary Step, while today teams have said that Sherpas have fixed rope to the Balcony. Meanwhile, in BC, climbers continue to feel the pressure brought on by late summit dates. For one thing, the Khumbu Icefall will close down by June 1st, which means that everybody must be down from the mountain by then. Also, there’s a risk that traffic jams could form if everyone makes their summit attempts at the same time.

On the North Side, the Seven Summits team plans for Russell to have ropes fixed to the summit by today. The waves of summit seekers will set out within the next couple of days, hoping to reach the peak somewhere around May 22-26. Other teams are stationed in ABC or below, still holding out for better weather.

Everest Weather – Slight wind decrease

The 20-25 m/s (45-56 mph) winds that have been steadily pummeling the summit are expected to come down to roughly 10-15 m/s (22-34 mph) today. However, the AdventureWeather forecast indicates that there may be periods later in the week when winds jump back up to 20m/s. Occasional snow showers are expected for most of the week.

Everest traverse – “Everyone’s a meteorologist”

In a phone message to Exweb, Luis reports that the weather is calm in BC, but wind and deep snow are still a problem higher up. Several teams that took off for C2 are returning to BC to wait for better conditions. Luis emphasizes that everyone seems to be an amateur meteorologist; they’re all watching the weather reports, and each other to see who moves when. With so many teams pushing their summit bids back to the end of May, he warns that crowding could become a problem.

Luis also mentions there were rumors of Korean and Czech teams going up to the South Col on Tuesday, and British and Russian teams planning to head up to C3 on Wednesday.

Everest South

Alpine Ascents and young Danielle – Retreat to BC

“Yesterday, the team left Base Camp to move all the way up to Camp 2. When we passed Camp 1, we could observe the remains of the big avalanche that destroyed it. It took us 12 hours of a continuous push, to reach Camp 2. It was a long day for all of us.”

”This morning, we saw a huge plume coming from the Everest summit. The wind was roaring up high. Not a good indication. Willi confirmed us the bad news in the afternoon: the weather forecasts are pessimistic for the upcoming days. We have no other choice but to retrace our steps towards Base Camp. If we spend several days at this elevation waiting for the weather to improve, the altitude will take its toll on us.”

Valencia – Brazilians are going for it
The team reports that their friends the Brazilians, Waldmar and Irivan, have begun a summit push at 6:30 am, local time. The Valencia team also says that the commercial expeditions have decided to descend to lower elevations until the weather improves.

Keith Woodhouse – Push to C3

“As a result of today's weather forecast it seems everything has changed again. It would appear that Klaus, Serge and Luda are on there way with Sherpa support to ABC. Apparently the intent is to move up to C3 first thing tomorrow! I think I will get a Sherpa to carry all my load to C3 tomorrow and I'll carry an Oxygen cyclinder just in case.”

Climbing for a cure – Cautious approach

The team reports, “Our Sherpa team, as well as Apa Sherpa, still feels we should wait a bit, and be in the middle of the pack. Probably aiming for the 23 of May for our summit day, putting us to leave here in Base Camp on this Thursday, the 19th.”

IMG – Hoping for a crack in the window

On the 17th Eric reported, “Fixed rope on the route above the Col has been put in almost to the Balcony despite the windy scene up high. Rex Pemberton has decided to stage himself up to Advance Base Camp (Camp 2) in order to be in a better position to climb if the forecast improvements turn out to present enough of a crack in the window for him to contemplate a summit bid. A few other groups on the mountain are also considering the same strategy.”

Singapore NUS w/o O2 – Change of plans

A couple of days ago, Lindley and Ernest were prepared to set off on a summit bid, but the team has rethought their plan. “Contrary to previous forecasts, wind speeds on May 21 and 22 are expected to be high. The targeted summit day of 22nd didn't seem like a good window after all. After some initial frustration and disappointment, the decision was made to postpone the summit bid. A couple of other teams were leaving the next day nevertheless, but it was a risk our team was not willing to take.”

Everest North

Seven Summits – Ropes to the summit

Abramov reports that Russell's Sherpas will start to fix rope to the summit of Everest sometime today, and after that the big summit migration will begin. See yesterday’s “Harry and Alex” story for details on the team’s summit plans.

Everest Vitesse – R & R before the no O2 speed attempt

Due to poor weather, the team currently isn’t able to train on the mountain. Most of the team is down in Tingri, resting and regenerating in the hot springs. The rest of the team is still at BC, and hopes to move up to ABC tomorrow.

Everest Traverse’s dispatches | Singapore NUS Centennial expedition´s reports | Alpine Ascents Cybercasts | Keith Woodhouse’s reports | Nigel Clark’s dispatches | International Mountain Guides dispatches | 7 Summits/Harry Kikstra’s dispatches | Valencia expedition’s website (Spanish) | Everest Vitesse 2005 | Leipzig expedition´s news (German) | Climbing for a Cure

1. Image of Waldemar and Irivan courtesy of the Valencia team.

2. Image of the Everest Vitesse team courtesy of www.progettomontagna.com.

3. Live image over Contact 3.0 of Luis shaving courtesy of the Everest Traverse team and Adventure Consultants.

4. Image of Christian Kuntner courtesy of Christiankuntner.com.

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