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Mondinelli back in BC: "Starting over is part of the game"
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May 12, 2005 15: 15 EST
Extreme cold and lack of food prevented Silvio ‘Gnaro’ Mondinelli from reaching the summit of Annapurna today, after spending three days in C3 (7000m) waiting for a chance. The Italian climber made it safely back to BC. Now he reflects on the recent events and prepares to start over.

No food in the last two days

“I am back in my tent in BC, happy because I’ve seen no signs of frostbite when I checked my feet,” Silvio just reported. “I was not well in C3 this morning. When I'm at high altitudes, I am unable to eat anything solid, so I spent the last two days sustaining myself with some sips of tea, just enough to avoid dehydration.”

The machine was not working

“Despite my physical condition being far from optimal, I joined my climbing mates on the summit bid this morning. Soon I realized that ‘the machine’ was not working properly, but nevertheless I resumed the climb up to 7300m. By then I had lost all feeling in my feet. I started thinking of all those friends who had suffered serious amputations after they went for the summit at any cost. Now I had to face the same situation, and act accordingly.”

The summit toll

Silvio Mondinelli knows the odds well: Last summer he reached the summit of K2 along with Spaniard Juan Oiarzabal, who went for the summit despite the cold. Oiarzabal almost died on the way down from the summit and, back at home, he underwent the amputation of all his toes - he is still unable to walk without crutches.

“Back in BC, Abele Blanc and the Americans came to visit, from their base camp located slightly lower than ours. While we were together the news came that my five climbing mates had reached the summit. I felt sincerely happy for them.”

New attempt along with Abele!

“Christian Gobbi and I have decided to launch another summit bid in the next few days, along with Abele Blanc, who kindly offered to share his supplies with us. I know that starting again from the beginning is not easy, but it is just part of the game.”

Silvio Mondinelli was 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.

The Italians had launched a summit bid, joined by Ed Viesturs and Veikka Gustafsson. High winds kept them in their tents in C3 for more than two days before they set off for the summit earlier this morning.

Christian had returned to BC yesterday, not able to bear the mental pressure anymore. Silvio had to turn around at 7300m. Ed, Veikka, Daniele and the two Marios summited around 2:00 pm, local time.

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.

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 of Silvio back in BC courtesy of Silvio/Gnaromondinelli.it

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