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Newsflash: Annapurna South - Storm close to Camp 1, evacuation of ABC
image story

Apr 8, 2005 20: 36 EST
The guys had us a bit worried. Bad weather has swept Annapurna in deep snow, fog and winds and there were no news for a couple days as the climbers worked the mountain: The Italian-led expedition from the North side and the Polish-led team from the South.

Both sides swept in snow storm

But now reports have arrived from both sides, and we can all relax a bit this weekend. Both sides of the mountain have retired to Base Camps, and plan to stay there over the next few days to weather the storm.

Yesterday Piotr Pustelnik and Piotr Morawski fixed rope close to the place where they plan to settle Camp I on Annapurna's South side. Early this morning the second team, Marcin Miotk and Vlado Strba, continued the job hoping to establish camp 1. But the progress was thwarted by the snow storm. Here's Piotr's latest:

Day 19 (Friday, April 8) – Afternoon

"Hi, this is mBank Lotto Annapurna South Face Expedition; greetings from Base Camp. Yesterday Piotr Morawski and myself reached about 100 meters (300 ft) below the pass where we plan to pitch Camp I. The conditions are bad. There is more snow than last year."

"Yesterday we returned to BC hoping that Marcin Miotk and Vlado Strba would finish the job and settle camp I. Unfortunately there was heavy snow fall during the night, and it continues as I’m talking to you."

450 ft slide in dense fog

"We had to evacuate ABC, blinded by dense fog. In addition, the sherpas had altered our way back somewhat, and we had attractions like a 150 m (450 ft) vertical slide down a slope.

We had proper climbing gear on, but our cook didn't and the climb down was quite dangerous for him. We are in BC now, where will wait for the weather to improve - in a few days time I hope. Everybody feels good. From Annapurna Base Camp – Piotr Pustelnik"

Piotr now has 12 of the 14, 8000ers completed. Only Anna and Broad Peak remains. He has climbed Gasherbrum II twice (1990 and 1997), Nanga Parbat in 1992, Cho Oyu and Shisha Pangma Main in 1993, Dhaulagiri in 1994, Everest in 1995, K2 from the North in 1996, Gasherbrum I in 1997, Lhotse in 2000, Kangchenjunga in 2001, and Makalu in 2002.

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 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 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 last year's Annapurna South climb and C1, courtesy of Piotr.

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