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Annapurna South: "It was such a great climb"
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May 20, 2005 18: 08 EST
Previously published May 19, 2005 14: 39 EST

May 15, Piotr Pustelnik, Piotr Morawski, Marcin Miotk and Sherpa Rita made it past the difficult sections and reached 7300 m on Annapurna's south side.

“They had planned to set up an additional camp on the way to the top,” reported their home team. “However, it got dark and they could not find a proper place, so they decided to return to Camp 2 for the night. Today they are remaining there to catch their breath, and tomorrow they will try to go up,” was the last report. After that, all went quiet. Minutes ago, an update from Piotr arrived at last.

"Vlado resigned somewhere around ABC"

"Good morning, this is mBank Lotto Annapurna South Face Expedition. Piotr Pustelnik, greetings from base camp. Let me start with a short conclusion, before I go into details, as you haven’t heard from me for a long time. We were working high on the mountain and there was no time to call and report."

"The four of us headed out for the summit push. Vlado resigned somewhere around ABC, as he had no energy to continue. One of the sherpas replaced him, and came with us to camp 2."

"No place to bivouac"

Four days ago, loaded with gear, we started out for camp 3. After 16 hours of hard work, we had left all the difficulties of the Bonnington route behind us, and I started to look for a good place to bivouac. However, at around 11 p.m. I had to decide to return to camp 2 with all the gear. The decision was very dramatic, the climb up had been very hard and lost us much energy."

"My energy ran out"

"After this, Marcin and Sherpa resigned. Now, only Piotr Morawski and myself were left. Two days ago we set out for the summit again, but at the fixed ropes my energy too ran out and I had to decide to go back. I was simply unable to go on and Piotr could not keep climbing alone. I feel really bad and sorry about how it all ended..."

"We really gave it all"

"We are all in BC now. I am trying to recover from all my physical and mental wounds - we really gave it all on this climb. Piotr and I fixed 3 km of rope together. The weather was terrible, we had to work under the avalanches. I was hit by a piece of ice and had several cuts on my head. But we come away with the great satisfaction to have defeated the Bonnington route, meter by meter...and that will have to do."

Piotr Morawski

"We made it across the difficulties...we just couldn't conclude it, we did not reach the top. But I have to say that it also gives me a great satisfaction to have climbed with someone who will probably come to mean a lot in Polish Himalaya Alpinism: Piotr Morawski. He really has a chance to do much in the highest mountains."

Snow much worse than last year

"I want to thank everybody who supported us, who made this expedition possible. You were great. I can’t resist a few final reflections. It was a very long expedition, we worked the wall hard, and the conditions were really difficult. One may say it does not matter, as we did not reach the top."

"This mountain is really demanding, you must use all your climbing skills and have a very strong mind. We had to battle the snow all the time, it was much worse than last year."

Still spellbound by it

"I am under a spell of this wall, the beauty of the route and the souls of the ones who traced it. It surprised us all the time – with its difficulties, with its length. I am really satisfied that we managed to go as far as we did. In spite of all the ambivalent feelings that I now have, it was a really great climb. I just wish I had come here 10 years ago..."

"Once again, thank you.
From the satellite phone, Piotr Pustelnik"

Piotr has 12 of the 14, 8000ers completed. Only Anna and Broad Peak remains on his quest to summit he world's tallest mountains. 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, Makalu in 2002 and Manaslu in 2003.

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 140 climbers have summited Annapurna.

Images of the camps and the climb between C1 and C2, and Piotr Pustelnik and Piotr Morawski after fixing C2(6900m).

Map: The Bonington route on the South Face of Annapurna. The red line shows the fixed camps, the green line shows the route to the summit where the team had hoped to fix a camp at 7400 m. All images courtesy of Piotr Pustelnik."

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