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Annapurna South anno 2005 - Live from the Face
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May 18, 2005 16: 47 EST
Previously published Apr 12, 2005 19: 28 EST
The storm hit Annapurna bad during the past weekend, and the climbers left ABC in a hurry: "We had to evacuate ABC, blinded by dense fog...we had attractions like a 150 m (450 ft) vertical slide down a slope," they dispatched.

The weather has since improved, and the team is heading back up the mountain after cleaning up BC and shooting off a number of pictures from the past storm.

The images show BC and ABC (4950m), Piotr Pustelnik and doctor Aleksander Wasniowski (left) in BC after the evacuation, the climb up to Camp I (5700m) and the South Face of Annapurna, viewed from ABC during sunrise.

Loads of snow this year

The next plan is to fix the last bit to Camp 1 and immediately start fixing ropes on the route to Camp 2. Piotr Morawski and Piotr Pustelnik reached about 100 meters (300 ft) below the pass of camp 1 before the blizzard hit, in bad conditions and lots of snow.

Hopefully, the current jet stream will have blown some of the powder off the mountain - avalanche is the greatest threat to climbers on Annapurna.

In an update that just arrived, Piotr writes:

"We have restored ABC, back after three days of bad weather with heavy snowfall. We will go up to finish our work tomorrow, i.e. to settle Camp I. The weather was beautiful today and the forecast is promising, so we hope that it will be possible to fix the camp. Everybody feel good, we are in good condition. Piotr Pustelnik"

Second attempt

You can feel his thrill: "I must admit that I'm a bit excited about looking at this Face again. It has changed a little, what the situation is exactly we'll know when we come up close to the Face," Piotr dispatched when the team reached Annapurna early this month, on this second attempt for the mountain.

Initially, he got his hopes up that there wouldn't be too much snow high up as the rivers in the valley weren't too full. Instead, he found more snow than ever.

Heading back into the nightmare

"Well, you can't always win...,” Piotr said about Annapurna in 2004. Last year, the climbers had tried and tried - but to no avail. The third and final summit push was made on a forecast of good weather; "this will be our last attempt," decided the tired climbers before heading back up into the nightmare, "otherwise we will surrender - there is no third option."

The final attack started at midnight, but the weather turned against them once again. A terrible storm with heavy snowfalls arrived; camp 2 was ruined within 2 hours and the climbers barreled down to C1.

Familiar tracks

"We still feel satisfied as we reached the parts of the face that we could have easily crossed, if only the weather had let us," ended Piotr his debrief. Hopefully, the familiarity of the route will make it easier for the team this time around.

"I have a big respect for Annapurna"

In spite of the storms, the hard work, and the frustration - Piotr, 51, is having the time of his life, "I will climb to the end of my ability to do so. I hope it will come very late in my life," he has told ExplorersWeb.

This is Piotr's 13th 8000er and then he has only Broad Peak left: "Well, it's true only I only have Annapurna and Broad Peak left, but 'only' is not a proper word. 'Still' is a better description. I have a big respect for Annapurna not only because of statistics but mainly because it's very hard from the South and dangerous from North," he said about that.

A tough climber

Piotr is used to tough conditions; he was avalanched on G2, and a few years back high winds on Manaslu caused him and a friend to fall 300m, nearly knocking them off the mountain on their descent. The pair used a compass to guide them through the blinding snowstorm down to safety, but Pustelnik sustained frostbite on four of his fingers. Having summited twelve 8,000m peaks, he stated, “I found the expedition to Manaslu the hardest compared to my last three climbs. Maybe K2 in 1996 from North was harder."

Piotr Pustelnik and Krzysztof Tarasewicz were the only two climbers to reach the summit of Manaslu that year, and the mountain has remained unclimbed since.

"The closer you are, the stronger their influence is"

After Annapurna and BP, Piotr has two secret dreams; first to go back to Makalu and climb the West Pillar and the second to do winter expedition on the North side of Everest.

In Piotr's 30 years of climbing, his motivations have changed many times but one thing is still the same, "my fascination of mountains and my drive to feel the thin air. I feel that mountains react on me like a magnet. The closer you are, the stronger their influence is."

Piotr now 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 135 climbers have summited Annapurna - last year Ralf Dujmovits, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Denis Urubko summited the mountain from the North side.

Images of the 2005 Annapurna South Face expedition, courtesy of the expedition members.
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