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Seasons first Annapurna Summit: special report
image story

May 28, 2004 12: 47 EST

Annapurna was the very first 8,000m peak ever summited yet to date only 134 climbers have reached her top. It is the 10th highest mountain but by far the most dangerous.

Today Gerlinde, Ralf and Hirotaka summited.

Ace female climber, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner has summited Cho Oyu, Makalu, Manaslu, Nanga Parbat at the same time as Iñaki Ochoa de Olza this past summer and most recently Annapurna - thus making 5 8,000ers.
Gerlinde is considered one of the top female high altitude climbers and is the 6th women to ever reach Anna's summit. She also has Shisha Pangma Central and Broad Peak foresummit.

Pre Annapurna, the trio got their feet wet on Shisha Pangma’s South Face, where a kamikaze rock the size of a softball slammed into Ralf's leg. This nearly ruined the team's plans for Annapurna and came close to taking Ralf's life.

Another rockfall almost jeopardized the team’s summit bid on Anna as well. On Sunday a rock struck Ralf's leg in the same place as before this time forcing the team to hold up in Camp 1 for a day.

Ralf Dujmovits is the leader of Amical Alpin and has summited Dhaulagiri, Everest, K2, Cho Oyu twice, Shisha Pangma, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum II, Nanga Parbat in 2001 and Annapurna. He now has 9 8,000ers, putting him up there on the big mountain list with the likes of Boukreev who lost his life to Anna in 1997.

Japanese climber Hirotaka has summited Makalu, Everest, K2, Nanga Parbat in 2001 and most recently Annapurna. He summited Everest and K2 back to back in 1996 and became the youngest ever to summit the world's two highest mountains at the age of 25. He now has 5 8,000ers.

Simone and Denis are making a new route straight up the top of the North Face. Today they reached Camp 3 (6900m): "We had deep snow and it was very dangerous. The only reason we did not turn back was because the other team is without gas and food. So we had to bring up supplies. Tonight we will decide what to do. We will evaluate our physical performance, the weather forecast and the snow situation." They have been dispatching every day with some of the best images of the season, be sure to check out their stories.

Anna has already turned back Piotr Pustelnik and team this season.

In a final attempt Piotr and team were forced to turn back from the very difficult South Face because of unpredictably bad weather: "This is our last attempt," he said "if it is possible we will fix Camp III, and from there we will try to reach the summit. Otherwise we will surrender. There is no third option."

For Piotr, Annapurna and Broad are the only two he has left in his quest to complete all 14 8000m mountains. Sergey Bogomolov, 43, is also on the team. For Sergey this would have been his 12th 8,000er. In July 2002 he climbed Shisha Pangma by a new route, crossing to the formerly unclimbed North-East ridge.

Ed Viesturs and Veikka Gustafsson turned back from Anna before they even got to her.

Last year Avalanche risk also prevented Ed from summiting the mountain, his second attempt in two years. For Ed, whose own climbing career was inspired by reading Herzog’s book when he was 16, Annapurna remains his final 8,000m summit in his quest to scale the fourteen 8,000m peaks.

First off, the Italian/Kazakh combo Denis Urubko and Simone Moro, along with Camos, climbed the North Wall on Baruntse, 7129m. They reached the Kali Himal (Black Summit) of Baruntse, also known as the North Summit at 7014m via a new route up the North Face. The true summit was left untouched due to hard wind. The new line is named "Ciao Patrick" as a tribute to Patrick Berhault, lost to Dom this month. Now, Simone and Denis have moved to Annapurna’s North Face, attempting a new line on it. Denis climbs Anna to honor Boukreev's memory.

The most recent addition to the who’s who on Annapurna is Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Ralf Dujmovits of Amical Alpin, and Hirotaka Takeuchi and Boris Korshunov. The trio of Ralf, Gerlinde and Hirotaka were all on Kangchenjunga together last year, but were thwarted by poor weather.

Annapurna (8,091 m) is statistically the most dangerous peak of all the eight thousanders. The overall summit/fatality rate is 41% (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 134 climbers have summited Annapurna.

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.) In autumn 2002, an International Expedition team including Carlos Pauner and Silvio Mondinelli called off their attempt after heavy snows rendered the route too dangerous to continue.

Image of Ralf, Gerlinde and Hirotaka on Xifeng this spring courtesy of Amical Alpin.

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