Annapurna: Beautiful, big and dangerous, according to Simone Moro.
Image by Ferran Latorre courtesy Al Filo de lo Imposible - TVE, SOURCE
Himalayan Knight Piotr Pustelnik finally completed his 14x8000er quest in his fifth attempt on Annapurna!
courtesy Kinga Baranowska, SOURCE
Annapurna coped headlines in spring 2010. In this image, Spanish Al Filo Annapurna 2010 team checking emails in BC. Left to right: Nacho Orviz, Edurne Pasaban, Alex Chicon and Asier Izaguirre.
courtesy Al Filo de lo Imposible - TVE, SOURCE
A bunch of summiteers. Left to right: Peter Hamor, three Sherpas, Joao Garcia, Kinga Baranowska, Piotr Pustelnik and Horia Colibasanu.
courtesy Kinga Baranowska, SOURCE
Everest & Himalaya 2010 Seasons End Chronicle, take 5: Special report--The Spring of Annapurna

Posted: Aug 24, 2010 04:02 pm EDT
"When one thinks about Annapurna the first impression that comes to mind is danger," ExWeb contributor Rodrigo Granzotto states.

Nevertheless, Anna was the most visited 8000er after Everest this past spring, and coped headlines as some pages of mountaineering history were written on its slopes.

Sixty years after becoming the first 8000er ever summited, the peak has witnessed three climbers finishing their 14x8000 quest on its summit (including the first female) the highest chopper rescue in history and, sadly, yet another man lost to the mountain.

Therefore it deserves a special chapter on the massive chronicle compiled by exWeb contributor Rodrigo Granzotto. Enjoy!

Everest & Himalaya 2010 Spring Season´s End Chronicle--Special on Annapurnas Diamond Jubilee
by Rodrigo Granzotto Peron

I--The first ascent:

Annapurna just completed the Diamond Jubilee of the first conquest. On June 3, 1950, the French duo comprised of Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal stood at the top of an 8000er for the first time. Sixty years has passed and again Annapurna was the main stage of the Season. Several expeditions showed up, including five Spanish, two South Korean, one North American, one International, plus other climbers, such as Amir Hossein Partovinia from Iran, with an unprecedented amount of climbers on the regular route.

II--Danger level:

"When one thinks about Annapurna the first impression that comes to mind is danger." This can be further exemplified by quoting some of the top climbers:

It is not one of my favorite mountains, I must confess. It is dangerous due to avalanche risk on the North Face (Iñaki Ochoa de Olza).

Annapurna is not too difficult, but dangerous. (Ivan Vallejo).

Annapurna is on my mind all the time. It´s hard and dangerous. (Silvio Mondinelli).

Annapurna is beautiful and it looks big and dangerous (Simone Moro).

Annapurna isnt the toughest summit, but there is always danger when someone climbs the mountain. (Ueli Steck).

Annapurna has the most dangerous standard route of all 8000ers. (Reinhold Messner).

In spite of the risk level, the danger level has been dropping over the past years. It reached the maximum point in 1985, with almost 91% (bordering a suicide), then lowered to 62% in 1991, 49% in 1996, 43% in 2002, 40% in 2005, and, after the present season, now we have 183 ascents and 61 fatalities. This results in about 33%, which is almost one-third of the 1985s ratio. If considering only the occurrences of the 1990s and 2000s, then there were 124 ascents and 22 deaths, on a level of 17%. Focusing only the last ten years, just 10%. So, Annapurna is dangerous, but not that dangerous anymore.

On the other hand, the mountain showed all her wrath in 2010. It was the seventh year straight with fatalities registered on the mountain, taking the life of Tolo Calafat, who died at 7,600 meters, probably due to AMS (his death was the first on the regular N Face route of Annapurna in almost three years).

Also several climbers had close encounters with the major avalanche concern on Annapurna. Xavi Arias broke two ribs on an avalanche; Amir Hossein was carried down for 200 meters after one; Kang Ki-Seok was hit and injured a leg; Nick Rice was hit by fallen ice and suffered bruises. Other incidents were reported by nearly all the teams.

III--How to race on the tenth highest mountain:

The danger level explains why almost all racers save Annapurna for the last steps in the pursuit for all 14.

None of the 22 climbers who completed the race started on Annapurna. The mountain was among the five last peaks of 15 racers who completed all (68% of them). And six racers let Anna for the last: Juanito Oiarzabal (SPA), Alberto Iñurrategi (SPA), Ed Viesturs (USA), João Garcia (POR), Piotr Pustelnik (POL) and Oh Eun-Sun (S.K.).

Of those active collectors with seven 8000ers or more, these are the people still needing Annapurna:

Abele Blanc (ITA)
Alberto Zerain (SPA)
Alexey Raspopov (KAZ)
Carlos Soria (SPA)
Dachung (CHIN/TIB)
Jean Troillet (SWZ)
Jyabo (CHIN/TIB)
Kazuyoshi Kondo (JAP)
Kim Chang-Ho (S.K.)
Kim Jae-Soo (S.K.)
Mario Vielmo (ITA)
Nives Meroi (ITA)
Osamu Tanabe (JAP)
Oscar Cadiach (SPA)
Radek Jaros (CZE)
Romano Benet (ITA)
Serguey Lavrov (RUS)
Taro Tanigawa (JAP)
Waldemar Niclevicz (BRA)
Zdenek Hruby (CZE)
Zsolt Eross (HUN)

IV--Regular route:

The classical, standard route of Annapurna, is the French (N Face). But in recent times, two more routes from the South Flank, emerged as regulars as well. The British Route (1970) and the East Ridge Route (1984) have become quite popular. By the British Route eight climbers summited recently and the East Ridge conducted two climbers to the summit in 2002, four in 2006 and one more in 2008. But after the deaths of Iñaki Ochoa de Olza (SPA) and Martin Minarik (CZE) in the past two years it is possible that the East Ridge fever might slow down a little bit.

V--2010 Spring Season:

What a memorable season on Annapurna!

Two very early summit waves, the first on April 17. According to Himalayan Database, this was the earliest ascent of Anna this spring. The second, ten days later, resulted in the record of 26 summits--the most successful season ever!

Several records were broken:

1. Spain is now the nation (excluding Nepal) with the most summits

2. This was the first time that three different climbers ended the race on the same mountain (Garcia, Pustelnik and Oh)

3. The oldest person to summit was Ruediger Schleypen, 54, (GER), in 1991. In 2010 three climbers passed this mark and thus became the oldest. Third place, Piotr Pustelnik, 58, (POL). Second place, Serguey Bogomolov, 59, (RUS). And the oldest person to summit Annapurna is Evgeny Vinogradsky, 63, (RUS). Now Annapurna is the 12th 8000er to be summited by a sexagenarian. Only Gasherbrum I and Kangchenjunga have not yet been conquered by someone 60 years or older.

4. Horia Colibasanu is the first Romanian to top out

5. Edurne Pasaban is the first lady climber from Spain

6. Peter Hamor (SLK) is the first western climber to summit Annapurna twice and the first from both sides.

NOTE: It is important to mention that some summits are being contested, and still investigated. For example, in descent Juanito Oiarzabal (SPA) and Carlos Pauner (SPA) were airlifted by chopper from C4 (c6,900m). There are also strong rumors, reported by Kinga Baranowska in an interview to website rp.pl on May 21, that Serguey Bogomolov (RUS) and Evgeny Vinogradsky (RUS) did not actually reach the highest point.

VI--Feminine Invasion:

Summits by women were very rare on Annapurna. Only six until the beginning of the season: Irene Miller and Vera Komarkova (1978), Wanda Rutkiewicz and Ingrid Baeyens (1991), Ji Hyung-Ok (1999), Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner (2004). In 2010 three more names were added to the list: Oh Eun-Sun, Edurne Pasaban and Kinga Baranowska. Like Kangchenjunga and K2, Annapurna was like a forbidden territory for women, but in the last few years things are changing for these peaks.

VII--The second summit wave on Annapurna:

On April 27, seventeen climbers made it to the top of Annapurna. The sequence was like this:

10:00AM: Jorge Egocheaga (SPA) and Martín Ramos (SPA)

1:30PM: Piotr Pustelnik (POL), Peter Hamor (SLK) and Horia Colibasanu (ROM)

1:45PM: Kinga Baranowska (POL)

2:30PM: Evgeny Vinogradsky (RUS) and Serguey Bogomolov (RUS)

3:00PM: Oh Eun-Sun (S.K.), Jung Ha-Young (S-K), Nha Kwan-Joo (S.K.), Dawa Wangchuk Sherpa (NEP), Pema Tshering Sherpa (NEP) and Sonam Sherpa (NEP)

4:00PM: Carlos Pauner (SPA), Juanito Oiarzabal (SPA) and Tolo Calafat (SPA)

After all the joy of so many successful ascents, including TV footage on the conquest of Oh Eun-Sun, the descents were very rough. In the words of Dr. Morandeira, it was an uncontrolled retreat on summit night, with each participant fighting for his own life. In particular, the last summits by the Spaniards were very late and problems started to appear on the way down. Calafat could not move on at about 7,600 meters and sadly died. Pauner and Juanito were airlifted from C4. The Russians also suffered greatly on descent, with Peter Hamor helping both Serguey and Evgeny.

VIII--Numbers:

In 2010 there were registered 26 ascents of Annapurna by climbers from eight different countries. Nine summiters from Spain, seven from Nepal, three from South Korea, two from Russia and Poland, one from Romania, Slovakia and Portugal. Now, Annapurna has 183 ascents at all, by 178 climbers!

With the three lady summiteers, Annapurna has now nine ascents by women. Before the beginning of the season, women made up 3.8% of all summiteers--now almost 5%!

Tolo Calafat was the 61st victim of Annapurna. Fatality rate of the spring season was 3.8%.

ExWeb Note, Aug26: Juanito's summit of Annapurna is valid according to mountaineering tradition and Explorersweb. The views expressed is the author's only. Check a related story here.

NOTE: This Chronicle is based on preliminary data and is under analysis. Some numbers will be revised in the following months, with possibly a few corrections made by then.

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