(By Raheel Adnan) Just as the post-monsoon climbing season on 8000m peaks looked over, the big news has come in from Annapurna, again. It appears that first repeat of Lafaille Route has been achieved by two French alpinists in alpine style, just two weeks after the solo ascent by Ueli Steck. 7000ers new route specialist, Yannick Graziani, and climber with 2003 & 2009 Piolets d’Or nominations, Stephane Benoist, reached the summit this morning after climbing the Annapurna South Face in around a week since they left ABC.
The 2010 Attempt
Yannick and Stephane had previously attempted Annapurna South Face in autumn 2010. They arrived at Base Camp in last week of September that year, and acclimatized to 6100m on a nearby peak, before ascending the 7219m, Annapurna South. They reached Annapurna South top on October 7th and returned to BC on 8th. After a week’s rest, the duo was ready to launch the summit bid on Annapurna I via Japanese route, but bad weather forced them to wait for another seven days. Eventually, they were able to start the ascent on October 22nd. Despite regular snow and the challenging conditions, they kept ascending until 25th, when they were forced to retreat from 6800m due excessive snow and slow progress.
The pair left France at the mid of third week of September this year, to make another attempt on Annapurna. They established BC on 30th and went on to climb an unnamed 6100m peak near southern slopes of the Annapurna III. The moment, when Ueli Steck’s 28hr incredible Annapurna South Face climb was underway, the French pair was acclimatizing on another 6500m unnamed peak.
The duo arrived at ABC (5000m) on October 16th and launched the South Face climb via Lafaille Route on 17th. They spent first night at 6100m and second at 6550m. On 19th, they rested to recover from the tough climb of previous days and to prepare for the technical section above. The plan was to climb the rock band on 20th and reach the top on 21st, but the section proved to be more challenging than anticipated. After three days, the climbers were still at 7700m (on 23rd).
Exhausted due to difficult conditions and restlessness, but motivated by the good weather – soft sun and little wind – they continued the ascent and made it to the top, this morning. As of now, it’s not known whether the duo has made it back to ABC or is still descending.
Yannick Graziani is a mountain guide from Chamonix, Haute-Savoie, France, who has previously opened new routes on several 7000m peaks. He made first ascent of Chomolonzo north (7200m) and central (7550m) in 2005, Pumari Chhish (7350m) in 2007, and Nemjung south face (7140m) in 2009. In 2004, he ascended Makalu via SE ridge. Christian Trommsdorff has been his climbing partner on majority of Himalayan climbs.
A professional guide since 1998, Stephane Benoist has been ice and rock climbing since early 90s. He has extensively guided expeditions in Alps and to South America, along with climbing in Himalayas and Karakoram. His Thalay Sagar (6904m) north face climb got him first Piolets d’Or nomination in 2003. He was also a part of Chomolonzo north (7200m) first ascent in 2005. His new route on south face of Nuptse in 2008 was again nominated for Piolets d’Or.
List of Annapurna South Face new route ascents can be accessed here.
Based in Lahore, Pakistan, telecom engineer and mountaineering enthusiast Raheel Adnan is a reporter for ExplorersWeb's mountaineering sections. He shares regular updates on Twitter and runs his own blog at AltitudePakistan posting initiated climbing news from Himalaya and Karakoram.
Breaking News: Ueli Steck reportedly Summits Annapurna from South Face