(MountEverest.net) Everest is all the buzz these days, after a recent series of fatalities brought back a certain aura of danger to the mountain. Yet the world's highest peak is no match to deadly Annapurna, where difficulty and danger take on a whole new meaning.
Everybody fear Annapurna
Annapurna is for badass climbers only; just check around with the bragging Everest repeaters in BC and ask how many have climbed Anna: You'll very likely get a zero.
In fact, even the bigwigs of high altitude fear the peak. God, you're so lucky having Annapurna over with, Ecuadorian Ivan Vallejo told Finish Veikka Gustaffson earlier this spring.
Both men were climbing Kangchenjunga, another hard peak - and both summited. But Vallejo, who has already summited twelve 8000ers, shivers at the mere thought of Anna.
With an overall summit/fatality rate of 40%, most 8000er collectors leave Anna for last. Such was the case of Juan Oiarzabal, Alberto Iñurrategi, and Ed Viesturs. Viesturs finally made it after a Cho Oyu double header - allowing him to acclimatize elsewhere and spend the shortest time possible on Annapurna. A few days after Viesturs' success, the mountain claimed the life of another ace climber for whom Anna also was the last in his 14x8000 quest: Christian Kuntner.
The latest Polish attempt
Polish Piotr Pustelnik has failed on Annapurna too - three times. Often climbing unusual routes on Anna, on Piotr's latest attempt this past spring, only one of the team members, Slovak Peter Hamor, reached the main summit. Pustelnik and Piotr Morawski reached the east summit (8010m) but Lotse (sometimes spelled Lho Tse), a Tibetan climber who had joined the team on the summit bid, became snow blind and the two Piotrs' helped him down.
It was a hard climb, following the descent line of the Polish Kukuczka/Hajzer route. Artur Hajzer in fact kept in touch with the climbers over SMS right to the very end. Piotr Morawski just posted some images of the teams spectacular 2006 climb - enjoy.
Curiously enough, the most awe-inspiring of the 8000ers was also the first to be summited.
In 1950, French climbers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal used only a rough map as a guide, and picked their way up an unattempted route to the summit. Their descent turned into a hellish nightmare, leaving them near death, with their extremities completely deadened by frostbite. Lachenal lost all his toes. Herzog lost all his toes as well as all his fingers.
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. The strong climber had survived the deadliest season on Mount Everest the year before, and aided three other climbers to safety in a brutal storm.
In 2005, a falling serac killed Italian Christian Kuntner, who had already summited 13 8000ers. Three other climbers were severely injured in the accident.
This year, Annapurna has been summited only by Peter Hamor, member of Piotr Pustelniks team, and by Kazakh climbers Maxut Zhumayev and Vassiliy Pivtsov.
At 8,091m, Annapurna I, most commonly known as Annapurna, is number 10 on the list of the fourteen 8,000m peaks, and is the ninth highest Himalayan peak in the world. It is located in north central Nepal, flanking one end of the Annapurna massif which includes Annapurna II (7937m), Annapurna III (7,555m), Annapurna IV (7,525m), Gangapurna (7,455 meters) and Annapurna South (7219 meters).
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