Asia, Nepal, Annapurna Ski Descent and Tragedy

Publication Year: 1980.

Annapurna Ski Descent and Tragedy. Our team was composed of Dr. Lucien Adenis, Michel Berquet, Bernard Germain, Jean-Louis George, Yves Morin, Henry Sigayret and me and three Sherpas, Dawa Gyalzen, Chawang Rinzee and Dahunga Pemba Lama. We followed basically the route of the 1950 first ascent, which is not difficult save for a few very steep sections of séracs between 20,000 and 23,000 feet, and so was adequate for our ski project. However the north face of Annapurna is very dangerous because of avalanches. We left Kathmandu on March 13 and installed Base Camp on April 1. A porter strike in Choya, the last village, delayed our approach since we had to find a helicopter to help transport loads. Camp II was installed on April 6 at 18,000 feet and Camp III on April 17 at 20,675 feet. On the 18th an avalanche, which fell from the top, injured Dawa Gyalzen and Chawang Rinzee, who had to be carried down to Base Camp. From Camp III on, the ascent was alpine-style: Camp IV at 23,000 feet on April 27, Camp V at 23,950 feet on April 28 and Camp VI at 24,925 feet on April 29. The progress was relatively slow since carrying the skis up, without oxygen, was really exhausting. On April 30, despite a very strong north wind, Berquet, Germain, Morin, Sigayret and I left Camp VI, carrying one pair of skis. Morin and Sigayret reached the summit at five P.M. We other three reached the foot of the summit couloir and decided to give up there, provided the others got to the top. Yves Morin skied down and we gathered for the night at Camp VI. During the descent the day after, on a very steep ice section around 22,300 feet, Morin got his Jümar stuck while descending a fixed rope with his skis on; after a few minutes of effort to extricate himself, he died of exhaustion. After burying him, we continued the descent and reached Base Camp on May 3.

Benoit Renard, Club Alpin Français