American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Annapurna III Tragedy

  • Accident Reports
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1981

Annapurna III Tragedy. Our Australian team was Colin Monteath, climbing leader, Jack Higgs, Steve Colman, Nick Reeves, Adrian Blake, John Chester, Steve McDowell, Geof Bartram, Stafford Morse, Faye Kerr, Dr. Brian Fearnley, Dr. Ken Bowes, Ray Johnston, Base Camp Manager, and I, leader. Our one climbing Sherpa was Pasang Ongchuk. We set off on March 6, trekked up the Marsyandi Khola to Braga and on March 16 established Base Camp on a ridge above Braga at 12,500 feet, below the north face of Annapurna III. From here to the establishment of Camp I via a dump and an intermediary camp took until March 27, during which time members acclimatized both on the peak and on nearby peaks. Camp I lay at 15,600 feet across a small glacier reached by the ridge to the south of Base Camp. On March 29 Morse, Bowes, Blake, Reeves, Schmidt, Chester and Bartram were at Camp I waiting to reconnoiter the central ridge of the face. That night an avalanche of soft new snow demolished Camp I. Bowes and Reeves were rolled 300 yards down the mountain in a hoop tent; Schmidt and Bartram woke up in a crushed pyramid tent. The seven climbers reassembled and sat out the night in the remaining damaged tent. The next day all descended to find the intermediary camp obliterated. At the foot of the Base Camp ridge, on a traverse, soft snow avalanched and triggered the sub-layer of hard old snow which overrode this and was funnelled between two hills. Blake, Reeves, Schmidt and Morse were carried away. Blake on the edge was quickly recovered but the other three were buried and died instantly. We then called off the expedition. On the trip home Faye Kerr tragically died in Madras of a perforated ulcer.

Warwick Deacock, Australian Section, New Zealand Alpine Club

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