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Asia, Nepal, Annapurna III

Annapurna III, Southeast Buttress Attempt. The expedition members were Tim Leach, leader, Steve Bell and I. We reached Base Camp in ten days from Pokhara via the top village of Imu. This was the first time an expedition had been to that side of the mountain and so there were no paths: consequently it was difficult for the porters and at times dangerous. They gave up one day from Base Camp, but luckily four stayed on at higher rates and ferried the loads to Base Camp (11,000 feet). Advanced Base was within easy reach of the buttress at 14,750 feet. To obtain a better view of the route we ascended the east ridge for a few days to 18,375 feet; we hoped this would aid our acclimatization. Knowing full well we still needed to acclimatize, we decided to climb halfway up the buttress, leave gear and descend. This we did, taking three days to reach a point 500 feet below the obvious step. During the descent we left our two climbing ropes at two loose, rocky sections; most of the climbing was in snow runnels on the north side of the buttress. Since Bell was not acclimatizing well, he decided not to go on the next attempt. On our actual attempt, we reached our previous high point in two days. For the next three, we climbed what we thought would be the most difficult section with climbing up to V or V+ UIAA difficulty. One chimney was particularly trying. Leach snapped the pick off his axe and dropped his hammer. He also suffered from being sick because the butane stove, which he kept warm in his sleeping bag at night, somehow got turned on. At about 21,325 feet (6500 meters) we decided to go down. The ridge ahead looked dangerous and time-consuming and would require another four to six days before we started the descent. We were not properly acclimatized and already far extended. On the descent we left our 8-mm rope in place on a particularly difficult dogleg rappel between snow runnels.

Nicholas Colton, Alpine Club