American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Annapurna South, Southeast Face and East Ridge

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1985

Annapurna South, Southeast Face and East Ridge. Our Colorado Outward Bound School expedition, composed of Jess Bell, Brown Cannon, Jr., Dr. Peter Brumbaugh, Dr. Dave Weaver, Ken Talmage, Peter Athans and me, walked to the Annapurna Sanctuary from Pokhara from September 16 to 21. The monsoon stayed late; therefore, our days were characterized by torrential rain, sloppy trails and plenty of leeches. We established Base Camp a 20-minute walk above the Annapurna Base Camp area. On September 27 the entire team, plus sirdar Lopsang Sherpa and high-altitude porter Pirthi Bahadur, reached the summit of Tharpu Chuli (Tent Peak; 5663 meters, 18,580 feet) via the standard route from the west side. Athans and I walked out to Pokhara with the Outward Bound team and returned to our Base Camp on October 12 to meet the rest of our Annapurna South team: Paul Parker, Steve Monfredo and Dr. Michael Young. Before our return the three had acclimatized with an ascent of Tharpu Chuli. Camp I was established at 16,000 feet on October 13, Camp II at 17,800 feet after a two-day storm on October 17, Camp III at 19,500 feet on October 20 and Camp IV at 21,500 feet on October 21. All five members reached the summit (7219 meters, 23,683 feet) at three P.M. on October 25. From Base to Camp II we were helped by Lopsang and Pirthi, but above Camp II we climbed alpine-style. Our route worked up the right (north) side of the large, steep icefall between Hiunchuli and Annapurna South’s north summit. In our estimation, we generally followed the route taken by the British climbers from Hong Kong in 1976. The route presented much challenging route finding and some two-tool ice climbing, particularly on “Sérac Ridge” (the rib or shoulder which is parallel and just to the east of the main Hiunchuli-Annapuma South ridge). At 23,000 feet, Sérac Ridge intersects the main summit ridge between the north and central summits. From that point, we climbed over the central summit, descended 300 feet and continued on easy ground to the highest south summit. The route along the summit ridge took three hours and is about two kilometers long. It should be mentioned that this route, particularly between Camps II and III, is very exposed to avalanches triggered by séracs falling off the north summit. Between Camps II and III three major runout zones had to be crossed. When we returned from the summit, a large avalanche had covered our tracks in one of these zones. In this area it is possible to drop back into the main icefall, which the Hong Kong group did, and gain some distance from the runout zones. However, the icefall appears unstable and is tortuous; if this variation is used, an additional camp, fixed rope and more time would probably be necessary.

Mark Udall

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