American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Annapurna II Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1987

Annapurna II Attempt. Our expedition to the west ridge of Annapurna II was composed of Lucy Smith and me, co-leaders, Sue Giller, George Vansickle, Julie Brugger, John Trainor, Devin McGowan, Polly Fabian and Craig Seasholes. We met with many frustrations. Deep winter snows and high winds seemed to be the rule this spring. This long route (6 miles and 14,000 feet gain from Base Camp) begins by following the northwest buttress of Annapurna IV to the west ridge. Once on the west ridge, it traverses nearly 1½ miles at 24,000 feet to a final 2000-foot summit day. The mountain has now been attempted 28 times, successfully only four times: 1960 British-Nepalese-Indian and 1969 Yugoslav via the west ridge, 1973 Japanese via the north face and 1983 Australian via the south face. The 1973 Japanese ascent has been reported incorrectly as being on the northeast ridge. We encountered six feet of snow at 12,400 feet and thus were forced to place Base Camp 3000 feet short of our intended site. We fought through deep, and sometimes unstable, snow to 20,000 feet where we topped out on the Dome. This sits on the Himalayan crest separating Mustang from the Indian plains; predictably there were high winds. Camps were established as follows: Base Camp, Camps I, II, III, IV and V at 12,400, 15,500, 17,200, 19,300, 21,200 and 22,200 feet on March 24, 28, April 7, 18, 24 and May 3. After a month and a half of effort we abandoned the climb. Vansickle and Trainor reached a height of 24,000 feet on the west ridge. We requested permission from the ministry via radio and through our liaison officer to climb Annapurna IV when it became clear that we could not reach the summit of Annapurna II. Our request was denied five days later. Historically, expeditions have climbed both peaks or at least Annapurna IV when turned back from Annapurna II. The two peaks are best described as separate high points of the same mountain. The Ministry of Tourism now gives permission for them separately and imposes severe penalties for illegal ascents. In addition, expeditions to Annapurna II via the west ridge may find themselves sharing the route with an Annapurna IV expedition, as we did with the Nepalese Police team. A Spanish Basque expedition of six also was climbing the route with us due to a misunderstanding during the permit process.

Shari Kearney

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