Asia, Nepal, Annapurna South Face Ascents and Tragedy

Publication Year: 1989.

Annapurna South Face Ascents and Tragedy. Our team was composed of Poles Jerzy Kukuczka, Artur Hajzer, Dr. Lech Komiszewski, Ryszard Warecki and me, Britons Phil Butler and Henry Todd, Germans Irene and Gerhard Schnass, Ecuadorians Ramiro Navarrete and Francisco Espinoza, American Steve Untch and Italian Alberto Soncini. On August 30, we set up Base Camp at 4200 meters on the moraine of the Annapurna Glacier. On September 2, Advance Base was established at 5200 meters and Camp I was placed at 6000 meters on the 4th in a small basin surrounded by Annapurna, Kangsar Kang (Roc Noir) and Tarke Kang (Glacier Dome). Between these two camps there was a dangerous icefall with risky corridors between the ice and a rock band. We fixed 400 meters of rope there. We had to replace or retie rope there often because of crumbling rock and collapsing ice. On September 12, Camp II was established at 6550 meters on the far east rib of Annapurna’s south face. On October 8, after a period of bad weather, Hajzer and Kukuczka set out for the summit. After a night at Camp II on October 11, they climbed, belaying, 15 pitches of 60° ice gullies and bivouacked at 7100 meters. Climbing the next day was equally difficult, but they moved together to save time. At the end of the day, they reached the east ridge at 7500 meters and bivouacked there. On October 13 at four P.M., they got to the east summit of Annapurna. They spent that night at the same place as the night before. On October 14, they descended the slopes of Roc Noir and Glacier Dome. After bivouacking at 6800 meters, they reached Base Camp the next day. After ascending via the east-ridge route of descent of Kukuczka and Hajzer, on October 16 Navarrete, Espinoza and I set out for the summit from our Camp IV at 7500 meters. At two P.M., Navarrete climbed to the summit. I was stopped 100 meters from the top by strong winds and Espinoza had had to turn back 200 meters from the top with health problems. That night, we all returned to the tent at 7500 meters. The next day the weather was very bad. In the mist we descended the east-ridge route unroped. On the narrow corniced ridge of Roc Noir, Navarrete fell 1200 meters to his death when a cornice broke. After that, on the south slopes of Roc Noir, Espinoza rappelled off the end of his rope and fell 60 meters; he was hurt. We spent a frigid night on October 17 in snow holes without any tent. The next morning, we reached the tent of Camp III at 7200 meters. Miraculously, Todd, who was at the Camp II of our route heard our shouts. That same day he got to us, where we were nearly comatose and without fuel, and alerted the rest of the members by radio. At 3:30 P.M. Untch, Hajzer and Soncini started up from Base Camp and climbed through the night. In 24 hours Untch was at Camp II, having climbed some 2800 vertical meters. The others were at Camp I. The rescue was a frightful ordeal. On October 20, with the heroic and selfless help of Todd, Untch, Hajzer and Soncini, the whole group reached Base Camp.

Janusz Majer, Klub Wysokogórski Katowice, Poland

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