Annapurna IV, Attempts and Tragedy

Nepal, Annapurna Himal
Author: Elizabeth Hawley. Climb Year: 1996. Publication Year: 1997.

Americans Alex Lowe and Conrad Anker had as their objective the unclimbed southeast pillar of Annapurna III, a 7555-meter peak to the east of Annapurna I. Since they planned to scale their challenging pillar in pure alpine style, they first did an acclimatization climb to 7200 meters on the south side of neighboring Annapurna IV. They then found themselves isolated for a week in a snow cave when heavy snowfall made it too dangerous to move; they finally managed to descend to their advance Base Camp, where the snow was waist-deep, and down to base, where torrential rains fell during another week of bad weather. When they returned to their advance base to make their ascent of Annapurna III, they saw there was far too much snow for a safe attempt on their pillar, and they abandoned their mountain without ever having gotten onto it at all.

A larger American party on the north side of the Annapurna range attempting Annapurna IV (7525 meters) lost two of its members very early one morning when the tent they were sleeping in at their first high-altitude camp at 5400 meters collapsed under a heavy load of snow and they were smothered to death. The leader of this group, Cleve Armstrong, was in another tent six meters away from the one in which Richard Davidson and Debbie Marshall slept the night of October 3-4; he cleared snow off his tent several times and survived the night, but the next morning, when he went to find out why the other two had not joined his walkie-talkie conversation with Base Camp, he found that the weight of at least a meter of fresh snow had forced their tent down on top of them and suffocated them in their sleep.

Elizabeth Hawley