American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Annapurna IV, Southwest Pillar, Attempt

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

Annapurna IV, Southwest Pillar, Attempt. The Czech Mountaineering Federation and Sport Club—Mt. Blanc (Prague) set out in September for Annapurna IV. The expedition comprised climbers from the Czech Republic (Jirí Novak, leader; Martin Otta, substitute leader; Radek Lienert, Zdenek Michalec, Václav Pátek, Tomáš Rinn and Ivo Wondrácek) and from Slovakia (Ivan Krajcír and Henryk Zajac, doctor). Our expedition chose as its aim the pillar on the southwest face, which we accessed from the Seti Khola Valley. We experienced exploratory challenges similar to those faced by the first expeditions to enter Nepal in the 1950s. Our advance was complicated by unfavorable weather. Six days into the approach, with the passage of the 4500-meter saddle beneath Machapuchare and the following 1000-meter descent, the majority of the porters left us. Though we wanted to approach directly beneath Annapurna IV, we were caught in a blind valley at the very far end of the main valley. It was cloudy when we crossed the saddle, so we couldn’t see what the upper part of the valley looked like and therefore didn’t know how to get beneath the face. We had to detour via a glacier that wound beneath Annapurna III. It took us two more days to find a place to establish Base Camp (4700m). In that time we got acquainted with the quality of rock, which is catastrophically fractured. Because of the delays and the fractured rock, we realized that it wouldn’t be possible to make an ascent via the pillar. After reaching an agreement with our liaison officer, we changed our goal to the southwest face and west ridge. After establishing CI on October 2 at 5500 meters, about 100 to 200 meters of the sharp west ridge was fixed due to many cornices. On October 14 and 15, two teams began their attempt at climbing the west ridge alpine-style to the top in three or four days. On October 15, Michalec, Otta, and Lienert reached 6200 meters. The next day the weather was worse. Lienert descended; the others waited to see what the weather would do, as did the second group (Krajcír, Patek) at a lower bivouac (6100m). Meanwhile, 50 centimeters of snow fell and all four decided to descend on October 17. On October 18 and 19, descent was made to 3500 meters, where the porters were gathering. An exacting march to Pokhara was made in three days.

JiRí Novak, Czech Mountaineering Federation

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