Annapurna III (7,555m), first ascent of the southwest ridge. On November 6, Kenton Cool and Ian Parnell, both from the UK, and myself completed the first ascent of the ca 2,400m southwest ridge of Annapurna III. The route had been attempted in 1994 and 2000 by two strong Slovenian teams, numbering as large as 11 members. They had both employed the heavy-handed tactics of fixed rope and camps. The Anglo-American team acclimatized by climbing the lower one third of the route, loosely following an 18-pitch topo from the Slovenians. We encountered extremely loose rock and decaying in-situ ropes on the dangerous and challenging 600m buttress. We then bivouacked at ca 6,000m for two days and established a well-stocked camp for a forthcoming summit attempt. We then descended to base camp for a four-day rest.
On the successful summit attempt the team climbed alpine style, with two climbers leading all the lower rock buttress free at 5.10X without the use of any fixed rope (although both the rope and anchors were used for descent). After reaching the 6,000m camp, a further nine days were spent on the mountain.
The remaining climbing first involved 900m of committing snow and ice. This was followed by a 250m mixed rock band at 6,800m, which was climbed free at 5.8 and M5. Two days later the summit was reached via exposed knife-edge ridges of poor snow, resulting from extremely high winds. On reaching the top at 12:30 p.m. on November 6, we descended to a snow cave at 7,000m before continuing down for a further two-and-a-half days to base camp. [A lead story on this ascent appears earlier in this Journal.]
John Varco, AAC