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Asia, Nepal, Upper Dolpo, Annapurna Himal, Annapurna I, South Face, New Route Attempt

Annapurna I, south face, new route attempt. Ueli Steck of Switzerland wanted to complete a route on Annapurna I’s vast south face that had been started in the autumn of 1992 by French climbers Pierre Beghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille. These two Frenchmen had been attempting an alpine-style ascent of the great face by a new line in the couloir slightly to the right (east) of the 1970 British route and had reached 7,400 meters, when they were forced to retreat in the face of snow and wind. During the descent a rappel anchor failed and Beghin fell to his death.

In May, Steck went to complete this line alone, but he was defeated at only 5,850m on the 21st when he was hit by a falling stone that smashed his helmet—though not his head. He fell to ca 5,500m on the glacier, was knocked out, and has no memory of what happened. He staggered away with bad bruising on the back of his head and his spinal area, but no blood flowed. As he wandered around not knowing where he was, Robbi Bösch, a member of his support team, found him. With a badly bruised body and his only helmet shattered, Steck abandoned the idea of climbing the south face of Annapurna for the moment. “This route is climbable,” he said, but didn’t know whether he still wanted to be the one to climb it.

Elizabeth Hawley, AAC Honorary Member, Nepal