Spring 2015 | Annapurna Summit Push on April 23rd

Shrinking summit window, approaching snowstorm, frequent avalanches, buried campsites, frantic wind and tent catching fire; Even so, summit push on Annapurna is underway. Climbers negotiated the most demanding and dangerous section from C2 to C3 yesterday. Their aim is to reach the C4 today and launch summit bid at night.

Summit Push Climbers
Summit push party includes members of international Expedition, Canadian Al Hancock, American Alexander Barber and the two-member team of Chris Jensen Burke and Lakpa Sherpa.

Spaniard Carlos Soria’s team has suffered significant material loss in high camps due to bad weather. Avalanches buried their C1 and swept away gear and food from C3. C2 was found damaged when Carlos Martinez and a group of Sherpa reached there on 20th. The team is currently waiting at BC and trying to arrange missing gear for summit push later in the season.

Carlos Soria's team retrieving material from C2 tent; Source

Climbing Conditions
Climbers left Base Camp on April 19th. They planned reaching C2 directly but frequent avalanches were coming down the mountain and they settled in C1. “Shortly after making the call to stop for the day at Camp 1, a massive avalanche broke high on Annapurna. Rumbling toward us, I thought for a moment, it was gonna hit us but luckily it just dusted Camp 1 with a cloud of snow and a large gust of wind.” commented Alex Barber.

Next day, they climbed to C2 and found tents buried under multiple feet of snow.

On 21st, the group tackled treacherous C2 to C3 portion of ascent. Al Hancock described the climbing at the end of day, “Minutes turned into hours at one point I had to cross a slope of 50 degrees or more for about 30 plus feet with no ropes and the slightest mistake it would have been game over, goodbye time. I had to very carefully front point across and the only sound to be heard was my heart pounding and my breathing, once across back to the vertical world and in an hour into another snow field, the snow was deep at times up to my knees.

I would struggle upwards and the snow would collapse beneath my crampons and leave me leaning over my ice axe gasping for a breath, this process would keep repeating itself over and over throughout the day. After about four hours I was exhausted, Lakpa came up to me and said great job and with that he took the lead, I was grateful.”

Al goes on to explain the positioning of Camp 3, “the safest place for our tent is under a serac to avoid an avalanche but the crazy thing is two weeks ago a serac collapsed and buried a tent under tones of ice and to make matters worse our tent is sitting on a ledge looking over thousand foot drop.”

The route to C2 and C3; Source

Tent on Fire
Place available for C3 is small and multiple climbers shared the tents. As night began, fire erupted in one of the tents. “Myself and a few other climbers rushed to kick gas canisters and oxygen bottles out of the fire; throwing snow on it, and principally focusing on preventing the other tents from catching fire. Unbelievably no one was injuried! The tent and many of the occupant’s belongings were lost to the fire, but everyone is safe now.” Alex Barber described the scene.

Summit Push Live

Update 01: 23-Apr-2015 0815hrs Nepal Time
The climbers have made it to C4 and summit push is on.

They reached the C4 last evening and were planning to leave for summit after a little rest. If everything went as per plan, they should be approaching the top by now. Meanwhile, weather forecast isn't very promising. Clear morning sky is predicted to be replaced by clouds and snow in the afternoon, like almost all recent days on Annapurna.

Alex Barber wrote from C4 last night that he will not be joining the early night summit-bid. "so I’ll have to decide whether to make my summit attempt early tomorrow morning and risk being in a storm as I descend, or turn back and wait for a better weather window."

Update 02: 24-Apr-2015 1045hrs Nepal Time
Update is that we don't have any update!

There hasn't been any dispatch from Annapurna high camps since the summit push night. Failure of batteries and electronics equipment under harsh conditions isn't unexpected. Carlos Soria's team from Base Camp also talked about difficulties in maintaining regular communication, due to snow and cold.

No power! Carlos Soria's team removes snow layers from solar panel. Source

Update 03: 24-Apr-2015 1945hrs Nepal Time
Still no update from summit party, however, Carlos Soria has decided to abandon the Base Camp and return home.

“It's been an incredible year of snowfall. We came with seven consignments of high camps and return with just three. The avalanches have destroyed several of them and we lost a lot of material,” Considering the lost of material and climbing conditions on the mountain, the Spaniard see no chances of a summit attempt. “After evaluating all the possibilities, we believe that we have no real options for summit push on Annapurna without involving risks, too high.”

Carlos Soria and team is expected to fly back to Spain, next week; cancelling Dhaulagiri attempt as well.

Update 04: 25-Apr-2015 
All Annapurna climbers are safe in BC. They were trembled by earthquake but luckily no damage done. More on summit push later.

This post will be updated as further updates arrive from the mountain.
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