Annapurna was first successful 8000m peak climbed but it is the least 8000m climbed till the date.
This year, there was no any other 8000m peak successfully climbed but only Annapurna.
204 summits on Mt Annapurna including both second summit (8064m) and real summit (8091m). First climbed in 1950. A D
385 Summit on Mt K2 (Regarded to be most difficult Mountain). First Climbed in 1954 A.D
6971 Summit on Mt Everest including from Tibet and Nepal Sides (The highest Mountain). First Climbed in 1953 A.D
Having failed to attempt to the summit in 2014, I decided to return back once again. So I started to form a team and finally I made my team consisting of 7+2 foreign climber, 6 Nepali climbers and 2 cooking staffs. While climbing K2 in 2014-June-July, some of K2 team members also showed interest Annapurna expedition. After returning from successful attempt of K2, I announced my mission to climb Annapurna and more people confirmed to join my team.
Since my climbing plan was in March, many people refused to join later on saying it was too early. But I had studied the snow condition and weather of that area in 2014, so I didn’t change my plan of attempting in March. Also I made my plan discussing with Spanish team trying for 14 peaks as oldest person. We were known to each other in 2013 from Kanchenjunga expedition and we have been taking for more than 6 months to follow same plan and coordinate for Annapurna Expedition. So I felt I should continue. All my team members were well known and climbed with me in previous expeditions except Ms Dong HongJuan from China. Looking her previous climbing record of Mt Everest, Manaslu, Gasherbrum-II and Cho Oyu, I felt she was capable of climbing Annapurna.
Annapurna is the tenth highest mountain in the world with its height 8091m. It is always regarded as world’s most dangerous mountain with greatest fatality rate of 35.08% among all the 14 eight-thousanders. Annapurna was the first 8,000-metre (26,200 ft) peak climbed. Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal, of a French expedition led by Herzog (including Lionel Terray, Gaston Rébuffat, Marcel Ichac, Jean Couzy, Marcel Schatz, Jacques Oudot, Francis de Noyelle), reached the summit on 3 June 1950. It was the first climbed but it is the least climbed 8000m peaks.
Short description of Annapurna camps in my own
Base camp of Annapurna lies at the altitude of 4000m. It is an open grass land and warmer compared to other 8000m base camp.
Camp-I lies at the altitude of 4800m meters. The way from base camp to camp-I is easier till middle of the way and we need to climb around 500m on steeply rock which is not big challenge at all. Then it follows on moraine area and then reaches to camp-I on flat rock. It takes around 5 hours to reach camp-I from base camp.
Camp-II lies at the altitude of 5200 to 5400m. There are flat areas suitable for camps but if we move higher then it can be again danger from avalanche. The bigger avalanche from west face directly reaches to camp-II.
The way from camp-I to camp-II is comparatively the easiest part on Annapurna but climbers should be very careful of very deep crevasse on flat area after walking almost 200m from camp-I. It takes around 3 hours to reach camp-II.
Camp-III lies between 6200m to 6400m. The area keeps on changing every year so it is suitable to decide to put camp after reaching at that point.
The way between camp-II and Camp-III is regarded as the most dangerous part on Annapurna. Over 90% of accidents and death occurs in this area. After climbing around 400m-500m from camp-II, the area of avalanche starts. The most difficult aspect between camp-II and camp-III is deep snow. The wind covers the opened trail easily and we have to open again and again. That’s the reason we set up temporary camp-III in the middle.
This year, I made the route like this. I planned to reach the face moving from very downward to avoid the force of avalanche. It is almost sure that climber climbing on Annapurna should once face avalanche in this area. I also made the route on the face avoiding the couloirs. It was more difficult and longer than climbing from couloirs but it was very safe comparatively. I think this was the safest route on Annapurna ever. So I prefer to name it, ROLWALING ROUTE (my birthplace). But there may need a ladder to cross a big crevasse. We were lucky this time that we found snow bridge over the crevasse.
As shown in the picture, the avalanche from all sides of faces reach at same point, “Avalanche Danger Area” and we have to pass through same area. More we keep distance from avalanche, the force is less so we opened our trail from very below to avoid the force of avalanche.
In 2014, I opened same way till temporary camp but it was on left side after that but this year I changed to right side because it was safer. The way below temporary camp is very safe because of deep snow at point “A”. All the broken ice and stones from above rocky wall get stock there in deep snow. If there is avalanche by breaking ice or snow then it is easily hold at point "A" so that the lower way is very safe to climb.
Camp-IV lies between 7100m to 7300m depending on snow formation and safety of area. Camp-IV is closer to big rocky wall and some time small pieces of rock fall down continuously. Depending upon area and safety, camp has to be set up. The way between camp-III and camp-IV is very safe and easier despite of too deep snow. It is just climbing on snow.
Mingma’s diary from Annapurna
4th March 2015
Today whole morning, Nima and I waited for helicopter flight to Tatopani and we finally flew at around 1pm. We tried to fly directly to Annapurna base camp but the weather was not good so we had to be stopped at Tatopani where our team member reached a day earlier and were waiting for us to bring helicopter to fly to base camp. We are staying at Himalayan Lodge in Tatopani and we look forward for good weather to fly to base camp tomorrow.
5th March 2015
The helicopter was taken back to Pokhara because of security reason and we were told to come at 6am. We had our breakfast at hotel and left to heliport early morning. The helicopter finally came at around 8 am. There was heavy snowfall at base camp on 1st and 2nd March so we were not sure if we could land at base camp or not. In the first flight I preferred to take only Sherpa. One Chinese Trekker, 2 sherpa and I went myself at first. There was already one team at base camp and they tried to clear the snow and made heliport for us. We made another heliport finding campsite after we reach there. One by another, all arrived there. The day we arrived, it was bright and sunny day. It was also full moon night. We preferred to perform, Puja on the same day. We had our own monk for praying and celebration so he prepared for puja, two cooks started preparing food and climbing members tented. We completed our day on time.
6th March 2015
Our day passed making our campsite and making kitchen. It was easy day but was little tiring because we had to throw lots of snow for more tents and find stones inside snow for Kitchen setup.
7th March 2015
We planned to take rest. We separated our climbing gears and food for high camps. All team members took proper rest. There is too much snow so no places to walk except tent to tent. Our other Sherpa members started playing card and I passed my time reading book and playing mobile games.
8th March 2015
We 6 Sherpa went to camp-I to set up the camp. Some of our foreign climbing members came till the halfway of camp-I by themselves. Because of heavy snowfall, it was difficult day to reach camp-I. Reaching at camp-I, I could see whole the route to summit very clear. I felt like the condition of hanging ice are much better comparing with the previous year. We quickly returned back to base camp and took a rest.
9th March 2015
As per Plan, Pemba and I packed for sleeping at camp-I and opening route to camp-II the next day. 2 sherpa were sent to camp-I for transferring food and tents. Other members of the team took rest. We slowly moved to camp-I and had our first night there.
10th March 2015
We woke up early and started fixing and breaking trail from camp-I to camp-II. After walking around 400m from the camp, I fell into a big crevasse. Since I was using walking poles, I saved myself entering further. It took us 8 hrs to reach camp-II. Normally it takes 2 hrs to reach from camp-I to camp-II. We finished our ropes and decided to return back because breaking trail inside deep snow without rope was useless . We reach camp-I at 5pm and it was still early so we descent back to base camp. All our team member were at base camp taking complete rest.
11th March 2015
Pemba and I took rest at base camp. Remaining all the team members went to camp-I for acclimatization and 2 sherpa came back to BC. This is the first day that our team are sleeping at camp-I. The weather is expected to get worsen after few days. So we suggested to go and sleep camp-II at same time. I was connecting with our team members through walkie-talkie and I was informed that all are fine at camp-I. The night was little windy but still it was fine time for all the members.
12th March 2015
The team at camp-I left to camp-II after the sun rise. I was expecting that the team would reach camp-II early but it took time so I felt they went higher than the expected campsite. Nima and Kaji were leading the team and they have never been there before so they were not known about the camp-II location. We were communicating on walkie-Talkie but it was hard for me to give them exact location. Liu Yongzhong (Azong) and Zhang Liang were there with me in 2014 and they were well known about the campsite but they took the team higher and put the camp at higher place. I was informed by Samuli about the camp location and he was also worried about it. Then I tried to contact with Nima and tried to push him to descent back in a safer place but he informed me that the place look quite safe and both the previous members told that we had camp at same place last year too. It gave me some relief but still I was very worried about the team because I had seen the avalanche in 2014 which almost washed away our camp-II. The avalanche from the west face is so big, so powerful that can easily reach camp-II and can damage there. Though I was eating good food and sleeping in a luxurious tent at base camp, I couldn’t sleep well that night.
13th March 2015
I tried to contact with camp-II team early in the morning but couldn’t receive any response because they kept their radios off to save the batteries. Finally at around 7 am, I got a call which was kind of painkiller medicine for me. The day earlier I was thinking to send the Sherpa team to camp-I to transport some oxygen cylinders but I didn’t send them because I was not sure about the condition at camp-II. That day we all took rest at base camp and the team at camp-II also descent back to base camp. After the dinner, we discussed about our climbing and all our team members were happy and they told not to repeat again for further acclimatization. Since all of them were 8000ers with atleast 2 successful 8000m summit and all were on summit of Mt Everest so I agreed with them. We discussed to move only for final summit bid. Samueli wanted to follow his own plan so I didn’t have worry for him.
14th to 15th March 2015
We all took complete rest for 3 days as weather was predicted to be bad and snowfall. There was somehow snowfall but it was not that bad at base camp. On 15th March, I got the weather report which gave very fine weather forecast for 6 days starting from 18th march to 24th March. I felt like it was good window for summit push. I had discussion with our team members after they reach back to base camp and they didn’t want to go back for one more acclimatization rotation. Though we had fixed till camp-II only, I was sure about reaching summit on 23rd March. So I went to Spanish team camp and discussed about the plan to go on 23rd March. They also got the same weather report so they gave positive response towards my plan. Then setting goal to attack to summit on 23rd with Spanish team, I went back to our camp and discussed with our team members. They were fine with my plan and they had enough time to take proper rest. Our plan was that our climbing members have to leave on 19th March from Base Camp only after we set up camp-III.
16th March 2015
I woke up very late. It takes around 3hrs to reach camp-I for us so we decided to move at 1pm, we packed our things and took lunch. When we were about to start it was already 2pm. It took 4.40hrs to reach camp-I because there was deeper snow than what we have expected on the way to camp-I. We, 4 Sherpa reached camp-I before it get dark but Angeli and Nima Wangchhu came to camp with torch light.
17th March 2015
The day to camp-II was not easy either. We couldn’t figure out our previous way because there was very deep snowfall. We started at around 8am but we reached camp-II at around 3pm. It was not easy to break trail to camp-II. Nima and I opened all the way to camp-II. All our tents were covered with snow. The Spanish team’s sherpa and Samueli came from base camp directly to camp-II. When we were on the half way, they came to us but they didn’t help to break the trail except by Samueli. Reaching camp-II, we cleared our tents covered with snow but Samueli lost his tent because the place where he put his tent was made of same level by heavy snowfall. It is the most common problem on Annapurna. We dig all around and finally found it. We went back to our tent and it started to snow. I was very worried because it continued falling till we asleep.
18th March 2015
I woke up early and tried to watch out from the tent but I saw white outside so I thought it was clouded. I slept again saying we will just take rest at camp-II because the weather is not good and it’s not wise idea to go above camp-II. I tried to sleep but couldn’t because the weather report was so perfect in our earlier forecast. I again woke up and got out of tent to check the sky. When I got out of tent, the sky was very clear. I made all the other Sherpa woke up and told them to get ready. It was already 9am. We had a plan to go 3 Sherpa to set up camp-III and 3 to camp-I and fetch our oxygen cylinders and food to camp-II. I started to break the trail and the Spanish Sherpa team came following us. It took 3 hours to touch the face where we planned to change the route from previous. The face was composed of blue ice. We were 8 people including Samueli who planned to sleep camp-III before summit push. Nobody dare to climb that ice so I started fixing rope again. When I climbed around 100m then our rope finished, so I told to bring more rope. One Sherpa from Norwegian team tried to climb up with Rope but he couldn’t reach to me because he slipped on ice and he went back saying he cannot climb. Then Pemba from our team came up taking rope. It was not difficult for me to climb on ice so I tried to fixed 200m rope without any belay from second partner. When I was about to finish the ice part, the weather changed suddenly and it started snowing and was windy as well. The team below the ice had already decided to return back. I tried to contact them to come up with rope but they had already took things from their bags and deposited. When I reached to them, there was no Samueli. I tried to contact him but he was already in camp-I going back to base camp. So we started back and when we reach the camp, the snow stopped and the weather was looking fine. The Spanish team Sherpa decided to return back to base camp but we stayed at camp-II to see the condition for next days because the weather report was showing improving weather.
19th March 2015
The weather was very clear as per the weather report. I was not sure if the Spanish team would join us to fix the rope further. So I decided to set up another temporary camp between camp-II and Camp-III. I separated 2 teams where Angeli and I were supposed to stay in the temporary camp and Pemba and Kazi were supposed to return back to camp-II depositing rope and food at temporary camp. So we packed all our equipments and started opening the trail from the beginning again. Then we saw the Spanish Sherpa team came there following us. That encouraged us to go further. Pemba and I reached the last day’s stopped rope point. Then I put my bag there and started fixing the rope further in a deep snow. After fixing around 300m, we had to traverse little. While I was almost 10m far from the traverse anchorage, suddenly whole part of the snow came down in form of slab avalanche. Fortunately my legs were too deep inside the snow so I tried to break the avalanche with my body. I tried as much as I could but I was swept little down by the slide avalanche. Fortunately the avalanche stopped and I was stuck there. Then I again stood up and continued to follow the way up. Then we found 10m ice wall of almost 90° and a big crevasse, RIMO beneath the ice wall which I fixed easily. I was sure that once I put ice crew on that ice wall, we are safe. I fixed the ice wall and then Sherpa started to climb up. The wall was not easy to climb though fixed with rope. It took almost 30 minutes for two Sherpa to climb that wall with load. I was stopped there because of no rope. The weather suddenly changed and started to blow high wind. It was very difficult to move ahead because of too deep snow. I continued to break the trail and when I reached the last point of the rope, I made final anchorage and returned back to the ice point. When I reached there, I found 2 of our Sherpa and the Spanish team Sherpa were already left from there. With one more coil of rope, Angeli and I continued to reach the temporary camp. It was not easy to reach there. We hardly reached and found very safe point where we put a tent at around 7pm. It was very tiring day for me and Angeli was very helpful that he prepared food and gave me. Though it was very windy, we had very good sleep.
20th March 2015
It was very difficult to wake up. Angeli looked to be ok so he woke up and prepared tea and soups. After that I wore my gears and started to find the route. I was confused to fix on the right side or left side but I was more interested to make on the right side because it looked little hard at beginning but safer afterward. And luckily I found very safe route. So fixing 150m rope put me on very safe hard snow where I deposited our main rope and 5cyliders of oxygen. I returned back to our temporary camp where Angeli was waiting me with prepared food. Taking some food there, we went down to the ice wall from where our friends returned back, the previous day. Our friends had deposited their equipment there and we wanted to pick up those ropes and tents. Taking those equipments, we climbed up again for fixing the rope. We continued to fixed 400m ropes. After fixing 400m ropes, we had to return back because we had no more ropes left. But the fixing of last 200m rope was not easy that day too. At some part, it was completely ice and some part too deep snow. I named magic Route at one point because it was interesting and very difficult to fix. I had to cut down some part of ice to make the route safer and easier to fix with rope. It was straight up on snow and straight traverse beneath the ice and again straight up on ice and sloppy traverse and finally straight ahead on snow. Angeli was looking too tired and I was still fixing the rope with 5 cylinders of oxygen on my back. We found a safe small ice cave where we deposited our goods and returned back to temporary camp. After storing our belongings, I tried to put on my gloves but mistakenly I dropped down my bag.
21st March 2015
My bag went through the couloirs so I was sure that I may find at the bottom of the couloirs. We had no rope and our Sherpa from camp-II were coming up with ropes and oxygen bottles. We went down to look my bags and help them carry their load. I didn’t see my bags at the bottom and came back to camp carrying nothing. There was 4 more Sherpa from other camps. One of them, Lhakpa told that he would return back to base camp so I could use his bags. On the way back, I cleared all the hanging pieces of fallen rocks which took little more time to reach back to temporary camp. Reaching back to camp, I was offered with prepared food and juice to drink. Some of the Sherpa had already started climbing, packing our temporary camp. I tied two tents with rope and managed myself carry that. I reached the previous fixed point at last because I climbed searching my fallen bag. Lhakpa wanted to fix the rope from there so he left ahead. I left the tents and started climbing behind Lhakpa because we need to fix camp-III as early as possible. 7 Sherpa had to stay back till we fixed the rope. When I fixed knot on first anchorage, I called them to come up. Lhakpa continued to fix ahead and I continued behind him making fixed point and we were fixing so fast. After we finished the first 200m coil of rope, we had to wait for our Sherpa come there with more rope. Lhakpa and I are known to each other for more than 10 yrs but never been so close and he never saw my climbing. I offered him tents on K2 at camp-I and camp-III in 2014 but we were not together. It looked like he got surprised to see the route I fixed. I myself felt that the route was so safe and well fixed. I shared all my Annapurna plans with him 2 months earlier than the start of expedition but he made his own plan hearing other people and he regretted. Nima reached there with rope and we took the 100m rope and again started fixing it. After fixing almost 30m, we reached on small flat area under big ice wall. We waited there for Pemba to come because he was the one to decide the camp. When he reached there, he told they put camp-III little below in previous year and he told the shape changes totally every year. We 5 Sherpa slept there and 5 left back to camp-II.
22nd March 2015
We had our plan to open way to camp-IV from camp-III and our team member climb to camp-III from camp-II. The good part of Angeli was that he wakes up easily in the morning. He prepared tea and gave me. After that I told him to prepare something light food to eat and I went down to bring up our deposited things. Our team started early in the morning from camp-II and they were doing quite good. When I reached to our deposited point, I heard big avalanche going through the couloirs so I shouted on Radio. After few minutes, I got replied that all of our team members were covered by avalanche but no one was hurt. I felt like I did my best job in opening the trail because nobody was hurt in such big avalanche. I reached back to camp-III taking our deposited goods and it was already about half past 8am. When I reached back to camp-III, I saw 3 Sherpas from Spanish team were putting their gears to go back. I got surprised and asked them. They told their leader and guide cancelled their summit push. I felt so annoyed because we had agreed to follow same plan and it was discussed more than 6 months ago. I asked the reason behind it and they told camp-III was lower than it should be. But there were no safer place to put camps above than that. I felt like they wanted us to go summit earlier than them and fix all the rope so they can climb easily later on. But the condition on Annapurna is not as easy as they thought. I felt very sad with them because they cancelled their summit push that morning while our team members were climbing on the half way to camp-III. I didn’t have choice except continuing our summit push.
I had same problem with this team from Kanchenjunga (8586m) summit push in 2013. The Spanish guide suggested me to continue on summit day though we had no rope left. I wanted to return back but he insisted me to continue with their team. I was opening the trail being ahead but I got surprised to see them returning back without saying anything. I was so embarrassed but I continued and summit successfully and returned back safely with my client.
Angeli and I continued to fix the rope to camp-IV. Angeli was so slow and looking tired though I was breaking the trail all the way. When we finished almost 400m rope, Samueli reached close to us. We got surprised to see him because he was there earlier than we expected. Opening trail in deep snow was not that easy but we continued till we finished our rope. It was close to camp-IV so we returned back and Samueli told to continue and put his camp little higher in safer place.
When we reached back to camp-III, our all team members were already there. They were in good condition and our sherpa were making place for 2 more tents. We had very scary night. We were on the side of starting couloirs and 4 times, there went avalanche from our side but the good thing was that it was sure that the ice seracs were so safe and so was our camp.
23rd March 2015-camp-4
Early morning, I woke up and climbed alone half the way with 7 bottles of oxygen because I was sure that there will be too much load for our Sherpas to carry up. Reaching very close to last day’s fixed rope point, I returned back to camp-III and I met some of our members already started and reach above the ice seracs. The other Sherpa have already cleared the camp and I again joined them back to camp-IV. One by one I left each member behind and again started to move ahead breaking the trail. We met Samueli at the end of the rope closing his tent and all took rest at that point. After that, Pemba and I started breaking the trail leaving our bags there and fixed the rope. We continued to reach 7100m but we returned back and set our camp at around 7000m. Samueli continued with us and he put his camp almost 200m above than us where I said it could be danger of rock falling.
We had to set our camp cutting compact snow. After setting 2 tents, we 3 sherpa went down to pick up our bags and early morning’s my deposit. Returning back to camp, I divided all the oxygen required for the day nigh and summit push.
Summit Plan discussion
We had our summit plan with the Spanish team but they went back without proper information and discussion, I thought to make little changes in our plan. So having some food and tea, we discussed our summit push time and team division. Since Pemba was our expert on Annapurna with 3 successful summit attempts earlier, we followed his voice. I planned to take Pemba with me earlier than the team to fix the rope till the traverse because he told us that once we pass the traverse with fix rope then we don’t need more fix rope and can climb with single main rope because the route is safe and easier comparatively. We discussed that we may have to start early because we had to ascent almost 1000m but Pemba told that he climbed 3 times and all the time they reached the summit before 9am in the morning starting at around 12am in the night. If we start at around 9pm or 10 pm then we may reach the summit at night and have to wait for sun rise”. So we set our plan to move at 11:30pm and 12:30am.
24th March 2015-summit push
We woke up at 11pm and started preparing ourselves. When Pemba and I were about to move it was already 12:07am. As soon as we reach the rope point near to Samueli’s camp, we stared fixing so quickly. The snow condition was so compact so good and it was very easy for me to climbing up. After climbing a cliff, Pemba mistakenly dropped down some snow bars which were very important to us. So I told him to go back and collect some if he see those dropped. But I continued to fix ahead without any proper belay because I was very confident at that point. He finally came following me at the traverse point where I need a proper belay to fix further more. Samueli was quick and he reached there too. When Pemba reached to me, I asked to take out the rope which he had carried and he told he also dropped down the rope. So we waited for all the members to come at the same point. After that I took out the main ropes from sherpas’s bag and put everyone on two main ropes and started to climb. The traverse point was much easier what he told, just walk on snow but had to be careful.
Crossing almost 70m traverse part, we started climbing upwards. At beginning it was little hard to keep going because of thick snow but climbing almost for an hour, we found compact snow again. So I made two rope tied together and continued. It was getting clear and little windy. Almost climbing 400m after the traverse, we were in sunshine. We found a good place with compact snow covered by soft snow. I removed the soft snow and made place for our team to have proper rest. I also changed the position of our team members there. At first, Pemba was after me followed by Samueli, Nima, Aydine, Jingxue , Azong, Reza, Angeli, Zdravko, Nima Wangchhu,Liang and Kazi. After the rest, I put Samueli after me followed by Pemba, Aydine, Jinxue,Nima and remaining keeping in same position. Reza was uncomfortable with his oxygen mask and he didn’t want to use it so I adjusted it and told him not to open and We continued to move on.
When we were about 150 meters far from rocky section, Pemba told to continue straight upward but I was not sure to reach the summit if we move straight forward. So I just sit down and took rest so that all can come closer and discuss. It looks other people were not sure about it and they want to move wherever I take and they were just concerned about their oxygen and water. Samueli was very sure about the route which had to be followed and he shared some pictures from Ms Hawly which were from Spanish team, Edurne Passaban’s successful attempt in 2010. I have seen some pictures and read some books so I was also sure about the route we had to follow. Though Pemba was 3 times Annapurna summiter, we denied to follow him further. I felt very angry with Reza because he was again without oxygen and he said he was very comfortable but I knew that once oxygen is used but again not used then it can bring problem. So I fixed his oxygen and told not to open it. I had very clear sketch of the route to summit, so I continued to move ahead taking traverse because I had read somewhere that every climber should follow the French couloirs to reach the real summit.
For me, Samueli was very dedicated and real alpinist. In a course of completing his 14s Peaks, he climbed Mt Sishapangma (8013m) in 2012. They reached the summit in dark cloud. Their summit could have been approved but he himself felt not sure if they reached Main Summit or not? He never counted Sishapangma as successful summit though he was there and he planned to return back. I have seen so many climbers who prefer to take official documents though they are unable to reach the summit. These things made Sammy completely different and I have my respect for such alpinist.
It took long time to reach the French couloirs and it was our bad luck because we already lost our calculated time but all team members wanted to continue because we were closer to summit. Going through French couloirs was not easy too. It was deep snow and stepping on such snow was very time consuming and unsteady. Walking for an hour too, we couldn’t see the summit and it was already 1:38pm so I thought to return back. I asked to return back together but he replied me that wanted to continue saying, “If not now, never again”. He said he could do that and wants to continue if we return back also so I could say nothing to him since he was not our guided member. Other team members were also continuing. Samueli was very sure about the summit and he said, “Once we finish the French couloirs we can see summit and we will reach the summit easily”. We were about to cross the French Couloirs so I thought to continue and we continued. After climbing around 20-25m, I could see the summit same as Samueli said. So, we just kept on moving. Closer to the summit, my eyes were getting watered. My aim of climbing Annapurna was getting closer and closer. Finally at around 2:50pm, we reached the summit. I got surprised when Pemba told that it was his first time to reach this summit. He was unknown about real summit so past 3 summits, he went to 8064m in 2009, 2010 and 2012. It was not his fault at all because he could not read and never knew about several summits but I respect for his courage to go Annapurna again and again. Annapurna has been always my dream so the moment was one of the most important and happiest for me. All our team members were busy taking pictures and I tried to move little on left side to put our prayer flag. Samueli joined me there. It was really nice moment because we all, 13 climbers were on the summit and it was one of the biggest success on Mt Annapurna. It was already 22minutes on the summit so I returned to them and took some pictures with them and left the summit.
Descending from Summit
Taking pictures, we left the summit. At first I stayed back and Nima and pemba started moving ahead. We kept on going. When we touched the French couloirs, I moved ahead because I saw Aydine and Reza were very week and Reza’s nose was getting black. I took them on short rope system. I told Nima and Pemba to take other members on rope in same way. As soon as we passed the French couloirs, Pemba moved forward continuously without saying anything. Nobody knows the reason why he went like that. Some of our members tried to call him but he didn’t listen and wait. At the bottom of the couloirs, both Aydine and Reza were seen so fine and strong again. Descending around 200m, we were bounded to walk in dark. We followed Pemba’s footprint and continued to descend down being Nima and Kazi at first fixing the rope and I was at last taking out the ropes. The first and last person should be very careful while descending. We had little problem in taking Aydine down but we manage to take him. There came the point where we couldn’t move forward because we felt we are lost. We tried to move down and but we didn’t find clue. I didn’t prefer to move from there rather than staying in a same place. But some of the team members wanted to move down. Kazi and Nima went from right to down to find the way but couldn’t find. We all were on a rope which we fixed there. I heard that Samueli said he remembers the way and want to check and I have told not to get out of rope. I was helping Aydine and Nima Wangchuk at the end of rope to come on safer place and Samueli was already gone out of rope to check the way. I heard Nima saying Sameli fall down while coming back to rope. I got shocked at that point. I looked down and saw a touch light so I thought Sameli was stuck there. Keeping Aydine and Nima wangchhu on the rope, I went down to the torch light to see if he was there. I just saw only torch light but no Samueli so I came back. I found it was more ice part so I thought to keep everyone at that point. I was not so worried because the weather was very calm and no wind at all. I went back and I could hear Zhang Liang asking for help which was not possible. They were thinking still we could move down so were pushing me. But I went there and just sit down on ice with a small pad and act like sleeping otherwise they would keep us pushing for moving down. I looked at the watch, it was already about 1am so 4 hours was not a big deal is such good weather. Everyone was silent and Liang was shouting, “We are man, Don’t sleep” and moving his legs. He didn’t sit whole the night. As I heard he had very worse condition in 2010 0n Daulagiri so he must have been scared of that. I kept on watching on watch times and again. At around 4 am, Azhong wanted to call Temba for helicopter which was not possible at all. I let him call and after that I ceased the phone as we didn’t left spare battery and we need phone afterward and again sit on the pad and act like sleeping. Times and again they were trying to wake me up but I didn’t listen because I didn’t want to move and put team in more problem.
We had very good weather whole the night without any wind. We had very good sunshine on summit day too. I am very thankful to my teacher and Nepal weather expert, Mr Krishna Manandar for providing such a wonderful weather report. I have read so many stories of 1996 Everest expedition's stories. They reached the summit very late and most of the climbers died on their way back because of deadly storm. My cousin brother, Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa was the head guide of Mountain Madness Team leading Scott Fisher. So many true and fake storied were created after the expeditions. Most of the climbers died on Everest that night and remaining like Anatoli died on Annapurna in same year and brother Losang Jangbu died on Everest in same year , both in Autumn season. I imagined our condition if same kind of storm that night with us. It was good lesson for me to decide future summit plan depending on weather forecast, elevation and time calculation.
At around 5am, they woke me up again and it was still not so clear. I was really asleep at that time. We waited around 15 minutes more. The very night, we were on right path. Early morning we found the traverse point just below around 100m more. Everyone were looking fine so fixing the rope, Angeli went first and I stayed at last. Descending around 40 meters on rope, then team started descending on main rope. Suddenly, Azhong who looked to be very strong earlier was seen sleepy and he was not moving. I didn’t notice his oxygen before than that. And I asked other Sherpa about his oxygen but they told his bag is already fallen. I had one more full oxygen cylinder in my bag but I didn’t have the extra mask and regulator. All the team members were already on the other side of traverse so I called them through a radio and made one come back with Mask and regulator. Angeli came to me and gave the mask and regulator and he descend down quickly again using Azhong’s spectacle as he lost his own. It looked that Azhong was already attracted by hyperthermia or HACE because he was with oxygen more than 30 hours and suddenly was without oxygen and it was little cold while it was getting closer to dawn. He was like a mad and tried to throw the mask from his face several time and punched on my face when I tried to put them on. I put mask on and he put out it again. So it was not working. At once he stood up and fallen down and slipped. It was so lucky that I had my body in good position and could break him on rope otherwise we both could have left this world. After that I made good anchorage and tied him there. I turned on oxygen at 4 pressures and leave the mask below his nose and mouth. We had finished our water and tea so I put snow in my mouth and melted it and put in his mouth several time. I was waiting for sun rise so that his body can be warmed. Waiting around 1 hour, the sun finally reached to us. I kept on rubbing his body to keep him warm. The sun rise reached very close to us but it didn’t reach us completely so I dragged him little up like 2 meters with rescue technique. Staying there around half an hour in sun, he got in better shape and he agreed to put oxygen mask as well. I opened two jelly fluid and gave him then we started descending down. His stepping was so good which was big relief for me. We were at traverse, he stopped, turned back and told me he was very hungry. I felt a baby asking for a food. His behavior was like that, which put tears on my face. I was so sorry at that time. I said him that Kazi was coming toward us with food. He kept asking me several times. We met Kazi just above the Samueli’s camp. We had juice and biscuits there and then I sent Azong with Kazi towards the camp.
I went back again taking out the 200m fixed rope. I knew they won’t be alive but I wanted to confirm it seeing them only. Their bodies were not seen from the way so I took out the rope and again fixed with two snow bars towards the suspected area. I crossed big ice and descent down but couldn’t reach to the body because they were seen completely on another side and crossing the middle part of couloirs means walking towards death zone. I hanged myself and took some pictures from there. It was clear that they were already death and we cannot take out the bodies. I again climbed back using self rescuing technique and continued toward camps.
26th March 2015- Descent to Base camp
We don’t know how the night passed so soon because we were in deep sleep. I had kept alarm on my mobile but unfortunately it didn’t ring or we didn’t hear and woke up at around 7am. As soon as we woke up, I put on my gears and packed my belongings. Other Sherpa were packing their belongings and some were cooking. I started to collect our equipments in one place and food was ready meanwhile. I couldn’t eat so early. I told everyone to come out of tent and we started packing the things. We feel time run so fast when we are in hurry. I saw the watch and it was already almost 9am. I was already ready to move so told our Sherpa to help put on the climbing gears of members. I put on main rope and tied everyone there and left camp-IV leaving all Sherpa behind to clear the camp. It just took around an hour to reach camp-III. All our Sherpa came there following us. I started melting ice and prepared Japanese Meso soup and tea to all. We shared biscuits, chocolates etc and sent Nima and Angeli ahead to camp-II to prepare food and clear our camp because we want to go camp-I on that day. Everyone was doing well but Aydine was tired and was taking too much rest every time he sits. So I sent other ahead with Kazi and I remained back. We were not in rush, so we slowly made to camp-II.
We reached there almost an hour later than other members. 3 Chinese and other Sherpa were already ready to move to base camp. They didn’t want to spend a night at camp-I, doesn’t matter what time they reach there. Aydine wanted to take rest so we left him at camp-II with one of our Sherpa. We packed our remaining gears at camp-II and move down. Zdravko was moving slowly but he also wanted to continue to Base Camp. It was getting dark. When we reached the glacier part closer to base camp, we three again lost our way. I tried to call by radio and I was told that all other members were already at base camp. We found our way and we continued. Finally at around 12:20am, we reached the base camp.
27th March 2015
We slept like a dead and knew nothing. Early morning there came some friends from another camp and then only woke up. They came there to congratualate and express their heartfelt condolence. We were in sorrow, we were tired and still we wanted to rescue our casualties but the fact was again it was not easy and not possible from that point. Arial rescue was not possible to that height and getting that area by climbing means putting more lives in danger because I had already inspected the location by myself. Both Samueli and Pemba were the most experienced climbers from our team with more 8000m peaks climbed and both had lots of experience of guiding because both of them have been working as guide and leader in Himalayas. We didn’t expect they would remain there forever.
We had our equipments at camp-I and our cook, Rinji requested and negotiated with Sherpa from another team to go there and bring down all those equipments. Aydine and Nima Wangchhu were on their way to base camp and they finally reached at base camp at around 3pm. Aydine was looking tired but he was happy with successful summit and safely back to base camp. We also received all our equipment from camp-I and we thanked those Sherpa for their generous help and gave them good wages. We dried our equipments for a while and started packing them.
28th March 2015
We woke up early morning and started packing our things because we had our helicopter coming on that day. We wanted to try helicopter rescue of two bodies after I reached back to Kathmandu with more expert team from my Mountain Guide association because I Sammy left his insurance policy with us and we had of Pemba’s too so it was possible for us. But on the same day, there came another helicopter with famous pilot of long line rescue team in Nepal. It was supported by Finland Embassy and Phil Crimpton, friend of Samueli. They went up taking Nima to locate the bodies and came down. Again they went up with well equipped but they couldn’t take out the bodies because it was beyond helicopter’s capacity. The pilot told, it was not possible to take out those bodies so we thought not to try it again. Considering so many things what I have learnt about Sammy of being mountain lover, I don’t know what other people and his family think but I prefer him there on mountain.
We first dropped all our staffs, members and equipment back to Tatopani. We left our one cook, Purna at base camp because our 2 climbing members from Argentina arrived late there. On the same date there arrived another two more team at base camp. Some of us flew back to Kathmandu directly and some stayed at Pokhara on that day. It was good time as usual to be at home.
What I think of Annapurna
I agree that Annapurna is life taking mountain so its position of being in number 1 as most dangerous mountain is accepted. Climbing Annapurna depends on our luck and hard work. Continuous snowfall, deep snow and continuous avalanche from the couloirs between camp-II and camp-III and from the west face are main reasons that made this mountain very different and dangerous.
The couloirs and open ground below the couloirs from where we have to pass can be regarded as dead zone. Most of the climbers lost their lives in those areas. Sometime the avalanche is so big and so powerful that it can wash out whole camp-II easily. As like K2, the problem on Annapurna is weather. Also it is worsen than K2 because it gets lots of fresh snow which is not seen much on K2. The geographical structure is so different, If there is even little wind then the trail is covered within a minute and we need to open the trail times and again. We won’t find such things on other mountains. Annapurna is the mountain only for those who choose it to do.
Suggestion for climbers going on Annapurna
1.Trekking to Annapurna base camp is not easy. so my suggestion would be fly by helicopter. If it gets snow while trekking, there is no option except helicopter rescue or stay there waiting for good sunshine and melt the snow.
2.Annapurna needs at least 6600m rope if fixed till summit.
3.It’s better to put lower because the avalanche from the west face is so big and so powerful, that can damage camp-II easily if taken higher.
4.If the route is opened through the couloirs then, it’s better to keep at least 200m spare rope deposited above the couloirs because sometime climbers pass the couloirs and then avalanche can take away the rope. Later on they can fix the deposited rope to descend down.
5.Every climber should remember French couloirs if they have to reach the main summit in a easier and safer way. Unless they pass though that, reaching main summit is impossible for commercial teams.
Annapurna completes my 7th 14 peaks of 8000m.
Here is my 8000m climbing;
1.Mount Everest-8848m- Twice from North Side
2.Mount Everest-8848m-Twice from South Side
Other 8000m peaks without Oxygen
3. Mount K2 -8611m-once
4.Mount Kanchenjunga- 8586m-once
6.Mount Cho-Oyu-82011m- Once
9.Mt Gasehrbrum-I -8068m-Once
-The deadly Annapurna lies there