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Viesturs closes in on Annapurna

After an arduous attempt on Cho Oyu, Ed Viesturs now turns his attention to climbing Annapurna with partner Veikka Gustafsson
By Peter Potterfield - February 7th, 2007


After three difficult weeks attempting to climbing Cho Oyu in conditions that were frequently unfavorable, Ed Viesturs and partners Veikka Gustafsson and Jimmy Chin arrived at Annapurna Base Camp by helicopter on April 30.

See Also: Ed's previous 8,000 meter climbs

The team, already acclimatized from their weeks of climbing on 26,750-foot Cho Oyu, could fly from Kathmandu to Annapurna in the vintage Russian MI 17, saving time and preserving their acclimatization to high altitude. Once on the ground, Viestus talked to by satellite telephone to review the events of Cho Oyu and to look ahead to his third attempt on Annapurna. With all the other 8,000 meter peaks behind him, a successful climb of Annapurna would make Viesturs the first American to climb all 14 of the world's highest mountains without supplemental oxygen.

"The primary goal for making our attempt on Cho Oyu was to acclimatize for Annapurna," said Viesturs. "Everything went pretty much according to plan, but we did run in to persistent bad weather. The winds were incessant, throwing us off our summit schedule by a few days. People sometimes don't take Cho Oyu as seriously as they should I don't think any of us have ever been on a trip where it was windy 24-7. The high winds made additional trips from camp to camp necessary, but that, in the end, actually aided in the team's overall conditioning."

Of the three members of the team, only Gustafsson reached the summit. Viesturs ended up escorting Chin down to base camp on summit day as Chin was suffering from a high altitude edema, which can be life threatening.

"I had to get Jimmy down right now," said Viesturs, "that's something you can't take chances with. He could walk and climb, and go down on his own physically, but judgment is impaired and so I had to lead him down."

Jimmy Chin's bout of mountain sickness means he won't be climbing high on Annapurna with Viesturs and Gustafsson.

"In a situation like that, Jimmy's health has to be the paramount concern, and he understands that," said Viesturs.

Now Viesturs and Gustafsson turn their attention to Annapurna, a mountain that has twice eluded the two climbers.

"We're both excited to getting up on the North Face. We'll look at a couple of different route variations, but we may end up following the original first ascent route made by the French in 1950," said Viesturs. "There will be a few sections of the climb where some ropes may need to be fixed."

The pair will attempt a fast, light, oxygenless ascent up the face carrying all of their own supplies, "alpine style."

"Annapurna is all about conditions," Viesturs says, "so we'll just have to get up high and see what the situation is . Conditions on Cho Oyu were very dry, and ice, so there was no concern about avalanche. But Annapurna is in a totally different part of the Himalaya, so we'll just have to see. It basically comes down to this: Annapurna is all about objective danger, it's all about the glacial architecture. There are these big ice cliffs and seracs, and the question is: are the seracs leaning forward or leaning back? It comes down to that."

Viesturs says he will not forsake his commitment to safe climbing even though a successful summit on Annapurna would allow him to reach is long sought goal.

"I love climbing," Viesturs says, "but I've got too much to live for to do something stupid. We'll manage the risks as best we can, and turn back if it's unreasonable."

Ed Viesturs on Annapurna (courtesy of

  • May 1: Settling in at Annapurna Base Camp.
  • May 2: Viesturs and Gustafsson remain at Annapurna Base Camp waiting on suitable climbing weather.
  • May 4: Viesturs and Gustafsson climbed above 17,000 feet, with almost 48 pounds of gear--everything they would need for an attempt on the mountain, and successfully reached Camp I with their loads. The pair were accompanied by Jimmy Chin and two Sherpa climbers.
  • May 5: Viesturs and Gustafsson made an attempt to reach Camp I but turned back to base camp, as conditions were not favorable for climbing.
  • May 6: Still at base camp, waiting for the weather to clear, Annapurna still shrouded in cloud.
  • May 8: The weather finally broke and Ed and Veikka left base camp Sunday morning and climbed up to 19,000 feet, passing through Camp 1 and picking up the gear they had stowed and continuing on to Camp II. They plan on chugging to a high camp tomorrow, and if all goes well going for the summit on Tuesday.
  • May 9: Ed and Veikka are at 23,000, Camp III, on the North Face route, and hope to climb today to the summit. Conditions are windy, and snow continues to fall, so they will wait and see if the weather clears.
  • May 10: Conditions at high camp are too cold and too windy to climb higher, so Ed reports: "Well stay here for a few days if we need to. It's not easy staying up here ... but we'll stick it out if we need to."
  • May 11: Ed calls it "day 2 of the hostage crisis" as once again he and Veikka are stuck in their tent at 23,000 at high camp on the North Face route, as high winds and small avalanches continue to make upward progress impossible. They can wait one more night but then will have to either go up or go down...
  • May 12: Viesturs Summits Annapurna: At approximately 2 p.m. Nepal time, Ed Viesturs summited Annapurna, becoming the first United States climber to summit all 14 8,000-meter peaks. It took 12 hours to climb from Camp III to the summit, and is currently on his way back to high camp.
  • May 12: Back at high camp: Viesturs and Gustafsson reached high camp after their successful summit attempt and are currently recuperating from a 20-hour summit ascent and descent.
  • May 13: Ed Viesturs has returned to Annapurna base camp, after what he called one of the longest, hardest days to any 8,000 meter summit, and then a long descent from high camp to the safety of base camp. He calls his partner Veikka Gustafsson the "powerhouse" of the day, and thanks his family, sponsors, friends and supporters for making his 16-year quest a success.


Your Climbs

Read your book. Congratulations on your success. Ann

Posted on September 4, 2011 - 2:19pm

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