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Louis Rousseau Launches Annapurna Film

Mountain
Close to the summit of Tilicho Peak. Photo: Adam Bielecki

Canadian mountaineer Louis Rousseau’s latest film, Annapurna One, opens on July 15. This hotly anticipated movie captures the travails of a four-man team as they attempt to scale Annapurna I, one of the most revered of the 8,000-meter peaks.

In spring 2017, Rousseau brought together a stellar list of high altitude climbers, which included the Pole Adam Bielecki, Scott Rick Allen and German Felix Berg. The team had wanted to open a new route alpine style on the North Face of Cho Oyu but they had to change their plans at the last minute due to visa issues. They sat down over a beer and soon had thrashed out a new and equally impressive objective: the rarely climbed Northwest Face of Annapurna.

Northwest Face of Annapurna I. Photo: Felix Berg

Bad luck continued to dog the expedition, however: Bad weather kept them from climbing Tilicho Peak (7134m), their acclimatization objective. Finally, they had to turn back while high up on Annapurna because of avalanche danger. Previously, the Northwest Face has usually been attempted in the autumn, when snow plasters the ice and makes progress faster and safer, and it’s easier to build platforms for bivouacs.

The film blends footage from throughout the trip, but most of the action focuses on Tilicho Peak, because the extreme conditions on Annapurna prevented much filming.

ExWeb caught up with Louis Rousseau while on a break from his job at the Ministere de la Sante (Ministry of Health) back in Quebec.

ExWeb: Why did you have to change your objective from Cho Oyu to Annapurna?

Our dream expedition in the highest country in the world ended before it started. Some days before our arrival in Kathmandu, the Chinese apparently introduced a new regulation barring entry to Tibet to travellers with recent Pakistani visas. As mountaineers, we had all traveled in the last few years to Pakistan. Louis had five Pakistani visas but luckily he had just received a new passport. Rick had a visa from his ascent of the legendary Mazeno Ridge of Nanga Parbat in 2012, but this was not recent enough to be a problem. Felix had a recent visa from his 2016 attempts on Muztagh Tower, but was able to secure a new travel document at very short notice from the German embassy. But Adam’s recent Pakistani visas created serious trouble. Kathmandu has no Polish embassy, and he would have had to travel to New Delhi, itself requiring a visa. With no guarantee of a quick turnaround, we had exhausted our options. Ultimately, it was an easy decision: Climbing together was more important than any dream line.

ExWeb: Did you summit yourself, Louis, as we know you had to go home early?

No, I didn’t summit this time, I was more time-limited than the rest of the team. We lost too much time because of the administrative problems and also the bad weather on Tilicho Peak. I reluctantly descended to the village of Jomsom with Adam, who had to see a doctor to treat a tooth infection. When Adam got back to Base Camp, the team had just reached the summit of Tilicho Peak, and they snatched some photos as clouds built and gained a glimpse of the Northwest Face of Annapurna. So, Adam, Rick and Felix formed a team of three for the attempt on Annapurna.

Adam Bielecki, Felix Berg and Rick Allen. Photo: Louis Rousseau

ExWeb: The other guys had to turn around on Annapurna, what difficulties did they face?

A whole host of difficulties, but in no particular order:

  • Steep ice and snow slopes
  • Increasingly hard, icy streaks at an average slope of about 55 degrees
  • No break in the angle to provide any relief for a bivouac site
  • Torrents of spindrift poured intermittently down the wall
  • Avalanche danger
ExWeb: You’ve been making movies in the mountains since 2009. What are the challenges to filming at high altitude?

As above, a range of difficulties, and in no particular order:

  • You have to go faster to get a good shot in front
  • You have to stay behind because you are filming and losing some time
  • You can get minor frostbite because you have to shoot with bare hands
  • It’s hard to do to artistic shots in a hostile hypoxic environment, where it is hard to move, let alone film
ExWeb: Will you go back to try the North Face of Cho Oyu or Annapurna I again?

Yes, of course, They have the steepest walls of all the 8000ers!

ExWeb: How can we watch Annapurna One?

Please keep an eye on my Instagram and Facebook pages. The film launches on the 15th of July.

ExWeb: Can we watch any of your other films online?

Directissima [on Vimeo] is about three friends who attempt La Directissime on Cap Trinité, a 300-meter granite wall on frozen Saguenay Fiord in eastern Quebec. After bailing, they climb a directissime up Mont du Gros Bras in the Charlevoix region.

About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash is an outdoor and adventure writer with a PhD in Exercise Science. He lives in the UK and has also written for Rock and Ice, Outside, UK Climbing etc. He recently led a 634km foot crossing of a frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia. See more at www.ashrouten.com.

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