Annapurna Update: More Rope Helo’d to 7,000m

8000ers Annapurna
Camp 4 on Annapurna, as seen from the helicopter today. Photo: Chhang Dawa Sherpa

After a snafu in which summit climbers ran out of rope above Camp 4, a helicopter has dropped another 800m high on the mountain to support another push tonight.

About 35 climbers set off from Camp 4 last night between 9 pm and midnight, hoping to reach the summit this morning. The morning had been windy with some brief snow flurries and lightning in the evening, but conditions were better after night fell. Clients with Seven Summit Treks and Imagine Nepal, most of them on oxygen and with personal Sherpas, followed the rope fixers. At 7,400m, they ran out of rope and with the route ahead slick with blue ice, everyone turned around back to Camp 4.

Meanwhile, in Camp 3, the small Giripremi Indian team prepared to head for Camp 4 in the early morning today and continue toward the summit tonight. Once aware of the situation, “Giripremi expedition leader Umesh Zirpe coordinated with Kathmandu for additional supply of rope, oxygen cylinders, and food,” they reported. “It will be transported (by helicopter) to Camp 3 and from there, the Sherpas will carry it to Camp 4.”

Pakistani team member Saad Munawar reports on Instagram that the helicopter resupply was successful.

Both the Pakistani team and SST’s expedition leader Chhang Dawa Sherpa confirmed that the helicopter has managed to resupply Camp 4 and to drop 800m more rope at “lower” Camp 4.

“Tonight, all teams, including Giripremi, will go for the final dash to the summit while route-opener  Sherpas will go 1-2 hours ahead,” the Indian climbers confirmed.

Unexpected conditions or bad planning?

After an exceptionally dry winter, it is not surprising that passages on Annapurna that are usually loaded with fresh snow — relatively easy trudging, no ropes needed — may instead feature hard, slippery glacier ice. With many clients poorly acclimatized, dependent on oxygen, and perhaps relatively inexperienced technically, it is not unlikely that they need as much rope as possible.

Annapurna is a dangerous peak that demands speed to cross the hazardous sections and strength to surmount the nearly vertical sections. The route includes some technical passages that require skilled use of crampons and ice ax, and full attention.

It is also a very big day from Camp 4 to the summit: There is not only the vertical 1,100m but a long way horizontally to the highest point and back.

Traditionally, fixed ropes on Annapurna were confined to the steepest passages and exposed sections, such as the technical climb on the way to C3. But not above Camp 4: According to Juanito Oiarzabal, the only point above Camp 4 that typically needs fixed ropes is a 300 to 400m couloir right before the summit.

Of course, where and how much rope was fixed has varied according to conditions and to a team’s skills. Recently, fixed ropes have become more common in more sections.

This is not the first time that an Annapurna expedition ran out of rope on summit day. In 2016, Chris Burke wrote a detailed diary of her own summit push, where she mentioned the lack of ropes and how climbers usually bring their own rope to belay themselves:

“As can happen, planned fixed ropes ran out en route to the summit. Most climbers climbed in either roped teams or in pairs about 40 mins from below the start of the couloir. Lakpa and I always carry rope. Another Sherpa asked Lakpa and me to hand over our rope once the fixed rope ran out, with the intention to join any remaining personal ropes together for fixing…Lakpa and I handed over our rope. Soon, it was cut Then it disappeared up the mountain attached to other climbers in an apparent mix-up…Lakpa and I used our safeties as a “rope” for the remaining traverse…Once we approached the couloir, Lakpa acted quickly to recover some rope from a Sherpa for the two of us to use in the couloir.”

Therefore, it’s up to the climbers and the expedition operators to answer whether conditions were unexpectedly hard or if bad planning was at fault.

Another issue is the remarkably fast pace in which the expedition has proceeded. Virtually all climbers arrived, made a rotation to Camp 2, and jumped for the summit within two weeks. All are currently marching right behind the rope-fixing team, which has no time to correct issues or shortfalls in equipment. The reason for such a rush? Possibly, because some climbers want to hurry directly from Annapurna to Dhaulagiri. On Dhaulagiri, interestingly, the fixing has not begun.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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MuddyBoots
MuddyBoots
3 months ago

Correction: Chris(tine) Jensen Burke is a woman. And for the record, Lakpa is her climbing partner and husband.

+1
F v
F v
3 months ago

Davidnosas on Ig reported he is disappointed about the lack of ropes and the communication and say he’s going down.

0
Victor van der Meulen
Victor van der Meulen
3 months ago
Reply to  F v

He posted another update about going back down, but the instagram translation is not too good.

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Don Paul
Don Paul
3 months ago

It must be at the limit of where helicopters can fly. It looks like technical climbing below them and not easy to go down from there. It doesn’t look like a logistics error, as much as the conditions were not what they expected. I’m no expert but this climb looks harder than the Abruzzi Ridge on K2.

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Peter
Peter
3 months ago

Has the helicopter also dropped burgers, french fries and beers at C4?

+8
Tenzin
Tenzin
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter

That’s already been done. They’re now en route to drop off a 55″ 4K TV with PS5 so the tourists can play some multiplayer games to keep themselves occupied.

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Tara
Tara
3 months ago

A new way of climbing: A heli-assisted climbing. With two subspecies: 1. Gear is dropped on the mountain 2. A climber is dropped on the mountain, possibly right on the top.

+5
Paul
Paul
3 months ago

I am very surprised that nobody from the climbers taking part in the summit push last night was able to go to the top without fixed ropes.
Specially Sirbaz and Joshi from Pakistan, I was thinking that they are a proper climbers but looks like they are just summit collectors as everyone else this spring on Annapurna :/

+2
Tenzin
Tenzin
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul

What do you mean “proper climbers”? Everyone on Annapurna except the Sherpa team are rope pullers.

+1
Paul
Paul
3 months ago
Reply to  Tenzin

I was naive that not all and some are able to climb from C4 to summit without fixed ropes, but looks like I was wrong…

+1
Karakorum Expeditions
3 months ago

hope the Helicopter did also drop Ice screws if the face is blue ice ,otherwise this could be another blunder! so far there is no any movement of GPS trackers of the three individuals on the mountain, as its already 11:30PM Pakistan time

0
F v
F v
3 months ago

Viridiane is making good progres, currently at 24200 ft, three quarters before sunrise. They passed the point were they returned yesterday. No resent signal of the pakteam tracker.

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Tenzin
Tenzin
3 months ago

Great to see that the tourists are being looked after and the baby sitting services are being provided. This is mindblasting and pioneering stuff of Alpinism. Reinhold Messner would be proud.

+1
Argy
Argy
3 months ago

Apparently people have reached the summit

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