Thursday, 14 October 2010

The path to Annapurna 3 unfolds...

Pictures: Machhapucher from the slopes leading up to the East Ridge;  The first sortie onto the slopes of the East Ridge which towers above Matt; Himalayan snow wading with something rather large in the background ; Nick and Matt enjoying Base Camp sunshine after a 13 hour effort the day before.

The scale of the mountains out here are immense,  Annapurna 3 and Annapurna 4 tower above us for nearly 3 kilometres, and no matter how many times you look at it, the NE face of Machhapuchher never fails to inspire. What a privilege to spend time among these giants.

Yesterday (Wednesday) it was time to actually do some climbing as we have been here for nearly a week;  The initial traumas of flying straight to a base camp at 4600 meters have all but passed. 

Always keen for more suffering, Woof Woof, Grandpa and I, wheezed, coughed and spluttered our way up and onto the start of the East Ridge of Annapurna 3, an ascent of 1400m and setting a highpoint for the trip of 5900m narrowly beating the high point of the helicopter ride.  This acclimatisation gig is really good fun? 

The climbing was actually pretty good starting up easy snowy slopes, weaving up snowy runnels leading to a beautiful snow crest, with the final pitches being particularly fine on perfect snow ice.  The usual afternoon cloud had made an early appearance which was actually quite a blessing as on the few occasions when the sun did poke through the mist it was like being in a microwave oven. 

When we finally popped out onto the ridge, the air to the north was very clear and we were treated to a beautiful view down towards Humde and over towards Manaslu.  I could imagine trekkers on the Annapurna circuit enjoying some chi in a wee teahouse looking up at the northern flank of the Annapurna massive – perhaps one day I will feel content to be amongst the mountains, rather than climbing on them with all the stress and hardship that comes with this way of life.

Before the clouds rolled in, we got a good look at the rest of the ridge, which is immense. It will be a very committing venture, with no options to drop height quickly if the weather breaks, or one of us suffers from altitude issues.  The technical crux of the route we think will involve a 500m mixed face of snow, rock and ice which looks harder than the headwall on the North face of the Droites in Chamonix and 3000m higher in altitude.

Our plan is to make two or three acclimatisation forays probing ever deeper and higher onto the ridge until we are ready for a final push from base camp to the summit.  While the final 2.5 km should not be technically too demanding, it is all above 7000m, so we will definitely be deploying the 4 paw drive traction unit known as the Woof Woof to break trail – we might have to put a leash on him to stop him running away.

Today (Thursday) we have spent in base camp, enjoying the sunshine – the clouds didn't roll into after lunchtime – and some fine food from the base camp kitchen.

Buddhi's base camp secrets part 2.

Whatever next?  After restaurant quality food, which has included, pizza, lasagne and banana pie, this morning we were all enjoying an omelette muffin, nothing too unusual about that, until you learn that Buddhi freshly baked the muffins this morning.  'Are they all right', he enquired, 'I can bake some more if you are still hungry?'  This guy is a total legend, and good food is so important up here.  So throw away your Smeg cookers and melt down your Aga for scrap, all you need is a $15 Primus stove. 

Ciao, Pete

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