March 23, 2000 Interview Segments:
[Annapurna] [Shishapangma] [Filming Vertical Limit] [Slideshow] On his attempt to climb Annapurna
As he closes in on his personal quest to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks, climber Ed Viesturs has gained unparalleled popularity for an American climber in recent years. This year, as Viesturs journeys with his long-time climbing partner Veikka Gustafsson to Annapurna, the tenth highest mountain on earth, his excitement is even greater than usual.
The book, by Maurice Herzog, chronicled the 1950 French expedition, the very first to be successful on an 8,000-meter peak. Viesturs will approach the Dutch Rib route on Annapurna from the north as he and Gustafsson follow much the same approach as that taken by the 1950 expedition. The pair will travel by bus from Kathmandu to the village of Bani. From there, six day's walking will bring them to Annapurna Base Camp.
"Reaching what's called the Sanctuary is an interesting approach," Viesturs said, "and a well-traveled one. This year, Veikka and I will have porters, a sirdar, and even company: Neal Beidleman and Michael Kennedy will come along with us to make their own attempt on the mountain. Veikka and I, and Neal and Michael, will be operating independently as far as mountain equipment and food is concerned, but we will share Base Camp and coordinate any route finding, rope fixing and logistics on the mountain. Our goal is to work together to ensure that we have a safe and successful climb for all of us. If we can reach the summit together that would be great. I am looking forward to climbing with them."
Viesturs told MountainZone.com that he and Gustafsson will climb without supplemental oxygen, and will carry all their own gear. Viesturs estimates their climbing packs will weigh in at 42 pounds. No porters or climbing Sherpa will assist them on the mountain as they put in three camps above Annapurna Base Camp. Above Base Camp, the climbing route follows the so-called Dutch Rib (click for map of Dutch Rib route: 42k), a variation on the French Routes that avoids some of the objective danger on the mountain. Annapurna is notorious for avalanches, as evidenced by the slide on the south face which took the life of Anatoli Boukreev on Christmas Day 1997.
"The Dutch Rib is a little safer," Viesturs said, "but we'll just see how it goes. We're not going to do anything stupid. If conditions aren't good, we'll just walk away and come back another day. The Dutch Rib kind of slices its way up through some seracs. The upper part of the route is a moderate slope until you get to the summit areas where there are some rocky sections. The main concern is on that long final slope, which can often be prone to avalanche. Early reports from the peak indicate that because of La Niña conditions, it's another dry season in Nepal. That should make climbing conditions a little better."
Viesturs added that it's not out of the question the two climbers will look for a safer climbing route. "We'll go in and take a look around," he said. "Veikka loves to snoop around and find something new and different, so maybe there will be a variation higher up that looks better. But like always, we're just going for the fun of it. We'll do our best and see how things pan out. You know, for me, it's like going climbing for the weekend with friends, I think all climbers can relate to that. The idea is to go climbing, have a great time, and come back with some great experiences."
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