Annapurna III and Kyashar - British attempts

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 25/11/2010
Lower South Ridge, Kyashar. Andy Houseman

High winds shut down Pete Benson, Nick Bullock and Matt Helliker on their post monsoon attempt at the unclimbed East Ridge of Annapurna III (7,555m).

The three had planned to try the stunning South East Pillar, one of the most well-known unclimbed lines in Nepal, if not the Himalaya. The team first tried to access the mountain in the spring of this year but found the notorious approach up the Seti Khola too difficult and dangerous for porters.

They returned in the autumn, this time flying directly to base camp by helicopter. Here, they discovered that access to the base of the South East Pillar looked like 'a war zone' and was regularly bombarded by rock and ice. Instead, they changed plans and made an attempt on the lengthy, unclimbed East Ridge.

In common with all other parties trying to climb at high altitudes this autumn, eg a strong American team on the South Face of Nuptse and an equally strong Spanish duo on the South Face of Lhotse, they were beaten by high winds and poor weather. Several attempts on the East Ridge reached high points a little above 6,000m.

The team had received support from the BMC and MEF but needed a major sponsor for this highly expensive autumn attempt, which they found in Samsung. Other main sponsors included Patagonia, Mammut and Osprey.

Although a much talked-about objective since the 1970s, the South East Pillar has seen only one serious attempt.

In 1981 Steve Bell, Nick Colton and Tim Leach became the first climbers to reach the South East Face of Annapurna III via the Seti Khola.

They first acclimatized on the East Ridge, and then cached equipment on the pillar, before setting off for an alpine-style attempt. They reached the crest via snow runnels on the right flank, continued past a difficult section of V and V+, and reached a high point of 6,500m. Although they had probably climbed the most technical section, the ridge above looked dangerous and time consuming. Calculating that another five or six days would be needed to reach the top and get down again, they retreated.

Subsequent parties, which have included a number of outstanding alpinists, have barely been able to set foot on the route, adding to the aura surrounding this line and the now legendary status of the 1981 attempt.

Over in the Khumbu, and also recipients of a BMC Award, were Andy Houseman and Tony Stone, hoping to make the first ascent of the South Pillar of Kyashar (6,769m).

The pillar rises above the village of Tangnag (4,300m), a collection of tea houses that has grown in size over the years due to the proximity of the popular trekking peak, Mera.

The line had been attempted twice previously by strong Czech teams, which had reached the upper pillar via hard mixed and thinly iced terrain on the left flank.

This autumn no ice was visible on the flank, so Houseman and Stone were forced to climb the ridge integrally through the lower rock barrier. This gave very loose climbing up to HVS.

After a bivouac, the pair reached a snow ridge at 5,700m leading to the upper pillar - more or less the high point of the two Czech attempts. Unfortunately, Stone had been struggling to acclimatize since reaching the area and was not in the right shape to continue, so the two retreated.

There is only one recorded ascent of this impressive peak in the Hinku Valley: in 2003 Sam Broderick (Swiss/American), Andreas Frank (Austrian) and Bruce Normand (British) reached the top via the West Ridge and upper West Face.

Apart from the BMC, Houseman and Stone were supported by the Alpine Club Climbing Fund, Mountain Equipment, Black Diamond, Scarpa, Tendon Ropes, Lorpen Socks, SIS and Adidas Eyewear.
 



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