May 15, 2000 Interview Segments:
[Part I] [Part II]
Viesturs talks about his recent attempt on Annapurna
In March of 2000, Ed Viesturs set off for Nepal to attempt Annapurna, at 26,545 feet, the tenth highest mountain on earth.
After searching for alternative routes, including one that would have involved traversing the east peak, the climbers eventually concluded there was no safe route up the mountain this year, and returned to the United States.
Viesturs, who will be giving three slide shows in Boulder, Denver and Seattle in early June (click here for the show schedule), sat down in MountainZone.com's offices in Seattle to speak with Editor Peter Potterfield about his experiences on Annapurna.
What was it like going to Annapurna, a mountain steeped in climbing lore?
"So it's quite a difficult route to get into Base Camp and you have to admire what they did in the '50s, when the French went in there to find a way to get into the north side it's very difficult.
Were you camped within the famous Annapurna sanctuary, near the site of the 1950 French Base Camp?
But then if you go back and look at the photos from the '50s, the mountain is fairly different, and whether that is from glaciers that are receding, creating more ice cliffs up high or whatever, the route now appears quite a bit different than it was in the '50s."
Tell us how the climbing went and how you made the decision to turn around?
"We watched these things calve off and create these huge avalanches and thought, you know, 'there's no way, we're not going to spend one minute in this basin let alone repeatedly going back and forth day after day after day to establish this route and carry loads.' The risks were just too great. And I think what people do to come climb from the north side is just accept the risks. They say, 'hey, it's worth it for me, I'm willing to run to get to the bottom of this route.' But for us it just wasn't worth it; we couldn't justify doing it. If something were to happen, you know, what do you do? You can't run."
So everyone on the team was of the same mind?
"But for us ... just couldn't see ourselves doing it, it was scary and we weren't having fun at that point and then you say, 'why are we doing this? Let's turn around, let's come back down.' We pulled everything down from Camp II, put it all at Camp I and then we started to look at different options further to the left, to the east. And we snooped around there and the bases of those ridges were equally threatened by avalanches.
"And so we made the decision, you know 'hey, we're not going to be able to climb the mountain from this side or we don't want to.' And we spent our last night at Camp I and it was during the night, at about 11:30 under a full moon, we heard this massive ice cliff cut loose and looking out of the tent door saw this monster avalanche completely obliterate the whole basin and, you know, 30 seconds later our tents were dusted with wind and snow.
"We were quite safe from all of the debris but in the morning you could just see the devastation this avalanche had caused on the whole basin and we were glad that nobody was up there at the time. And to us that sealed the deal. We knew at that point we made the right decision."
Was there disappointment?
Go to PART II
Peter Potterfield, MountainZone.com Staff
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