Boukreev Killed on Annapurna
Scroll down this page for earlier reports on the avalanche

Weston DeWalt's statement in the wake of Anatoli Boukreev's death on Annapurna
Monday, January 5, 2pm PST

Weston DeWalt, who co-wrote The Climb with Anatoli Boukreev, has issued this statement to The Mountain Zone after hearing confirmation that the famed Russian climber died in a Christmas Day avalanche on Annapurna in Nepal.

Anatoli Boukreev

(photo: Potterfield)
DeWalt's Statement:
I met Anatoli Nikoliavich Boukreev on May 28, 1996, eighteen days after the tragedy on Mount Everest. When I heard his story and those of the other survivors I recalled a quote that I had tacked over my desk more than five years before. The words are those of Andrey Tarkovsky, a Russian film director. He said, "I am interested above all in the character who is capable of sacrificing himself and his way of life — regardless of whether that sacrifice is made in the name of spiritual values, or the sake of someone else, or of his own salvation, or of all these things together. Such behavior precludes, by its very nature, all of those selfish interests that make up a "normal" rationale for action; it refutes the laws of a materialistic world view. It is often absurd and impractical. And yet — or indeed for that very reason — the man who acts in this way brings about fundamental changes in people's lives and in the course of history. The space he lives in becomes a rare, distinctive point of contrast to the empirical concepts of our experience, an area where reality — I would say — is all the more strongly present." Anatoli Boukreev, in my experience, was one of those characters, and I am honored to have collaborated in his effort to tell his story.

A few days after Anatoli and Dimitri Sobolev had gone missing on Annapurna, I got a phone call from a leading, weekly news magazine. The caller was "fact" checking a sketch of Anatoli they were planning to run. As he read, the caller said, "Anatoli Boukreev will most likely be remembered as the villain of Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air ." I stopped the reader and said, "likely not." I said I thought Anatoli would be remembered for the consummate climber he was. I said I thought it would be remembered that his peers had seen him through eyes different than those of Jon Krakauer when they awarded him the David Sowles Memorial Award for his valor on May 10 and 11, 1996.

Considering the avalanche that took Anatoli and Dimitri away, I remember a conversation I had with Anatoli in December, 1996 about his almost having lost his life during the rescue of two fellow climbers on Manaslu the year before. Anatoli said, "There is not enough luck in the world. That night I got somebody's share." Remembering those words, I think that it's not that Anatoli ran out of luck on Annapurna on Christmas day, but that he gave it to somebody who needed it more. I haven't the words to express how much he will be missed.

— Weston DeWalt, Co-Author of The Climb

Anatoli Boukreev
Anatoli Boukreev

Sunday, January 4, 10am PST
Searchers on Annapurna have given up hope of finding Anatoli Boukreev and Dimitri Sobolev alive. A report filed by Mountain Zone correspondent Binaj Gurubacharya follows:

KATMANDU, Nepal — Over a week after Anatoli Boukreev was lost on the Himalayas, searchers gave up hope of finding him alive and are now looking for his body. "This is the end... there are no hopes of finding him alive," said Linda Wylie, Boukreev's American girlfriend, who escorted the rescuers to the base camp Saturday morning and returned to Katmandu by the same helicopter. "I hope the searchers will locate the body and for a proper burial in the crevasse... Anatoli would like to stay in the mountains," she added. Rescuers had located the missing climber's diary and camera, she said.

Dimitri Sobolev
Dimitri Sobolev

Three more Kazak rescuers had joined the search party in their bid to locate Boukreev and Sobolev, missing since Christmas day on of slopes of the 8,091-meter (26,700-foot) Mt. Annapurna. They joined one other Kazak and two Sherpas already searching for Boukreev. Surgey Oucharenko, Andrey Molotov and Dmitriy Muravyov joined their team leader Rinat Khaibullin Saturday at the 4,400 meters (14,520 feet) high base camp. All four are from Kazakstan. If they do locate the body, they will bury it and trek down the mountain to Pokhara, a resort town located about 200 kilometers west of Katmandu.

Two sherpas had reached the base camp Wednesday. They waded through chest deep snow to locate a higher camp where they found the diary, camera and some clothing.

Boukreev was ascending the mountain with Russian cinematographer Dimitri Sobolev and an Italian climber when the avalanche struck. The Italian, 30-year-old Simone Moro of Bergamo, survived the avalanche and managed to return to base camp in a six-hour trek.

That concludes Gurubacharya's report. Statements from Weston DeWalt, co-author of the book, The Climb , and Boukreev's American girlfriend Linda Wylie will follow.

Friday, January 2, 10:30am PST
Confusion over exactly which tent was spotted during previous helicopter search flights has left a glimmer of hope that there may be more survivors of the Christmas Day avalanche on Annapurna.

Two Sherpa climbers were helicoptered to Annapurna I base camp on Thursday (Pacific Standard Time) to inaugurate a ground search for famed climber Anatoli Boukreev and videographer Dimitri Sobolev. They ascended to Camp I, but it is unclear if they have reached the site of the avalanche. By Friday, the climbers had reported finding nothing in the vicinity of camp I.

Four Russian climbers, believed to be from Kazakstan (Boukreev maintained a residence in the Kazak capital), were expected to join another helicopter search today (Friday).

Boukreev's girlfriend, Linda Wylie of Santa Fe, New Mexico, told reporters in Kathmandu that if Anatoli is not found in the well-stocked tent near the avalanche debris, she doesn't see how the climber can have survived. Attempts to locate that tent have been problematic thus far, and there is some confusion as to exactly which tent had been spotted from the air.

On New Year's Eve (PST), when the third helicopter recon was made, it was thought that searchers had finally spotted the tent near the avalanche debris. It appeared empty by aerial inspection, but it is now believed that the tent seen from the helicopter was one in a lower camp and not the tent near the avalanche.

As a consequence, Lt. Col. Madan K.C., of the Nepalese military, was to make yet another helicopter search to confirm whether the tent found earlier was in fact the one near the avalanche debris or one in a lower camp. Madan will be accompanied by one of the Russian climbers. The other three will wait on stand-by at base camp and will conduct a further ground search should information gained in the aerial search warrant it.

Simone Moro, who survived the avalanche and is now back home in Italy, said there is a 20-day supply of food and fuel in the tent near the avalanche, so any survivor could find food, shelter and water for that period of time.

Despite confusion over the tents, hope is fading that either Boukreev or Sobolev have survived the avalanche. England's Guardian newspaper has already printed an obituary, and most high altitude climbers believe it's extremely unlikely that anyone is still alive after more than a week at 20,000 feet in the Himalayan winter.

Tuesday, December 30, 12:30pm PST
News from Kathmandu regarding the Christmas Day avalanche on Annapurna offers some new, or at least newly confirmed details, but no final determination as to the fate of Anatoli Boukreev and Dimitri Sobolev.

First, it has now been confirmed that the avalanche took place on the 8,078 meter Annapurna I on Christmas Day, not Dec 26th as had been earlier reported. Also confirmed is that the second attempt to reach the accident site by helicopter has failed due to continuing bad weather on the mountain.

Boukreev's climbing partner, Simone Moro, who was in the helicopter, stated that the scene of the avalanche was visible, but that weather conditions on both flights were so bad that no meaningful visual search could take place.

Boukreev & Moro Boukreev & Simone Moro
(photo: Boukreev)
Plans are now being made to launch a reconnaissance effort by Sherpa climbers in an attempt to reach the site of the avalanche on Annapurna. This ground search will take at least a day to organize. Binaj Gurubacharya, a reporter based in Kathmandu, sent a dispatch to The Mountain Zone Tuesday morning (PST). His report: Moro is being treated in a hospital for rope burns and infection. He has no broken bones though his hands are still wrapped in bandages, his lips are chapped and he is limping his way around.

The rescue helicopter was piloted on both flights by Lt. Col. Madan K.C., who said, "We might try again on Wednesday."

Though it has already been four days since the accident, Moro still has hope.

"About 50 meters below the avalanche site, we had set up a camp with food, supplies and sleeping bags," Moro said. If Boukreev had made it to that camp he would have a chance to survive, he said. That concludes Binaj Gurubacharya's report.

New information on the apparent Annapurna tragedy will be posted on The Mountain Zone as it becomes available.

Monday, December 29, 5pm PST
More details are coming to light regarding the avalanche on Annapurna that has apparently taken the lives of climber Anatoli Boukreev and videographer Dimitri Sobolev, who earlier was reported to have been a trekker. The men were making a rare winter attempt on the 8,078 meter Himalayan giant.

Boukreev, 39, and Italian climber Simone Moro, 30, were descending with Sobolev toward their high camp when an avalanche, triggered by a cornice breaking off a ridge line, scoured the slope. Moro tumbled more than 800 feet, but stayed on top of the slide. He said later that when he stood up, he could find no trace of the other men.

Moro was airlifted to Kathmandu for medical treatment, but later returned in a Nepalese army helicopter piloted by Madan K.C., the same pilot who rescued Beck Weathers and Makalu Gau from Everest's camp I in May 1996.

During the helicopter fly-over, no signs of the missing men were found. Bad weather prevented the helicopter pilot from an attempt to land. Another rescue helicopter flight has tentatively been scheduled for Wednesday morning local time (Tuesday night PST).

Monday, December 29, 10am PST
Italian climber Simone Moro flew back to the scene of last weekend's avalanche on Annapurna in a Nepalese Army helicopter during an attempt yesterday to locate Anatoli Boukreev and a second missing man. Bad weather prevented the helicopter from landing, however, and no sign of the missing men was seen. The helicopter was over the avalanche site at approximately 8pm PST on December 28.

Boukreev and Moro were avalanched at approximately 20,000 feet on the south side of Annapurna on Saturday. Moro was swept down the mountain, but emerged on top of the slide very near the pair's well stocked high altitude camp. Boukreev was nowhere to be seen, however, and after searching for several hours immediately after the avalanche, Morro was forced to descend and seek medical attention. He eventually was flown by helicopter to Kathmandu for treatment.

It is believed that a second person, Dimitri Sobolev, described as a Russian trekker, may have also been lost in the avalanche. Sobolev was believed to have accompanied Moro and Boukreev at least as far as their high camp.

Friends and family still hope that Boukreev survived the avalanche and took refuge in the high camp. No one has been able to reach the tent to confirm that the missing men are there, however, and hope is beginning to fade.

Weston DeWalt, co-author with Boukreev of The Climb , has issued this statement from his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico: "The news is sketchy now, and I don't think it would be appropriate to draw any conclusions from what little information we have. Anatoli was an intensely private person. Given that and his experiences around the media coverage of events on Everest in '96, I think he would not want any speculation at this point. What I can say is that I have hope. The situation doesn't look good, but given Toli's strength and the resources that he's drawn upon in other extreme circumstances, I would not be honoring him if I were to say anything less."

The Nepalese Army will make another attempt to fly the helicopter to the accident scene at approximately 8pm PST.

Sunday, December 28, 1997
World-renowned high-altitude climber and guide, Anatoli Boukreev, is missing and presumed dead after being caught in an avalanche on Annapurna (26,504 feet or 8,078 meters) in the Nepal Himalaya. The avalanche was believed to have occurred Saturday at approximately 20,000 feet, but details will be reported as they are confirmed.

Boukreev and Italian climber Simone Moro were attempting a new route in an alpine style ascent with intermediate camps on the south side of Annapurna.

Boukreev, who worked as a guide for Scott Fischer's Mountain Madness expedition to Mount Everest in 1996, had moved into the public eye in the aftermath of the tragedy that struck his group on summit day. Boukreev was co-author with Weston DeWalt of a recently published account of the deadly incident, The Climb (St. Martin's Press).

Boukreev, a Russian from Kazakstan, had most recently been living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was among the most active high-altitude climbers of recent times, with four eight-thousand meter peaks climbed within 80 days earlier in the year (Everest, Lhotse, Broad Peak, and Gasherbrum II). Click here for the interview Boukreev gave Mountain Zone editor Peter Potterfield last April before climbing Everest for the third time.

Peter Potterfield, Mountain Zone staff

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