ANNAPURNA SOUTH FACE

TONE SKARJA

A QUICK AND unhindered journey from home to base camp; establishing Cl, and C2 and C3 according to plan; reaching a height of 6700 on the south face; reaching the Tent Peak, 5587 (as a trekking aim); shooting a film in the valley (by Hrovat) and on the south face (by Bozic). However, none of the main aims was reached, nor the summit.

September 1992
19-24th: Departure from Ljubljana to Kathmandu, and covering additional 200 km to Pokhra.

25-29th: March from Dampus Pedhi near Pokhra (1000 m) to base camp, which was put up behind the eastern moraine of the Modi (or Annapurna) glacier at 4050 m.

29th: Establishing base camp (4050 m) on a fine grassy plain.

30th: Establishing Cl (5050 m) on top of a rocky promontory.

2 October 1992: Fixing ropes in a rocky couloir and establishing a relay tent (for deposit or as a temporary camp) at 5600 m.

4th: Establishing C2 (5900 m) on the ridge, which further up develops into a pillar leaning against the* upper sections of the south face 1000 m higher.

6-10th: Gradual advancing towards the ridge and along the ridge. The ascent straight through the gully running parallel to the ridge was not considered prudent on account of the falling ice. It might have been negotiated only in the alpine style of climbing. The only remaining possible route of ascent led via extremely tiresome cauliflower-like formations of ice and snow on the sharp ridge, and via vertical and overhanging mushrooms of rotten ice and snow. The height 6400 m.

11-14th: Heavy snowfall stopped any progress on the mountain. Furlan and Supin were caught at C2 and pinned down by avalanches for four days, but they saved the camp by continually shovelling away the snow. Fresh snow reached 80 cm at 5600 m, and 150 cm at 6000 m. The snow also stopped the alpine style French rope, just below the top of the dierdre which we also had in mind. They were forced to retreat, and on the way down Pierre Beghin was killed. His rope mate Jean Christoph Lafille managed a three-day solo descent, «#nd found refuge in our base camp.

15-17th: Continuing the ascent along the ridge, which, owing to the masses of fresh snow, was hardly suitable for climbing. The height reached by climbers was 6600 m.

18th: Levelling out a platform for deposit, later used for C3, at 6600 m.

19th: Soon above C3 Groselj and Bozic gave up their attempt to advance, and so did Jamnik and Ravnik, finding the ice and snow conditions unmanageable.

20-21st: After extreme strain Tomazin and Bence reached 6700 m, which was to be the highest point, and decided that at that speed of advancement the summit was out of the question.

21st: At 14 hours the decision was taken that the attempt on the British ¦ route should be given up. Instead, one or two ropes should try climbing via the extreme right wing of the south face and reaching the east ridge, which, though long, is not considered to be technically very demanding. The first to try this second choice were Groselj and Bozic, with the assistance of Sherpas.

23-25th: Groselj and Bozic found the orientation hard, but finally found a passage to the foot of the ice-slope leading up to the ridge. However, they had been delayed so much that they were forced to return. Moreover, a heavy snowfall set in. During the afternoon of the 25th and before the morning of 26 October base camp had 15 - 30 cm of fresh snow; at 5000 m the amount was 60 cm, and at 6000 m more than 100 cm, without, in fact, anyone of us knowing it at that time. Groselj and Tomazin were supposed to undertake another attempt, as Bozic had given priority to official duties.

In the meantime we began to dear up the former route. Bence and Supin had been taken ill and left the expedition on 24 October. On 26 October Kajzelj, Ravnik, Jamnik, Rupar and Bozic decided to leave the expedition, since, as they declared, they found any further attempt futile. Furlan joined them on account of a frostbitten finger. In the morning of 27 October they left base camp.

Only while clearing up C2 in the afternoon of the same day did we notice the enormous amounts of fresh snow which had fallen in higher parts. At least one week of fine weather would have been needed to let the snow on the gently sloped glacier settle and make walking possible. Until then the climbing on the steep slopes leading up towards the ridge was not safe either. Now the last chance of reaching the top was gone, as we had no more time left. So the remaining members left base camp on 28 October. Groselj, however, remained there until 1 November to supervise the transport of the equipment back to the valley.

On Annapurna, less than 30% of the expeditions are successful, and the death toll is one third, which means that out of three successful climbers who reach the top only two survive. Unfortunately, successes stand in no dear relation to fatalities. We did not succeed and we all returned home, but our safe return is nothing but a gilded pill. Our intention was to dimb Annapurna, as well as to return safe and sound. We returned with the necessary experience, which will make it easier for us to accomplish the great adventure after two years when we hope to come again.

Summary: An attempt on the south face of Annapurna I (8091 m) by a team from Slovenia in October 1992.