Good Morning, mBank Annapurna
Expedition - Piotr Pustelnik (Marmot Team) from Pokhara in Nepal.
I shall say it straight out:
we had tough luck with this mountain… The summit was just 40 minutes away –
100 or 150 metres climbing! But it was the most beautiful, the most splendid
route in my life and we all got back down safely… What prevented us reaching
the top was some sort of common sense that made us turn back when we noticed a
ferocious storm approaching the Annapurna massif and realised that those 40
minutes might decide whether we would ever get back…
I will start from the very
beginning, as it was rather eventful as well! As you know, there were four of
us and we were climbing in pairs. Piotr Morawski and Peter Hamor were leading
most of the time while Darek Zaluski and I were carrying the loads, securing
stuff and looking after the logistics of the whole operation. (Just to remind
you: the North-West face of Annapurna is about 3 kilometres long and the
average gradient is approximately 60 – 65 degrees, so it’s a very steep and
challenging rock face.)
Anyway, when Piotrek M and
Peter H were fixing about 200-300 metres of rope over the difficulties above
C1 (though I should really talk about bivouacs not camps as we stayed in them
usually just once), Darek and I were staying in the advanced BC on the
glacier. During the night something hit our tent – Darek even woke up, I
didn’t. In the morning we opened the tent, started cooking and suddenly Darek
went gobsmacked, staring open-eyed at the gaping crater where just the evening
before, a mere metre away, stood our second tent… Piotrek M and Peter had
slept in it the night before and now it was gone completely! We looked around
and realised that fragments of the tent and its content were scattered around,
up to 50 metres away! To this day we don’t know for sure what happened –
perhaps it was hit by a huge block of ice? Thanks God it was empty! Well, we
decided to take it as a good omen!
The following two days were
spent on good, challenging climbing: most of the time it was nearly vertical
front-pointing! We established the second bivouac about 1000 metres above the
first one and then climbed through very steep terrain and crossed seracs and
we got to an extensive snowfield which we thought was leading finally onto the
ridge. Despite going relatively fast for this altitude (approx. 7200 metres),
it took us almost nine hours to cross this field. Around 7pm we reached a tiny
rocky platform and set up a bivouac, a pretty spartan one as we only had one
tent, no sleeping bags, limited food and fuel. It turned out in the morning
that we still had about 100 metres of tough climbing till the end of this so
called “Gabbarrou Spur” (the Czech route). Peter Hamor led us through it and
around 9 am we finally reached the crest of the ridge.
When I saw this long ridge
and the summit at the end of it, I dreamily thought that this time we would
definitely make it – we were so close and it was still very early in the day.
We walked along the ridge fairly quickly; it was slightly similar to the East
Ridge that we got to know so well in 2006. In increasing gale-force wind, we
finally found ourselves below the summit pyramid around noon – the wind was so
strong that it was difficult to breathe! We spent a while considering those
final difficulties when we noticed the dark, menacing bank of cloud scudding
towards us… Without much thinking or discussion we all turned back, aware of
the fact that even 10-15 minutes dithering can decide about our lives…
The way down the ridge, which
took us four hours on the way up that morning, took us six and a half – in
howling wind, swirling thick snow and almost constant thunderbolts and
lightning. At last we managed to find the abseil to our final bivouac, which
we reached around 9pm, utterly exhausted but alive… The night was sheer
torture, we were freezing and we all had various frostbites. The descent to
the BC took us over two days but we all got down safely.
All in all it was a wonderful
adventure! Sure, we aren’t fully satisfied and I personally feel that it was
sort of unfair that we didn’t reach the summit – we really did all we could,
we didn’t make any mistakes and yet… From a sheer mountaineering point of
view, it was a marvellous climbing experience, but once again I was so close
to this one peak I’m missing and had to turn back. I’m beginning to think that
Annapurna simply doesn’t like me!
Still, it was one of the best
if not THE best expedition in my climbing life and I’m extremely grateful not
only for the fabulous climbing we did but for the overall experience of true
friendship and partnership that it gave me.
Warm greetings for the last
time from Nepal! Piotr Pustelink, mBank Annapurna Expedition.
Earlier: According to a short message
received yesterday, the mBank Annapurna West Face Expedition team have decided
to discontinue their attempts. Because of adverse weather conditions described
a few days ago, they did not manage to reach the summit. They spent over two
days descending to the BC in atrocious weather. Apart from light frostbites
they’re feeling fine and are waiting for helicopter transport to Pokhara. Full
dispatch describing their final push will follow soon
Storm on Annapurna!
After 12 hours of climbing in very tough conditions, the team had to turn back
– just 150 metres before the summit.
We received the following message from Piotr Morawski: “…rotten luck with this
storm – the summit was a mere hour away but gale-force winds made it
impossible even to stand, then came a thick fog and a massive snowstorm. The
storm was so ferocious that we were unable to descend to C3… We were lucky to
find our bivouac… With lightning frequently flashing overhead, we were pretty
anxious to say the least…
few minutes later Peter Hamor wrote: “… su vo vyske 7800, vsetko ok…” (we are
at 7800 metres, everything is fine). Piotr Pustelnik’s phone battery went flat
two days ago…
The fierce storm could’ve been fatal… Still, the climbers are back to safety
now and resting at about 7800 metres. Weather permitting, they will slowly
descend to Base Camp for food and fuel and to decide what to do next.
Earlier: Yesterday (26th April) the team reached 6700 metres without
fixing any more ropes. "We've got about 185 metres of rope left, perhaps it
will be enough," they wrote in a short text message. Today the climbers are
resting but tomorrow they will continue their way towards the summit. They're
slowly approaching the altitude above which every step and every additional
weight requires considerable effort. Still ahead of them is the long ridge and
Earlier: Piotr Pustelnik and Darek Zaluski reached C1 yesterday (24th
April), having crossed the glacier in exhausting conditions - high temperature
and melting snow made their way far from enjoyable. Piotr Morawski and Peter
Hamor spent the day according to plan, i.e. fixing ropes beyond C1. They got
to approximately 6100 metres which is about 100 metres below the ridge. Today
the whole team is supposed to be climbing together. They're all feeling fine
and the weather is fairly good
Good morning, it's Piotr Pustelnik - mBank Annapurna Expedition - warm welcome
to everyone from the Annapurna Base Camp.
In my last dispatch from Kathmandu I was confidently talking about our plans
of getting a helicopter that would take us from Pokhara to the Base Camp but
it turned out to be much more difficult than we had expected. Namely, because
of the elections, all the helicopters appear to be busy flying around the
country and collecting ballot papers and the government officials guarding
As a result we spent two days stuck in Pokhara, at the altitude of mere 500
metres and with temperatures reaching 40 centigrades - wasting our
acclimatization as well as nerves... Our agency was doing all they could to
find us a helicopter and finally this morning (15th April) a Russian pilot
transported us to the Base Camp. Well, in fact it's not exactly where we
wanted to land as we were hoping to be set down further up the valley but the
pilot was a bit worried about flying into the valley itself and left us at the
entrance to it, approximately four hours away. Still, it's far better than
waiting in Pokhara any longer.
Otherwise everything is fine, we're all feeling well even though the altitude
(around 4100 metres) did get to us after almost a week away from the
mountains. The weather is fairly normal for the Himalayas: clear and sunny
till about noon, then the rain comes. It looks as if there was going to be a
storm today - it rained heavily in Pokhara yesterday. Let us hope that the
weather stays kind to us.
The plan for tomorrow is to go into the valley to see how far it is to the
actual face of the mountain, what the conditions are like and so on. We did
get a glimpse of the conditions today from the helicopter and things look
similar to what they were like on Ama Dablam - fairly little snow, some ice
and generally less steep, which should make it easier for us.
So, from tomorrow we are beginning to act in earnest! We will be getting in
touch every few days to let you know how we're doing. And now we're off for a
chat with our next-door neighbours, a two-person expedition!
From the Base Camp, Piotr Pustelnik, mBank Annapurna Expedition. Talk to you
Earlier: "Good morning, Piotr
Pustelnik, mBank Annapurna Expedition.
Our break in Kathmandu is coming to an end and our plan is as follows:
tomorrow (12th April) we will fly on a scheduled flight to Pokhara, the second
biggest city in Nepal. Then on Sunday (13th April), assuming the weather is
good enough, we will fly by helicopter to the Annapurna North-West Face Base
Camp. So, if everything goes according to plan, the day after tomorrow we
should already be at the altittude of 4100 - 4200 metres.
Our team is fully relaxed and well-rested, the acclimatisation stage went
well, so generally everything has been fine so far. Today we only need to
finish off packing, check our equipment, replace whatever is missing - just
the usual logistics.
The spring in Kathmandu is in full swing - it's very hot, around 40
centigrades, slightly cloudy but no rain on the horizon. Everyone here was
rather worried about yesterday (the elections) and about "the day after" but
it all has passed peacefully. The city is fully alive again and there has been
no rioting in the streets, no protests etc.
Anyway, we're off then on this main and most exciting part of the expedition,
i.e. the first ever attempt to repeat - after 20 years - the Czech+Slovak
route on the North-West face of Annapurna. I hope this forth time will be
lucky for us and we will get to the summit. For Peter Hamor though, it will be
second ascent of Annapurna so he may become one of the very few people in the
world who achieved that.
Warm greeting to everyone, Piotr Pustelnik, mBank Annapurna Expedition.
"Good Morning, it's Piotr Pustelnik - mBank Annapurna Expedition - speaking
Today (10th April) is a landmark moment for modern Nepal - the day of
elections for a Constituent Assembly that will decide about the future of this
country, one of the poorest in the world.
Kathmandu looks very different today from what it's usually like: it's almost
like a ghost town. I've taken a few unique photos in Thamel and the city
centre - unique because the place is virtually empty. There are few people
walking around, mainly tourists, and there are hardly any cars except those
belonging to foreigners or the Red Cross. It's quite clear that the nation is
focused on the polls and ultimately on their decision about the shape of this
country that for over a decade was torn by an internal conflict and fighting
between the Maoists and the government forces.
The atmosphere in the city today isn't tense but rather sober. In a way, it's
only elections day and nobody really knows what will follow in the coming days
and months, whether the political parties will accept the results or whether
they will be more rioting and political squabbling - all this is just one big
question mark. The results of today's polls are expected over the next ten
days and there are bound to have a tremendous impact on the country's future.
It's a nice day for the tourists though as there're hardly any cars that
normally cause a lot of air pollution and it's comperatively quiet. It reminds
me of Poland on Corpus Christi day! I'm emotionally very attached to this
country as I've spent almost three years of my life here and that's why I
wanted to talk about this day. It's not often that the history takes place
before your very eyes...
From a very peaceful Kathmandu, Piotr Pustelnik, so long!"
"Good Morning, it's Piotr Pustelnik - mBank Annapurna Expedition - warm
welcome to everyone. We got to Camp I from the Base Camp yesterday (30th
March) over that dreadfully long way again and today all four of us climbed up
to Camp II. Tomorrow Piotr and Peter will stay in Camp II and take a look at
the route to Camp III while Darek and myself will bring up more provisions (a
tent, some ropes, food and fuel) to make this camp well-supplied.
Hopefully, unless the weather fails completely, we should reach the top of Ama
Dablam in three days. The weather pattern has been quite simple so far:
relatively fair till about 1 pm and then it clouds over and snows a little.
But it's rather normal and we can't complain about the weather, just the
opposite. It's fairly dry and the mountain is very different from what it's
like in the autumn. There isn't any snow and it's quite difficult to find
where the camps should be, we're also having problems finding ice to melt and
We are all feeling fine: no broken or bruised limbs. I reckon it's going to be
a good acclimatization for us before Annapurna - I must say that our thoughts
are increasingly drawn towards Annapurna, our main aim. Still, Ama Dablam is a
fine and ambitious mountain.
From Ama Dablam, Piotr Pustelnik, mBank Annapurna Expedition. So long!"
Update Four: Good evening, Piotr Pustelnik from the Ama Dablam
As I said in my last dispatch, we left for Camp One yesterday (26 March) and
it was a very long climb indeed. Today, all four of us spent the day setting
up fixed ropes and we got as far as Camp Two, where we pitched a tent. The
route isn't particularly long but it's technically quite difficult, kind of
alpine-style climbing, very enjoyable though! The weather is relatively fine,
despite strong wind.
We got rather tired today and run out of rope near Camp Two so we have to go
down to the Base Camp for more, we may also have a day rest. Still, we reckon
we should be able to set up Camp Three in two days
We're all feeling fine, very well in fact. Very warm greetings to everyone;
from Camp One, Piotr Pustelnik, so long!
Update Three: Hello! It's
Piotr Pustelnik - mBank Annapurna Expedition - warm welcome to everyone from
the Base Camp of Ama Dablam, our high-altitude training mountain, which we
Well, it took us a bit longer
than expected as we spent one extra day in Kathmandu waiting for a flight to
Lukla and we also had a rest day in Namche Bazaar. Still, we're all here now,
getting ready - we've got today to sort out our loads and tomorrow the whole
expedition is off to Camp One. Looking at the rocky hills on the way there, it
does look like an awfully long way (...) and it does give me shivers to think
about our trek there with our heavy rucksacks but... Well, everybody manages
somehow so we'll manage as well!
We're still in high spirits
and no stomach bugs so far, so it's OK. The
weather is so-so, i.e. it usually starts nice in the morning but the
afternoon brings more fog and it snows lightly in the evenings. The
usual spring "norm" in a sense. It's quite chilly for this type of a
warm valley though, and the winds get pretty strong at times... Still,
it's not a problem really!
Belated Happy Easter to
everyone! We spent Easter in Namche Bazaar and had Easter Sunday breakfast
with a group of Polish trekkers, which was very nice.
We're are on our own here in
the Base Camp, which is slightly unusual for such a popular route and yet we
got used to the fact that we have those camps very much to ourselves...
Anyway, we're off tomorrow so
keep your fingers crossed! The conditions are quite good, not too much snow
above all and quite a lot of ice so I think that everything should go well
tomorrow and we'll get to Camp Two relatively fast as well. We may need to fix
some ropes if the terrain requires it but we'll see.
Well, once again warm
greeting to everyone from the Ama Dablam Base Camp from Piotr Pustelnik,
Annapurna mbank Expedition. Will be in touch soon again!
Update Two: The expedition team flew to Lukla yesterday (20th March) and after
a two-hour trek got to Phakding (at 2610 meters), a large settlement half way
between the airstrip in Lukla and Namche Bazaar. Most trekkers choose to stay
in Phakding overnight before the long and exhausting climb to the
administrative centre for the Khumbu region the next day. The team are in high
spirits and are enjoying fair weather.
Update One: mBank Annapurna West: According to the information received via a
text message, the team landed in Kathmandu yesterday (Monday), though after a
series of mishaps. The journey started with a flight to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo
Airport, which, according to Piotr Pustelnik, hasn’t changed much since his
visit there is 1989:
Triptych” Reactivated – part one: mBank Annapurna West Face Expedition.
Triptych Reactivated" has begun! After one-day delay caused by the airline,
the team has left Warsaw airport this morning to start the first part of their
expedition, i.e. the attempt at first ever repeat of the Czech route on the
north-west face of Annapurna - the tenth highest peak in the world (8091
metres above the sea level).
The aim of
the expedition is to repeat for the first time the Czech route on the
north-west face of Annapurna – the tenth highest peak of the world (8091
metres above sea level). For Piotr Pustelnik it will also be the chance to
finish the Crown of the Himalayas – the fourteen highest mountains in the
world rising above 8000 metres. Piotr has already ascended thirteen of the
Crown of the Himalayas peaks and Annapurna is the only one remaining. So far
only thirteen people have managed to capture all fourteen jewels in the Crown…
being one of the lowest eight-thousanders, Annapurna is definitely one of the
most dangerous mountains in the world. By the year 2005, only 103 people have
reached its summit while 56 have died attempting it. The Annapurna’s extensive
massive consists of six main summits: the main one (8091m) as well as five
others rising over 7000m. Interestingly, it was the first eight-thousander
ever climbed – Maurice Herzog and Louise Lachenal have conquered it on 3rd
June 1950. Eight Polish mountaineers have repeated this feat so far:
Artur Hajzer & Jerzy Kukuczka (first winter ascent)
1991 – Bogdan
Stefko, Krzysztof Wielicki, Wanda Rutkiewicz, Ryszard Pawlowski and Mariusz
Expeditions have already tried to reach the summit three times, including
twice (in 2004 and 2005) along the Bonnington’s route on the south face. In
2006, the “Himalayan Triptych” made up of Piotr Pustelnik, Piotr Morawski
(Poland), Peter Hamor (Slovakia) and Don Bowie (USA) focused their efforts on
the eastern ridge of Annapurna that had been climbed merely twice before.
However, Peter Hamor was the only one to reach the main summit on 21st May
while Piotr Pustelnik and Piotr Morawski got as far as the eastern summit
(8010m). They turned back to rescue a Tibetan climber afflicted by snow
Piotr Pustelnik decided to return to Annapurna with a tried-and-tested team
consisting of himself as the main coordinator, Peter Hamor, Piotr Morawski and
Dariusz Zaluski, who will have the double role of a film maker. They have
chosen the Czech route (also called “Gabbarrova”) on the north-west face of
Annapurna. It has been climbed only once by Nezerka and Martis in 1988.
- a relatively easy to climb mountain in the Himalaya
range of eastern Nepal (6812 metres) – is to be the place for the team’s high
altitude acclimatisation before their main effort. The expedition sets off on
15th March from Warsaw
and will stay acclimatising on Ama Dablam till mid April. They will then be
transported with a helicopter to their base camp beneath the north face of
Annapurna. Their return is planned for 7th May.
Pustelnik has been climbing in the highest mountains since 1985, ascended all
but one eight-thousand-metre high peak and has participated in many
expeditions in the Himalayas, Karakorum, and all over the world.
Hamor, the best Slovakian mountaineer has ascended five eight-thousanders (two
of them as the first ever Slovak), and has conquered the Crown of the World
(the highest mountains of each of the seven continents).
Morawski has climbed four eight-thousanders and was the first to ascend Shisha
Pangma in winter.
Zaluski has climbed four eight-thousanders and has taken part in many winter
expeditions; he combines climbing with professional film-making and has
authored many award-winning documentaries about the highest mountains of the