Just two weeks after an avalanche claimed more than a dozen lives on the remote Himalayan peak of Manaslu, another avalanche, this time on Annapurna, has taken the lives of two more climbers. The accident occurred this past weekend as a three-man team was climbing the peak, which is notorious for its unstable conditions.
According to preliminary reports from the mountain, two teams have been attempting to summit the 8091 meter (26,545 ft) Annapurna this fall. A team of Russian climbers have been hoping to open a new route to the top while a small team of Uzbek mountaineers worked the regular route along the North Face. The Uzbek squad was led by veteran climber Iljas Tukhvatullin and was climbing between Camp 1 and 2 this past Sunday when the avalanche hit. Tukhvatullin and his companion Ivan Lobanov were both swept away in the snow slide, while the third member of the team managed to escape. After gathering his strength, the unnamed climber was able to descend back to Camp 1 and place a radio call for help.
On Monday, a search and rescue team from the Russian squad moved up the slopes hoping to find signs of the two missing men. They combed the rubble field for hours hoping to spot some indication of their fate, but even with the help of a helicopter, there was no trace. On Tuesday they announced that they were officially calling off the search and returning to Base Camp, bringing an end to their expedition as well.
Located in north-central Nepal, Annapurna is the tenth highest peak in the world and is considered one of the most dangerous mountains on the planet. Its fatality-to-summit ratio stands at an astounding 38%, which makes it the deadliest of all the 8000 meter peaks, including the infamous K2.
The accident on Manaslu a few weeks back was caused be the collapse of a giant ice pillar, which then tumbled down the mountain and directly into one of the high camps. Unsuspecting climbers were still resting in their tents at the time, and the avalanche caught most of them completely off guard. That doesn’t appear to be the case here however, as the indications are that the entire slope gave way, creating one massive slide. Early speculation is that an earthquake may have caused the shift in the snow that sent it tumbling down the slope.
Our condolences to the friends and family of the missing men.
By Kraig Becker
[Photo credit: Arite and Wolfgang Beyer via Wikimedia]