Himalaya Spring 2015: More On Annapurna Tragedy

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Yesterday we received the unfortunate news that two climbers had perished on Annapurna. Finnish climber Samuli Mansikka and local guide Pemba Sherpa lost their lives on the descent of the mountain after successfully reaching the summit on Tuesday. At the time that the story broke there was little more information than that, and the exact cause of their deaths was as yet unknown. The details remain scant today as well, but some of the story is starting to become clearer.

Samuli and Pemba were on Annapurna as part of the Dreamers Destination team. They arrived on the mountain early in the season in an attempt to summit before the spring snows change the complexion of the mountain. Their plan for an early summit paid off, and 13 members of the squad reached the top a few days back.

But apparently the team was slow in descending, and according to reports they ended up not returning to Camp 4 after their summit, and instead bivouacked at 7400 meters (24,278 ft). While they were stranded high on the mountain, something happened to Samuli and Pemba. The reportedly went missing for a time at 7100 meters (23,293 ft), and the rest of the squad wasn’t sure where they were located. Their bodies were later discovered at 7000 meters (22,965 ft), but the cause of their death is either unknown, for has yet to be revealed.

The rest of the Dreamers Destination squad has been slowly making its way back down the mountain. Reportedly they are all both mentally and physically exhausted from their climb, and the ordeal that followed shortly there after. The squad is expected back in Base Camp tomorrow, after reaching Camp 1 today. Hopefully there will be no further problems as they descend, as many accidents occur when climbers are extremely tired.

Reportedly the attempts to retrieve the bodies of their fallen comrades has been called off. Yesterday it was reported that rescue helicopters had been dispatched to the mountain, but they were apparently called back. Considering the height at which they perished, it may be unsafe to attempt to bring them down. Particularly considering the state that the DD team is in at the moment.

Meanwhile, two other climbers are preparing to launch their summit bids on Annapurna as well. Both Australian climber Chris Jensen Burke and Spaniard Carlos Soria have reportedly wrapped up their acclimatization rotations and are now eyeing a weather window that will allow them to climb up to the summit. If everything goes as planned, they could be standing on top this weekend, although the conditions on the mountain will probably decide if that happens.

This is a surprising start to the spring climbing season. Most of the teams are only now preparing to arrive in Kathmandu ahead of the start of their expeditions. But we have already seen early season summits on Annapurna, and two tragic deaths. It is an ominous sign for things to come, but lets home the rest of the season goes more safely and smoothly.

Kraig Becker