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Ed Viesturs summits Annapurna!

star  star  star  Congratulations Ed Viesturs  star  star  star
On May 12, at 2 p.m. Nepal time, Ed Viesturs, 46, stepped into the sky, and into history,
to become the first American to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks. In a call from the summit, Ed said that it's
"one of the happiest days of my life, one of the hardest days of my life."


Summit Day, "We finally arrived!"

After waiting at over 22,000 feet for three windy days and nights, the six brave climbers headed for the summit in the pre-dawn darkness. Six hours later the leader of the Italian team turned back; five more hours of tough climbing finally brought Ed, Veikka and three Italians to the 26,545-foot summit of Annapurna.

By Lindsay Yaw
2:35 p.m. Nepal time, Thursday, May 12, 2005

At 2 p.m. today, history was made. After a brutally long 11-hour ascent of Annapurna, a 26,545-foot peak in Nepal, Ed Viesturs, 45, succeeded in his 16-year endeavor of becoming the first American to summit all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks. At 2:35 p.m., the base camp radio crackled with climbing partner Veikka Gustafsson's voice hollering, "We finally arrived!"

"It is one of the happiest days of my life, one of the hardest days of my life," Ed Viesturs said in the radio call to base camp. Just then, the camp erupted in yahoos from the other American climbing team, bravos from the Italians, and cheers from everyone who could hear our excitement.

After three wearisome days waiting for fierce winds to subside, Ed, along with longtime climbing partner Veikka Gustafsson and four Italians, Silvio "Gnaro" Mondinelli, Mario Merelli, Daniele Bernasconi and Mario Panzeri, finally left High Camp at 3 a.m. today and headed for the summit. Two hours into the climb, Silvio, leader of the strong Italian team responsible for fixing the lines and breaking trail for much of the way to High Camp, turned back due to cold and exhaustion and returned all the way down to base camp, arriving safely by 11 a.m.

Feeling strong, the rest of the climbers continued on. The team climbed just over 4,000 feet from their camp at 22,500 feet to the 26,545-foot summit in about 11 hours. They made their way through a steep crevasse- and sérac-ridden section for the first third the climb. Then the five climbers took a long, arcing path up a steep, snowy face to reach the bottom of a rock face leading to the summit.

The climbers reached the summit together at 2 p.m. under clear sunlit skies. In our conversation Ed relayed his partner Veikka's incredible strength and endurance. "Veikka kicked trail for the last half of the day and I couldn't catch up with [him]," Ed said. "The Italians are phenomenal," he added. Indeed, tagging a summit like Annapurna, called by some the most dangerous 8,000-meter peak, takes a team effort.

"It's been cold, pretty steep the whole way, kind of relentless, not many places to sit down. Kind of a long hard day," Ed explained via radio.

When Ed called down to base camp with his exciting news, the winds were still calm as they sat on the summit ridge, peering down the south face of Annapurna, taking photos of their historic climb before starting their descent back to the High Camp. "We'll call when we get down to Camp 3, maybe three to four hours," he said.

The last we heard from Ed he asked us to call his wife. "Even if you leave a message, just say I am well."

Update: After eight hours, about 10 p.m. Nepal time, Ed, Veikka, and one Italian had safely descended to High Camp, where they plan to rest and proceed with the descent tomorrow. They had spent 19 hours on the mountain's upper reaches.


Return to Base Camp

After reaching the top of Annapurna, the mountaineers still face the most challenging part of any climb—getting down safely. On Annapurna, the descent is notoriously dangerous, and Ed, Veikka and the Italians are tested by the capricious goddess of the mountain.
By Lindsay Yaw
May 13, Nepal

She wouldn't give up. Annapurna would not let Ed Viesturs, Veikka Gustafsson and the three Italians down from her 26,545-foot summit without a fight. After reaching the top at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 12, all five climbers left the summit an hour later when they saw a thick, misty afternoon cloud layer move in quickly, obscuring their view of the route back down to Camp 3.

"On the way up, everything looks so obvious. On the way down, it all looks white," Veikka described the descent over a glass of wine in the mess tent back at base camp. A short distance down from the summit, Veikka, Ed and one Italian, Daniele Bernasconi, were moving markedly faster toward Camp 3 than the two other Italians, Mario Merelli and Mario Panzeri. So they agreed to leave the two Marios to get down together and continued toward High Camp, this year's Camp 3 at 22,500 feet, which they had left 12 hours earlier.

Soon, the weather turned from misty to a full-blown blizzard with only five to 10 feet of visibility, making it virtually impossible to navigate through the crevasses and séracs leading to Camp 3. "The fixed lines were buried under a half a meter of snow," said Veikka. When you're at the summit, you're only half way there—you still have to get down; a storm of this magnitude could devastate their success. Disoriented by the snow, Veikka, Ed and Daniele spent over three hours walking around in circles looking for the ropes that were absolutely imperative in getting back to Camp 3 safely. Finally, Ed tripped over one of the lines. "We had been dreaming of our tent and our sleeping bag, so finding these lines was such a relief," said Ed.

The two Marios weren't so lucky, however. When trying to find the same fixed ropes, one of them fell into a shallow crevasse that ended their descent late that afternoon. Providing the only shelter within the 4,000-foot face, they bivouacked for the night in the crevasse until sun hit in the morning and they could see the route down. At 9 a.m., Ed, Veikka and Daniele finally spotted the two Italians descending the lines toward Camp 3. From there, all climbers descended to Camp 2, at 18,550 feet, where the Italians decided to take a long break to refuel and rehydrate.

Ed and Veikka left Camp 2 shortly after arriving and drinking a liter of fluid each. Again, the afternoon fog rolled in and left the two wandering toward Camp 1 at 17,000 feet in a thick soupy storm, Annapurna's final test. "We think we're almost to Camp 1, but we can't see it. We can't find any more wands," Ed radioed in at about 3:30 p.m., referring to the trail markers climbers put in the snow to locate their caches. Ten minutes later they found Camp 1, and within the hour had descended to the rocks at the bottom of the glacier where Jimmy Chin, Didrik Johnck and I met them. They dropped their packs, slugged several mugs of grape juice, put on their light hiking shoes and moved quickly down the trail toward base camp.

As we approached the community of tents, Veikka looked at me and said, "We've been waiting for this moment for almost six years, since our first attempt on Annapurna." Over and over again, we heard this statement echo between Ed and Veikka as they threw back a couple of beers in celebration of their summit. The rest of us kept thinking: We just witnessed a piece of American history. Ed Viesturs became the first American to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks.

Ed and Veikka proved to Annapurna that whatever gauntlet she throws down, they'll keep fighting back to the bitter end. They didn't give up.






Read more . . .
Ed Viesturs personal website
Ed Viesturs autographs a poster for TraditionalMountaineering

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