Tag Archives: Annapurna

Annapurna Action: Yannick and Stef Attack The Japanese. Begbie, The Geek and Woof Woof Hoping to Get Lucky

The Japanese Route? Clearly that would be the really steep, super scary looking #3.

Our usual correspondent, François Carrel, has skipped off for some fun and games in the land of totalitarian rule, Iran. Lucky for us, Caroline Allagnat has stepped up and told us that Stéphane Benoist and Chamonix’s Yannick Graziani are back in action!

During a phone call on the 19th, Yannick told Caroline that the bad weather had passed and the team had returned to base camp after waiting out the storm at a tea house a few hours down valley. In the end there wasn’t as much snow fall as they thought.

The team immediately placed an advanced base camp at 5200m and had planned to spend that night and the whole day yesterday at ABC before attempting the Japanese Route on the South Face. The Japanese Route was established by Hiroshi Aota and Yukihiro Yanagisawa on 29 October 1981. In the days following their teammates Haruyuki Endo and Yasuji Kato were moving towards the summit when Kato fell to his death. Nonetheless, Yannick describes the route as ‘fairly safe’ because it follows a spur.


Strong winds have been forecast for the 22nd, 23rd and 24th however the team believes they won’t be affected since they are on the face and a two-day window should be all they need to reach the summit but of course it’s difficult for them to estimate without fully knowing the difficulties they will encounter. The team is feeling strong and their spirits are high.

We’re hoping for more news as the team moves up. Until then, ALLEZ LES FRANCAIS!!!

British Annapurna III Expedition – East Ridge

Pete 'The Geek' Benson. Photo: Katie Moore/Yak Media

Nick "Begbie' Bullock, Matt 'Woof Woof' Helliker. Photo: Katie Moore/Yak Media

Meanwhile, over on Annapurna III, the Brits are waxing philosophical and preparing to climb to their previous high point on the East Ridge tonight. Tomorrow they plan to climb halfway up the 1000m face before heading back to BC.

To get the full story including Nick’s lyric prose check out their blog at British Annapurna III Expedition.

Go the Brits!


Annapurna Action: Yannick, Stéphane, Woof Woof, Begbie and The Greek


Annapurna III (right of center) with the unclimbed southeast ridge descending towards the bottom right corner.


You’d think that a particularly stunning autumn like this in Chamonix would be a good time to kick back and relax but man it’s coming in faster than I can keep up. Yesterday I got more news forwarded to me from François Carrel about Yannick and Stéphane on Annapurna III. Seems as though the boys have summitted on their acclimatization route and are back in BC resting up for the big one. (Read the translation of their phone conversations below).

British Annapurna III Expedition 2010

But first I gotta mention that Chamonix’s Matt Helliker, Nick Bullock and Pete Benson have arrived at Annapurna III for some fun and games on the unclimbed southeast pillar. However upon closer inspection the crew have decided that an attempt on the SE ridge is looking particularly suicidal and have changed their objective to the east ridge. If you have read Nick’s Chang Himal story in Alpinist then you’ll know the man knows how to spin a yarn so you’ll want to be a regular visitor to the team’s blog at http://annapurna3expedition.blogspot.com/.


Annapurna, south face


French Annapurna South Face Expedition 2010

Meanwhile, over on Annapurna’s south face, Yannick Graziani and Stéphane Benoist have summitted Annapurna South via the south arête and have returned to base camp. The team will now rest and prepare themselves for their primary objective on the south face. A rough English translation follows the French.

8 Octobre, Vendredi matin, 12h30 heure nép.
“Petit message rassurant du camp de base à 4330 m, dans l’herbe. Tout va bien, on arrive juste. On s’est quand même pris un petit orage hier sur une arête cornichée, c’était un peu terreur… Mais voila , on est bien là maintenant, on se repose ! Bises à tout le monde !”

7 Octobre – Jeudi 10h30 heure népalaise :
“On est au sommet de l’Annapurna South, grand beau, c’est magnifique. L’alti indique à peu près 7160 m.  On voit très loin autour de nous, et c’est très émouvant d’être là tous les deux. On est bien fatigué, on va redescendre au plus vite. On espère être au camp de base demain !”

6 Octobre – Bonjour à tous,

Yannick vient de m’appeler brièvement, ce mercredi 6 à 17h (heure locale). Les deux grimpeurs s’apprêtent demain à en finir avec l’Annapurna South (7219 m), sommet secondaire qu’ils ont choisi pour s’acclimater.

“Salut ! On est au bivouac à 7000 m, sous le sommet de l’Annapurna South donc. On a pris notre temps, avec deux nuits à 6500 m. Là on est sur un bon créneau météo, sans vent, on devrait arriver au sommet demain matin très tôt. On redescendra ensuite directement au camp de base, au plus court. On espère qu’on aura pas trop de mal à dormir : c’est déjà notre 7eme nuit sous tente depuis le camp de base !
– Quelle itinéraire avez vous choisi ? Est-il plus difficile que prévu ?
– On est sur l’arête sud. On a bien donné finalement sur cette arête, notamment avant-hier où on a bien brassé la neige… La voie fait 1700 m de haut, pour une cotation D. C’est magnifique. De notre bivouac de ce soir, on a a une vue de fou, l’Annapurna South est la première grosse montagne au dessus de Pokara, alors on voit juste en dessous de nous la jungle, les lacs, Pokara…
– Vous voyez aussi la face sud de l’Annapurna 1 ? Vous êtes fixé sur votre future tentative ?
– Oui, on l’a bien observée. On est déterminé à  y aller, on sait maintenant à peu près ce qu’on veut faire. Deux options, dont la voie des Japonais. On va méditer tout ça au camp de base… A très vite !”

4 October – Bonjour,
Yannick et Stéphane tentent depuis hier l’ascension de l’Annapurna South, “petit” sommet de 7219 m du sanctuaire des Annapurnas, en guise d’acclimatation avant de se lancer peut être sur l’Annapurna 1 et sa face sud monumentale.
Yannick m’a laissé hier (dimanche 3 octobre) un message sur répondeur, à 18 h (heure népalaise).

On est au bivouac à 6500 m sur une arête, c’est fantastique, digne de Bionnassay aux dires de Steph. C’est un bivouac quatre étoiles, à l’abri du vent, avec 500 m de vide de chaque côté, wahouuu ! Tout va bien, on a la forme.
On a eu un jour de contretemps, la tente avait glissé derrière un bloc, on l’a pas vue, on a cru qu’elle était perdue, du coup on est redescendu en chercher une autre. Finalement on l’a retrouvée…. Mais tant mieux : ce contretemps, montée descente, nous a permis aujourd’hui de monter très vite jusqu’ici !
Demain on encape vers l’Annapurna South, qui est à 7200 m. On va y aller mollo, tranquille. On te rappellera au fur et à mesure qu’on monte, juste avant et au sommet… si jamais on y arrive ! Bon, ca a pas l’air très très compliqué, mais on sait jamais… Ciao !”

Rough English Translation

8 October, Friday, 12:30 Nepal time – Just a quick message to let you know that we’re back in base camp at 4330m, in the grass. We have just arrived and all is well. We found ourselves in a little storm yesterday on a corniced arête, it was a little terrifying. But viola, we’re here now, kicking back. Kisses to all!

7 October, Thursday, 10:30 Nepal time – “We’re on the summit of Annapurna south, incredibly beautiful, it’s magnificent. The altimeter says we’re close to 7160m. We’re well tired and we’re going to head down straight away. We hope to be in base camp tomorrow.”

6 October, Wednesday, 17:00 Chamonix time – “Salut! We bivvied at 7000m, below the summit of Annapurna South. We took our time and spent two nights at 6500m. We had a good weather window without wind and we should arrive at the summit tomorrow morning very early. We’ll head straight back to base camp. We hope it won’t be too difficult to sleep. It’s already our seventh night in a tent since we left base camp.

François: “Which route have you selected? Is it as difficult as you thought?”

Yannick: “We’re on the south arête. On a bien donné finalement sur cette arête, notamment avant-hier où on a bien brassé la neige [anybody know what this means?]. The route is 1700m with a rating of D. It’s magnificent. the view is crazy from our bivouac. Annapurna South is the biggest mountain above Pokhara and we can see the jungle, lakes, Pokhara…”

François: “Can you also see the south face of Annapurna? Have you decided on your future tentative?”

Yannick: “Yes, we can see it well. We’ve decided to go. We’re now a little closer to knowing what we’re going to climb. Two options: dont la voie des Japonais. We’re going to meditate on all of it in base camp very soon.

Emails From the Edge: Yannick and Stephane at Annapurna BC

Annapurna, south face. Photo: Wolfgang Beyer

Last Friday the Insider received word that despite unusually heavy monsoon rains Chamonix hellmen Yannick Graziani and Stéphane Benoist have sloshed their way  up to Annapurna South base camp and are now acclimatizing and scoping the face. Find the translation of their phone calls to François Carrel below.

As you are no doubt aware, the south face of Annapurna is a particularly difficult wall with an unforgiving reputation.

27 May 1970 – British Route. First climbed by Chris Bonington, Don Whillans and Dougal Haston. Ian Clough is killed during the descent. The most difficult Himalayan wall climbed to date.

23 May 1981 – Polish Route or John Paul II Route. Maciej Berbeka, Boguslaw Probulski summit. Leader: Ryszard Szafirski. No supplemental oxygen and no Sherpas were used.

29 October 1981 – Japanese Route. Hiroshi Aota and Yukihiro Yanagisawa summit. Two days later Yasuji Kato falls to his death in a second attempt.

3 October 1984 – Spanish Route. Nil Bohigas and Enric Lucas summit in alpine style.

October 1991 – Pierre Béghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille climb a new route to 7400m before bad weather forces their descent. While carrying most of their gear including the ropes Beghin falls to his death. In one of the great self-rescue stories in climbing history, Lafaille manages to make it down alive despite being stranded alone on the face with no ropes, no gear, no help and a broken arm sustained from rock fall.

Friday, 24 September, 14:00 Nepal time – “Here we are. We’ve set up base camp at the foot of the south face of Annapurna at 4330 meters. Everything’s good and we’re doing well. We weren’t sure about where to place our camp. We briefly considered moving higher to an altitude of 4700m, which was truly beneath the face but there was a slight threat from the seracs. In any case, the porters weren’t having any of it and totally refused to go.

“The face is amazing. Last night the weather was clear with a full moon and I left the tent to take photos. It was fantastic. One wonders how a wall like this can exist. The vertical relief is enormous. Pokhara, at an altitude of 500m is only 25 km from here as the crow flies! Within a day’s walk from here we can be in the jungle and 30˚C heat. We go directly from the grassy forest straight up to 5300m and after that it’s straight onto the glacier.

“To get from Katmandu to Pokhara we had to walk 10 kms and change vehicles once because the road had been washed out. Nepal, eh? Then, from Pokhara, we walked for three days before arriving at the last lodge where we waited for two days for our porters. We never even saw our liaison officer. In my opinion, he took the money and ran.

“We did the whole trek in the rain and the locals told us it had been raining all month. Today it is a bit drier and it’s almost beautiful. I think the monsoon is about to finish. We’ll be here into October when it will be cold and dry. Right now, the face is in the clouds but last night, under the full moon, it seemed to be in good condition.

“Today, Stéphane is carrying a load to altitude, he’ll return tomorrow morning and we’ll leave to acclimatize for three or four days. We’ll climb to 6000m probably to the foot of the Bonington Pillar [British Route]. We want to see how it looks. We’ll get to see what’s up with the face, see the route, and how the avalanches fall. It’s still a bit far

“We really need to see this face, to feel it, to see how the avalanches fall. From here we’re still a bit far, we will for sure get closer. It will be the first time for me. I haven’t touched the face except from the Roc Noir side and that was 10 years ago. I will call again from higher up!”

British Route. Photo: from "Annapurna South" by Chris Bonington.

Monday, 27 September. 14:15 Nepal time – “Hi. Everything is going great! We just arrived an hour ago at a little col at 6100m at the foot of the Bonington Pillar. Yesterday we slept at 5600m, the day before that at 5000m. The face is not as exposed as we thought. There’s not a lot falling and there are fewer seracs and they’re more isolated than we thought. But she’s been plastered by the monsoon and is well covered. That said, she’s been covered by clouds all afternoon and we’ll get a better look in the morning. We’re starting to get used to seeing her and we’re beginning to be less afraid than when we were looking at the pictures. [Stéphane says something unintelligible in the background]. Stéphane says, ‘Bof!'”

François: “Is it steeper than Nuptse?”

Yannick: “Stéphane thinks that the Beghin-Lafaille is not steeper than Nuptse. The Bonnington is a bit of a spur, a route less steep and exposed. Nevertheless there are mega snow mushrooms on this route.”

François: “Can you see the whole face to the summit?”

Yannick: “No, we can see only to the rock band.”

François: “What’s your plan?”

Yannick: “We’re going to stop here. We’re going to sleep one night and then go down tomorrow. We only have one bottle of gas left and after that is finished it’s not worth the pain. It was complicated to get here, we’ve done well. We climbed rocky ridges and crossed snow couloirs. But it’s super beautiful here!”