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The ca. 2300-meter-high south face of Annapurna seen just after dawn from Annapurna South. The seven-and-a-half-kilometer-long east ridge forms the right skyline. (A) Main Summit (8091m), (B) Central Summit (8061m), (C) East Summit (8047m) and (D) Kangsar Kang. (1) the Far East Rib leading to the crest of the east ridge, climbed as far as the East Summit by Hajzer and Kukuczka in 1988, and likely solo by Tomaz Humar in October. [Photo] Lindsay Griffin

There has been a lot of speculation around the world as to the recent solo achievement of the Slovenian mountaineer, Tomaz Humar, on Annapurna I (see the November 5, 2007 NewsWire). Following a short TV emmission in his native country, where he appears to indicate on a photograph the line climbed, it is beginning to look as though Humar did not climb a new route at all but repeated an ascent made in October 1988 by the legendary Poles, Artur Hajzer and Jerzy Kukuczka, on what they refer to as the Far East Rib of Annapurna’s south face.

This rib, approximately 1500 meters in height, rises from the upper northeast corner of the South Annapurna Glacier to meet the huge east ridge of Annapurna I, a little to the west of a small, pointed top known as Kangsar Kang (aka Roc Noir, 7485m).

Hajzer and Kukuczka were members of a primarily Polish expedition, led by Janusz Mayer, which approached via the heavily crevassed South Annapurna Glacier and fixed some rope before establishing a Camp 2 at 6550m, about half way up the rib. From there Hajzer and Kukuczka climbed fifteen pitches of ice to 60 degrees and bivouacked at 7100m. On the next day they reached the crest of Annapurna’s east ridge at ca. 7500m, some distance west of Kangsar Kang. They bivouacked here and the following day reached the 8047-meter East Summit of Annapurna, returning to their bivouac that night. Rather than reverse the route, they continued over Kangsar Kang and down the slopes below Tarka Kang (aka Glacier Dome, 7193m), more or less following the route taken in ascent by the Swiss, Joos and Loretan, during their committing and elegant first ascent of the East Ridge of Annapurna I and traverse of the mountain four years previously.

Humar’s impressive four-day ascent in October also terminated at the 8047m East Summit and appears to have followed the Polish line more or less exactly, albeit in alpine-style and completely solitary. He also appears to have reversed his ascent route, which according to the Poles featured a certain amount of objective danger and a complex icefall on the approach.

But the East Rib is not the only ascent is this immediate area. Another little-known but fairly remarkable climb in this area took place in 2000. After an ascent from the west of Singu Chuli (aka Fluted Peak, 6501m), a technical trekking peak on the south ridge of Tarka Kang, three alpinists climbed the ca. 1500m south face of Kangsar Kang, right of the Polish east rib. Their acclimatization involved camping on the summit of Singu Chuli for three nights, from where they had good views of the line. They ditched gear at 6000m, below the face, returned to basecamp and after a rest came back up with just a tent inner, one 50-meter rope and no sleeping bags. They then climbed the face with one bivouac at 6800m, exiting onto the East Ridge of Annapurna, just 200m left (west) of Kangsar Kang’s summit. The climbing involved snow and ice to 60 degrees. After a second miserable night just below the crest, the three then attempted to reach Annapurna East, but the wind was very strong, and, fatigued, they traversed to the north ridge, on which they bivouacked. During the night a vicious storm broke the tent poles and the next day, somewhat worse for wear, they descended the north ridge of Annapurna East and eventually picked up fixed ropes belonging to a French expedition attempting the classic 1950 route. They descended these to base camp. After a well earned rest, and with time running out before flights home or work commitments, the three set off on an excrutiating trek to Pokara in high-altitude mountain boots. will be posting more information about Humar’s climb as it becomes available.

The rightward continuation of the above picture showing the lower section of Annapurna’s east ridge and summits on the northern rim of the Annapurna Sanctuary. (A) Kangsar Kang (7485m), (B) Tarka Kang (7193m) and (C) Singu Chuli (6501m). (1) is the Hajzer-Kukuczka Far East Rib, (2) is the south face of Kangsar Kang climbed alpine style in 2000, and (3) is the west spur leading to the col between B and C. During ascents and attempts on the east ridge of Annapurna most have approached via this spur, then traversed up and left below the summit of Tarka Kang to reach the crest of the ridge. [Photo] Lindsay Griffin