9.13.2016

Mountain: On Boukreev's Track 2

Risultati immagini per annapurna
The Annapurna
....see also part 1....

According to Linda Wylie in "Above the Clouds", "Planning for the Annapurna Expedition began in September 1996. As an objective, Anatoli found the majesty of the peaks that create the great bowl of the Annapurna Sanctuary compelling. Before his death Valdimir Bashkirov has described an unclimbed route on the South Face that was intriguing. After Volodia's death on Lhotse in May 1997, attempting this route became more important." p.223 
In "Cometa sull'Annapurna" the Italian mountaneer Simone Moro talks about the project of climbing the Annapurna in winter as an idea germinated by his special friendship with Anatoli Bukreev who evidently had it in mind since before. In "Above the Clouds" Bukreev writes about his first meeting with Simone Moro, on the Shisha Pangma (p.186), whitout naming him. They will be partners in a climb for the first time in the Lhotse-Everest Traverse. In Bukreev's papers there is no reference to the visit Moro paid to him and Linda in Santa Fe later that year, at least not in what has been published. In his Lhotse-Everest report there is just a mention of his mate as "my Italian friend Simone Moro" (p. 216).
Both failed to made the top that day: Anatoli was feeling unusually weak and decided to renounce. Simone Moro reached the summit of the Lhotse, then headed back. Bukreev didn't talk about him and just explains: "That day I had a simple sore throat, a cough, but I know that I could not make the traverse. I did not feel sick necessarily; I simply felt that if I fell asleep, I would never wake up." (p.218) Valdimir Bashkirov, who had worked with Bukreev in the 1997 Indonesian Everest Expedition, also climbing the Lhotse with a different team, was in the same conditions, but he decided to go on. "Waiting those few hours caused his death." p. 218 
Everest 1997 Indonesian Expedition. Bashkirov is the first one on the left.
Bukreev had already been on both Lhotse and Everest (three times), moreover he was prudent, totally aware that at high altitude your personal condition is the only factor you can control. He wasn't too disappointed, there was plenty of time in his life to try again the traverse. He focused on the next goal: the Annapurna in winter.
In "Over the Clouds" Linda Wylie explains that "The original proposal included a list of seven international climbers; however, circumstances forced the other members to cancel one by one." (p. 223). Galen Rowell was in the list but he declined: "Nearly sixty, I would be no match for his [Bukreev's] Olympian level of fitness. I didn't want to prevent his making the summit." (p. xi ) In the aftermath Rowell confessed his mixed feeling: "I also felt quite conflicted by my good fortune not to have been with Anatoli on Annapurna. Was I just luckier than he, or would the two of us together have somehow sensed the avalche danger and avoided it? I had quite a history of narrowly avoiding avalnches, as well as extracting myself out of some minor ones before the swept me down." (p. xvii)
Anatoli Bukreev
Rowell recalls his own solo attempt "to a lower peak in the Annapurna region in winter condition" and notes: "I later contemplated whether I would have sensed the danger and tested the slope if I'd had an aeger partner with me, or if something about being there alone had allowed me to be more in tune with the mountain." (p.xvii)
He concludes: "I'm also hunted by a strong suspicion that the second tragedy [Anatoli's death], so soon after the first, was also not coincidental. Were it not for the untoward media criticism directed at Anatoli after Everest, I doubt he would have felt the need to prove himself yet again in a world in which he had already outperformed every other climber of his generation." (p. xiv)
Such an opinion has to be confronted with Linda Wylie's memory. In "Above the Clouds" she writes:
"Ultimately, we die because we live. He dreamt the avalanche nine months before it came, dreamt it in disturbing dettail. Only the name of the mountain was missing. We could not stand on the edge of that abyss with much composture. Reeling, resisting, I groped for some alternative. Sadly teasing, he asked me to come to him.
"How long would I lie here on your couch doing nothing before you could not love me? Mountain are my life... my work. It is too late for me to take up another road." [...]
"Will you suffer?"
"I am not afraid."
Anatoli Bukreev 
That reply exhausted every option." p. 31
A reason not to withdraw was the fact that Bukreev had finally some money to invest, proceeds of his work as a coach for the Indonesian Army's Everest Expedition. In the end Simone Moro was the only mountaineer left in the list and he was also able to bring sponsors. "Over the course of their association" Linda Wylie writes "Simone Moro had become a friend as well as a trusted climbing partner. The 30 yo Italian was personable and strong, and both he and Anatoli worked long and hard to find financing for the Annapurna expedition. " p.223  
When they left Kathmandu for the Annapurna's slopes, they were accompanied by the filmmaker Dimitri Sobolev, the painter Andrei Starkov and by a sherpa who was supposed to cook. Things didn't go too well: the weather was strage, it kept snowing and they had to wait. Starkov went home while Sobolov was determined to film the climb following Bukreev and Moro as far as he can.
They finally started, advancing in a very treacherous terrain. The duties were shared accordingly with each one's skill: Bukreev had to bring the heavy ropes and to dig the 'trunas' in the snow, Moro must lead in the technical climb section. Just there the tragedy occurred.
Bukreev and Moro
According to Linda Wylie in "Above the Cliuds", "When the phone rang at midnight on December 26, Simone was on the line and the news was bad. While he and Anatoli were fixing a route up the lowest section of slope along the ridge between Annapurna South and the summit of Annapurna I, a cornice had collapsed. Simone was waiting on the fixed line in the lead position. Anatoli was bringing up the fifty meters of rope needed to secure the last section of the route. Car-sized blocks of ice fell, missing Simone, but they pulled out the fixed line below and jerked him off the route and down the slope in a wake of debris. Before being swept down, he shouted an alert to Anatoli and Dima. Simone recalled his last view of Tolya, face up, his eyes judging the trajectory of snow and stone as he begane moving to the side below the path of the rushing avalanche." p. 226-227
Simone Moro gives his account of the event in his first book, "Cometa sull'Annapurna", published in 2003, so after "Above the Clouds" (that dates 2001, the Italian version 2002) and is indead quoted in a note at p. 162. The book has been not translated in English yet as far as I know so I'll translate as I can a short part of it, where the circumstance of Bukreev's death are described.
Simone Moro writes:
"I arrived under a rock, the one that from below seemed the last impediment before the summit crest. I bypassed it and... a stream of adrenaline left me breathless and invaded me lightning quick.
Over me, tremendous, a gigantic cornice of snow and ice was spead out like an oceanic wave. Projected over our heads there was death, that for a weird balance of forces wasn't fallen on us yet.
It was impossible to see it from below and that's why I felt even more dismayed and lost, one blow away from that time bomb. At that point, just there, the signal came that the rope was ended and that I must create the anchorage where the long umbilical cord linking me to my two friend has to be fastened. I was at 6300 msl. I could see a passage protruding on the right side of the big cornice, but it would have required a protected progression by my partner. In any case I have to wait down there...
Stupe for Anatoli Bukreev built by the sherpas at the Annapurna Base Camp
I quickly made a pit and fixed two ice screws in the mountain face. Unfastened the rope from my harness and secured its end to the screws. Then I got off also my backpack and secured it too by a snap-hook. I signaled by a gesture not to stimulate by squalls the huge ice hand that 70-100 m over me was looking about to grab me forever!
Anatoli started climbing and rhythmically made his jumar slide on the ropes. [...] 
800 m above I begane to turn cold and to feel my back  was wet. [...] I felt more and more the signal of the himalayan cold and that's why I started moving in the desperate attempt to fight hypothermia. I decided to film my two friends and I opened my backpack that was in front of me, grabbed my  video camera, turned it on and pointing the lens below I focused on Anatoli who was climbing. I was wearing my high altitude big gloves and they impeded me in handling the camera. So I decided to get off my gloves, and I put them into the backpack. It was easier now but the 30 degrees below zero almost immediately knocked to my wisdom's door. After 30 seconds of filming my hands were insensitive already and I turned off the video camera again. I turned toward the mountain's face in front of my backpack, put the video camera in and... I istinctively looked up.
A split second later a roar definitively marked the moment when that gigantic cornice – and our lives with it – had come to the end their existence.
"Anatoliiijjj..." I only managed to emit that desperate scream before the explosion of ice and rocks started falling on me. [...] Anatoli started a desperate lateral traverse trying to get off the way of that   evil mass pointing us like a missile."p. 122-124
Annapurna's ridge
When I first read this I couldn't avoid to 1. notice the discrepancy 2. wonder why Moro didn't descend immediately and didn't advise his mates about the lethal threat. He told them to come instead and even got off his gloves to use the video camera, and that's why he badly cut his hands. He was incredibly lucky to survive the avalanche without any major injury and nothing broken, landing next to their last camp in a relatively good condition. He could reach the last lodge and get some help. I'm not surprised that he didn't look for his mates: probably they were already dead. Still he tried to organise a rescue as soon as he was able to. Once again the weather was bad, helicopters can't reach that hight.
Discrepancy: Linda Wylie says that "a cornice had collapsed" and that "before being swept down, he [Moro] shouted an alert to Anatoli and Dima." However Moro states: "I arrived under a rock, the one that from below seemed the last impediment before the summit crest. I bypassed it [...] Over me, tremendous, a gigantic cornice of snow and ice was spead out like an oceanic wave. Projected over our heads there was death, that for a weird balance of forces wasn't fallen on us yet." He calls it "a time bomb", still he admits: "I signaled by a gesture not to stimulate by squalls the huge ice hand that 70-100 m over me was looking about to grab me forever! Anatoli started climbing..." The shout came only after the avalanche, not before it, so it wasn't an alert at all or it couldn't work as it.
Simone Moro had probably evaluated that moving fast and cautiously a safe excape was possible. He even writes: "I could see a passage protruding on the right side of the big cornice, but it would have required a protected progression by my partner." At high altitude mind gets confused by the lack of oxygen and even if they were 'only' around 6.000 msl a wrong or dubious decision is understandable. 
It is not to me to judge. Me, I just feel sorry because I'm persuaded that, had been Bukreev leading or solo, he would have not died that day. Obviously that's just my feeling, based on others' attestations about him and his own behaviour in previous expeditions...

..............MORE TO COME...........

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