3 November 2020
The 1970 British Annapurna South Face expedition was the first to climb a difficult face route on an 8000m peak, a major Himalayan achievement. On 27 May, Don Whillans & Dougal Haston reached the summit of Annapurna I (26,545ft, 8,091 m). Chris Bonington led the expedition that approached from the Annapurna Sanctuary. The team used pioneering rock and ice climbing techniques to fix ropes up the steep South Face.
Lower on the mountain, on 30 May as the expedition was leaving, the leading British climber Ian Clough was killed by a falling serác.
The expedition received international recognition for its innovation and approach to this exceedingly difficult climb and was sponsored by the Mount Everest Foundation.
Sir Chris Bonington & survivors of the South Face team recount highlights of the ascent.
In the same summer of 1970, on the northern side of Annapurna I, a British & Nepalese Army team made the first British ascent of the 8000m. peak, first climbed by Maurice Herzog’s French party that made history in 1950.
Avalanches, extreme cold and an exceptionally snowed up approach dominated the climb, but these were overcome by determined efforts and finding a route safer than original ascent.
‘Henry Day and Gerry Owens reached Camp V at 24,300ft (7047m.) on the night of 19 May, in high winds and with temperatures of minus 30 °C. Dawn on the 20 was sunny and windless. At 8.00am the summit pair set off….for two hours the ice slope stretched upwards…. then suddenly, a 55° couloir appeared around a rock buttress that offered rapid access to higher ground. Day & Owens arrived on the summit at 11.00am, to make the First British Ascent of Annapurna I.’
Colonel Henry Day and survivors of the first British Ascent team will tell their story.
Featured image: PrajwalMohan/Wikimedia Commons.
This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
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