Posted on: March 1, 2004

John Varco on the first ascent of the Southwest Buttress (VI 5.10 X M5, 2400m, Cool-Parnell-Varco, 2003) of Annapurna III (7555m), Nepal Himalaya, Nepal. After acclimatizing to approximately 6000 meters on the route, the team descended to base camp, then completed the route in ten days. [Photo] Ian Parnell

Ian Parnell (UK), John Varco (US) and I completed the first ascent of the southwest ridge of Annapurna III (7555m) on November 6. The route (VI 5.10 X M5, 2400m) had been previously attempted by two strong Slovenian teams, numbering as large as eleven members, who had employed the heavy-handed tactics of fixed rope and camps, first in 1994 and again in 2000.

We acclimatized by climbing the lower third of the route, loosely following an eighteen-pitch topo from the Slovenians, all three of us swinging leads. We encountered extremely loose rock and decaying, in situ ropes on the dangerous and challenging 600-meter buttress. We bivied at approximately 6000 meters for two days and established a well-stocked camp for the upcoming summit attempt. We then descended to base camp for a four-day rest.


On our summit push we climbed alpine style, Ian and I leading all of the lower rock buttress free (5.10 X) and without the use of the fixed rope to reach the 6000-meter camp (John jugged the Slovenian lines with a rather large rucksack for speed). A further nine days were spent on the mountain. The remaining climbing involved 900 meters of committing snow and ice, which was followed by a 250-meter mixed rock band at 6800 meters that was climbed free at 5.8 M5. Two days later the summit was reached after climbing exposed knife-edge ridges in poor snow conditions that resulted from extremely high winds. After reaching the summit on November 6 at 12:30 p.m., the team bivied in a snow cave at 7000 meters before descending the route, taking the next two and a half days to reach base camp. On the rappels we used the fixed ropes left from the Slovenian attempts.

— Kenton Cool, Sheffield, United Kingdom

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