Why is Annapurna so difficult to climb? Everything You Need To Know

Why is Annapurna so difficult to climb? Everything You Need To Know

Annapurna is well-known for being one of the most spectacular mountains to climb in the world. Regardless, Annapurna expedition is not only one of the most challenging expedition, but it also has a greater rate of fatalities than most other expeditions. Being said, although Annapurna means “full of food”, and represents the goddess of food and fertility, it should also be termed a “full of difficulties and deadly risks” and represented as the face of one of the most difficult mountains to climb.  

Annapurna is a mountain range that stretches for almost 60 kilometers. Annapurna I is the tallest mountain in the range, standing at 8091 meters. It’s usually the same peak that mountaineers scale. It’s lovely, majestic, and filled with all the challenges you can handle. Annapurna Expedition is a 56-day expedition that involves 36 days of core climbing and 13 days of core hiking, with the remaining days spent relaxing, moving around, or traveling. Aside from the main mountain and its various base camps, you’ll pass through communities like Marpha, Beni, Lete, Ghasa, and Jomsom on your route.

Why is Annapurna so difficult to climb?

Annapurna is known for its inclement weather, rocky terrain, avalanches, and high elevation. The height rises between the base camp and the highest peak is significant, making climbing difficult in adverse conditions.

Here are the specific reasons why climbing Annapurna is so difficult:

Unpredictable Weather

Annapurna’s climate is defined by frigid temperatures ranging from 8 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and year-round snowfall. Furthermore, high-speed winds are common. Summer is when it rains the most, although it can rain at any time without warning. An overcast sky frequently results in poor visibility.

Mountaineers will find climbing Annapurna more difficult due to the current weather conditions. Hypothermia from low temperatures, slips and falls, and, worst of all, death are all potential hazards of bad weather. 

Difficult Terrain

Annapurna has one summit above 26000 feet, thirteen over 23000 feet, and sixteen over 20,000 feet. Not only that, but the mountain is riddled with cliffs, steep slopes, and crevasses (deep open cracks). Annapurna is one of the most challenging mountains to climb because of this combination.

The Annapurna 1 peak’s south face is particularly steep. It has a rock wall that is 9,800 feet tall. You may also come across icy walls, rock falls, or unstable ground, which can result in falls, injuries, or even death. Two climbers died in 2015 under mysterious circumstances.

High Altitude

An object’s altitude, usually known as its height above sea level, is its upward elevation. When climbing a mountain, you gradually increase your altitude. As you gain altitude, the amount of oxygen in the air decreases, causing you to struggle to breathe to take in more oxygen with each breath.

While the effects of altitude differ from person to person, the body may begin to react to an altitude of 6,900 feet and above. With all of Annapurna’s summits soaring beyond 20,000 feet, you can begin to imagine the high-altitude effect hiking Annapurna might have.

Altitude sickness symptoms can appear 8 to 48 hours after exposure. Nausea, headaches, decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, and dizziness are some of the symptoms. Although altitude sickness can’t kill you, it is possible to die as a result of accidents or poor decisions caused by physical weakness, stress, or the loss of basic functioning due to altitude sickness. 

Frequent Avalanches

Avalanche refers to the rapid movement of snow down a mountain or hill. This occurs when snow accumulates in one location. If the underlying layer becomes too weak to hold, it eventually slides away, dragging the heaped snow behind it.

Avalanches can sweep away trees, boulders, and other objects, even climbers, from their path. Furthermore, depending on how sloppy the terrain is, they can go at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.

Since Annapurna is snow-capped all year, it is prone to avalanches. This is especially true during the winter months (December-February) when there is a lot of snow. Furthermore, at an elevation of around 26,545 feet, it is clear that the avalanches are moving quickly.

Avalanches can result in serious injury or even death. In what was dubbed Nepal’s greatest trekking disaster, 43 hikers died in 2014 after numerous snowstorms and avalanches slammed Annapurna. In January 2020, another avalanche happened in Annapurna.

Lack of Local Support/Accessibility

The location is another feature that adds to the risks of Annapurna. It’s a 60-kilometer-long mountain range with numerous peaks, rather than a single peak. It includes fourteen peaks higher than 7000 meters and sixteen more above 6000 meters. Because this range is tough to approach and local backup is scarce, you’re basically on your own if something goes wrong.

When compared to Everest, which is easy to access and has an abundance of local resources nearby, it’s clear to see why even the most experienced mountaineers are hesitant to tackle any of the Annapurna peaks.

There are no Sherpas or fixed ropes here, so there is no one to aid you if something goes wrong or if you get stuck on a tough section of the climb. If you and your team are caught in an avalanche, you must dig yourself out if possible. This could take a long time and expose you to dangerous situations.

Also, no one will set up camp for you or cook your meals. You must carry all you require on your back and pray that you have packed enough. Tents, food, medical supplies, oxygen, crampons, and whatever else you need are included.

In addition, due to the lack of infrastructure in the area, you will have to begin your hike at a low height. You can go closer to base camp by driving, but not as close as you can get at Everest.

The Turnaround Time and the Elevation Gain

The turnaround time is the time at which you must turn around and descend the mountain, regardless of whether you have reached the summit. Many circumstances, including bad weather, high altitude, and rough terrain, might cause the turnaround time to be significantly delayed.

This is also true for the majority of the world’s highest peaks. However, the total height gain on Annapurna may have a greater impact on turnaround time than on most other mountains. The total elevation gain is the total height gained when climbing to the summit of the mountain. 

Let’s compare this between Mount Everest and Annapurna.

The elevation of Mt. Everest’s South base camp in Nepal is 17,900 ft (5,500m) while its highest peak is 29,029 ft (8848m). To get to the peak from the base, you experience an elevation gain of (29,029-17,900)= 11,129 ft (3392m)

On the other hand, Annapurna’s base camp elevation is 13549 ft (4130m) while its highest peak is 26,545 ft (8091m). The elevation gain, therefore, becomes (26,545 -13549) =12,996 ft (3961m)

From this example, despite Everest being taller, Annapurna’s total elevation gain is higher than Everest’s. You will, therefore, require more effort and more time to climb Annapurna. Unfortunately, the more time you spend up in the high altitude, the riskier it gets for you. Mt. Everest’s South Base Camp in Nepal is 17,900 feet (5,500 meters) above sea level, whereas its highest peak is 29,029 feet (8848m). A total elevation gain of (29,029-17,900)= 11,129 feet is required to reach the top from the base (3392m). Annapurna’s base camp is at 13549 feet (4130 meters), while its highest summit is at 26,545 feet (8091m). As a result, the height increase is (26,545 -13549) =12,996 ft (3961m).

Although Everest is taller, Annapurna’s total elevation rise is more than Everest’s. As a result, climbing Annapurna will take more work and time. Unfortunately, the longer you spend at a high altitude, the more dangerous it becomes for you.

Deaths in Annapurna due to its Difficulty 

Thousands of individuals have attempted to climb Annapurna to various heights, but only 191 have succeeded. So far, 61 individuals have died while attempting to climb Annapurna to the summit. A group of climbers was caught in an avalanche in January 2020, resulting in their fatalities.

Over 200 people were rescued by Nepalese officials while trekking a trail around Annapurna to have a great glimpse of the world’s tenth highest peak. Foreigners, including guides and tourists, made up the majority of those rescued. Seven persons were still missing and most likely died when the rescue attempt ended.

An avalanche swept away and buried parts of the Annapurna Base Camp, causing a calamity. It’s also worth mentioning that the base camp, dubbed ABC, is only 3,230 meters above sea level (10,597 ft). In other words, the camp lies over 4,800 meters (15,748 feet) below Annapurna I’s summit.e

Years before, in September 1991, a similar tragedy occurred. Seven individuals were killed in an avalanche that occurred after heavy snowfall along their trekking track, including two South Koreans, one Belgian, and Nepalese guides.

Another incident that was widely reported in the international media occurred in October 2012. Ivan Lobanov and Iljas Tukhvatullin, two well-known Uzbek mountaineers, died in an avalanche.

When a large avalanche slammed their track approximately 5,600 meters (18,372 feet) up the mountain, the two were killed. Ilja is credited with conquering several of the world’s highest peaks, including Everest, Kumbhakarna, K2, and Khan Tengri.

Aside from avalanches, people have died through falling while ascending Annapurna. In March 2015, Finnish Samuli Mansikka and Nepalese Pemba Sherpa perished while descending from the peak of the mountain. At a height of roughly 7,000 meters, the accident occurred (22,290 ft).

Climbers have also died as a result of colliding with crevasses. Martin Minarik, a Czech national, died in one of these incidents in April 2009.

There have also been fatalities in Annapurna due to weariness and sickness. Werner Burkli, a Swedish national, died on the peak in May 1982 of a heart attack.

HACE (high altitude cerebral edema) and frostbite are two more medical issues that have caused people to die when climbing Annapurna.

However, the causes of more than ten deaths on the peak are listed as “unknown.” Many of these incidents involve persons who attempted to ascend the mountain but became disoriented. Some of the bodies have never been found.

Annapurna is one of the world’s most dangerous mountains to climb. Thirteen percent of those who attempted to ascend the mountain have not returned. In reality, no bodies have been found. 

Why Is Annapurna So Deadly? 

Despite being the world’s tenth tallest peak, Annapurna remains one of the most challenging summits to climb. Certain areas of Annapurna are said to be even more difficult to climb than K2 and Everest. Not only that, but it is also one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, with a death rate of over 40%, the highest of any peak on the planet.

The changeable climate is one of the reasons why Annapurna is so dangerous. Annapurna remains chilly and snow-covered throughout the year, and it can get high-velocity wind and snowfall at any time of year, making hiking the peak difficult. Many climbers succumb to this climatic condition, which can lead to death.

Seracs, crevasses, jagged ridges, and other tough characteristics abound on Annapurna Mountain. Crossing these mountain ranges is difficult, if not dangerous. Avalanches and large chunks of ice and boulders falling from the mountain are always a possibility. These are just a few of the factors that might cause climbers to become seriously wounded or even die.

The Annapurna range, unlike many other mountains climbed by mountaineers, is solitary. As a result, getting treatment on time is difficult, especially if there is a health risk. Furthermore, whereas the inhabitants in other places, such as Everest, are quite active and constantly willing to help, the locals in the Annapurna are not as interested in climbing, making it impossible to acquire human help and support in times of need, such as medical issues.

Annapurna is regarded as one of the world’s most dangerous mountains to climb for the reasons stated above, as well as many others. Without a doubt, the climbing aspect is difficult, but the fact that there are several threats, both geographical and climatic, that the climber must avoid makes it even riskier. This should provide an answer to the question of why Annapurna is so dangerous.

Climbers on Annapurna dread harsh weather that could put the adventure on hold as winter approaches. They are terrified of sub-zero temperatures, which cause slurred speech and numbness in the hands.

Climbers find it difficult to navigate the trail, which is often snow-covered and requires them to skid repeatedly. Without crampons, getting a grip on the path leading to the summit is quite difficult.

As you ascend higher, it becomes increasingly difficult to withstand the cold temperatures and little oxygen. Similarly, severe snowfall causes havoc over the region during the winter, making travel difficult.

But Annapurna’s visitors suffer from much more than just this. They are gasping for air due to the high snow road and soaring cliffs. The mountain’s severe need for oxygen might be dangerous if not treated quickly.

Trekkers must hike through a knee-high snow route from the north base camp in the winter, which is rather annoying. The mountain can become lethal at any time due to the rapid changes in weather conditions, therefore you must be prepared for all conceivable situations.

Before climbing the mountain, hikers must keep track of the weather prediction, or they risk becoming stuck on the trail. Unseasonal snowstorms are common in Annapurna, slowing climbers’ progress and causing them to lose their way.

Annapurna has seen multiple fatal crashes, the majority of them were caused by snow slides and hurricanes. Trekkers will also have to pass through the death zone, which can be lethal if not passed through fast or for longer than necessary.