|Annapurna South from Annapurna Base Camp (4,130 m) before sunrise.|
Gandaki Gorge on the west, the Marshyangdi River on the north and east, and Pokhara Valley on the south. Annapurna I is tenth among Earth's fourteen eight-thousanders. 8167 metre Dhaulagiri I rises 34 km to the west across the Kali Gandaki Gorge, considered Earth's deepest canyon.
Annapurna is a Sanskrit name which literally means "full of food" (feminine form), but is normally translated as Goddess of the Harvests. In Hinduism, Annapurna is "... the universal and timeless kitchen-goddess ... the mother who feeds. Without her there is starvation, a universal fear: This makes Annapurna a universal goddess ... Her most popular shrine is located in Kashi, on the banks of the river Ganga." Her association with the giving of food (wealth) led her in time to be transformed into Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth.
The entire massif and surrounding area are protected within the 7,629 km2 Annapurna Conservation Area, the first and largest conservation area in Nepal. The Annapurna Conservation Area is home to several world-class treks, including the Annapurna Circuit.
The Annapurna peaks are among the world's most dangerous mountains to climb, although in more recent history, using figures from only 1990 and after, Kangchenjunga has a higher fatality rate. As of 2007, there had been 153 summit ascents of Annapurna I, and 58 climbing fatalities on the mountain. This fatality-to-summit ratio (38%) is the highest of any of the eight-thousanders. In particular, the ascent via the south face is considered, by some, the most difficult of all climbs.
GeographyThe Annapurna massif contains six major peaks over 7,200 m (23,620 ft):
|Annapurna I||8,091 m||(26,545 ft) Ranked 10th; Prominence=2,984 m|
|Annapurna II||7,937 m||(26,040 ft) Ranked 16th; Prominence=2,437 m|
|Annapurna III||7,555 m||(24,786 ft) Ranked 42nd; Prominence=703 m|
|Annapurna IV||7,525 m||(24,688 ft)|
|Gangapurna||7,455 m||(24,457 ft) Ranked 59th; Prominence=563 m|
|Annapurna South||7,219 m||(23,684 ft) Ranked 101st; Prominence=775 m|
Climbing expeditionsAnnapurna I was the first 8,000-metre (26,200 ft) peak to be climbed. Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal, of a French expedition led by Maurice Herzog (including Lionel Terray, Gaston Rébuffat, Marcel Ichac, Jean Couzy, Marcel Schatz, Jacques Oudot, Francis de Noyelle), reached the summit on 3 June 1950. (See the documentary of the expedition "Victoire sur l'Annapurna" by Marcel Ichac). Its summit was the highest summit attained on Earth for three years, until the first successful ascent of Mount Everest. (However, higher non-summit points—at least 8,500 metres (27,900 ft)—had already been attained on Everest in the 1920s.)
The south face of Annapurna was first climbed in 1970 by Don Whillans and Dougal Haston, members of a British expedition led by Chris Bonington which included the alpinist Ian Clough, who was killed by a falling serac during the descent. They were, however, beaten to the second ascent of Annapurna by a matter of days by a British Army expedition led by Henry Day.
In 1978, the American Women's Himalayan Expedition, a team led by Arlene Blum, became the first United States team to climb Annapurna I. The first summit team, comprising Vera Komarkova and Irene Miller and Sherpas Mingma Tsering and Chewang Ringjing, reached the top at 3:30 p.m. on October 15, 1978. The second summit team, Alison Chadwick-Onyszkiewicz and Vera Watson, died during this climb.
On 3 February 1987, Polish climbers Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer made the first winter ascent of Annapurna I.
Annapurna I holds the highest fatality rate among all 14 eight-thousanders although, for figures since 1990, Kanchenjunga has a higher death rate. As of 2005, there have been only 103 successful summit attempts, and 56 lives have been lost on the mountain, many to the avalanches for which it is known. Climbers killed on the peak include famed Russian climber Anatoli Boukreev in 1997, Christian Kuntner in 2005 and Iñaki Ochoa in 2008.
The first solo climb was October 2007 on the South Face by Slovenian climber Tomaž Humar.
On April 27, 2010, Oh Eun-Sun, a South Korean climber, may have become the first woman to ascend the world's 14 highest mountains by climbing the Annapurna. However, her claim to have climbed all 14 is currently treated as disputed by influential record keeper Elizabeth Hawley pending further investigation.
The other peaksAnnapurna II, the eastern anchor of the range, was first climbed in 1960 by a British/Indian/Nepalese team led by J. O. M. Roberts via the West Ridge, approached from the north. The summit party comprised Richard Grant, Chris Bonington, and Sherpa Ang Nyima. In terms of elevation, isolation (distance to a higher summit, namely Annapurna I, 30.5 km/19.0 mi) and prominence (2,437 m/7,995 ft), Annapurna II does not rank far behind Annapurna I. It is a fully independent peak, despite the close association with Annapurna I which its name seems to imply.
Annapurna III was first climbed in 1961 by an Indian expedition led by Capt. Mohan Singh Kohli via the Northeast Face. The summit party comprised Mohan Kohli, Sonam Gyatso, and Sonam Girmi.
Annapurna IV, near Annapurna II, was first climbed in 1955 by a German expedition led by Heinz Steinmetz via the North Face and Northwest Ridge. The summit party comprised Steinmetz, Harald Biller, and Jürgen Wellenkamp.
Gangapurna was first climbed in 1965 by a German expedition led by Günther Hauser, via the East Ridge. The summit party comprised 11 members of the expedition.
Annapurna South (also known as Annapurna Dakshin, or Moditse) was first climbed in 1964 by a Japanese expedition, via the North Ridge. The summit party comprised S. Uyeo and Mingma Tsering.
Hiunchuli (6,441 m/21,126 ft) is a satellite peak extending east from Annapurna South, Hiunchuli was first climbed in 1971 by an expedition led by U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Craig Anderson.
Machapuchare (6,993 m/22,943 ft) is another important peak though it just misses the 7,000 metre mark. Machapuchare and Hiunchuli are prominently visible from the valley of Pokhara. These peaks are the "gates" to the Annapurna Sanctuary leading to the south face of Annapurna I. Machpuchare was climbed in 1957 (except the final 50 metres for its local religious sanctity) by Wilfrid Noyce and A. D. M. Cox. Since then it has been off limits.
TrekkingThe Annapurna Conservation Area is a well known trekking region.
There are three major trekking routes in the Annapurna region: the Jomson Trek to Jomsom and Muktinath (increasingly disturbed by a road-building project); the Annapurna Sanctuary route to Annapurna base camp; and the Annapurna Circuit, which circles the Annapurna Himal itself and includes the Jomsom route. The town of Pokhara usually serves as a starting point for these treks, and is also a good starting place for other short treks of one to four days, such as routes to Ghorepani or Ghandruk.
The Mustang district, a former kingdom bordering Tibet, is also geographically a part of the Annapurna region, but treks to upper Mustang are subject to special restrictions.
About two-thirds of all trekkers in Nepal visit the Annapurna region. The area is easily accessible, guest houses in the hills are plentiful, and treks here offer incredibly diverse scenery, with both high mountains and lowland villages. Also, because the entire area is inhabited, trekking in the region offers unique cultural exposure and experience.