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Climbing Routes on the Annapurna Massif


Annapurna Mountain Range from Poon Hill
Daulagiri, Annapurna South, Annapurna I, Gangapurna Annapurna III, Machhapuchhre

Seated in the heart of beautiful Nepal, is the Annapurna Massif. This massive “massif” is found in the Himalayas of north-central Nepal. It has the world’s tenth highest peak and almost thirty other climbable peaks. It is one of the most visited peak-climbing destinations in the world; However it is as deadly as it is beautiful. Here are a few few climbing peaks and climbing routes.

The Annapurna Massif has about 29 peaks, with 13 peak heights being greater than 7,000 meters above sea level and 16 peaks being over 6,000 meters high. So far, peak-climbers have been able to achieve the most summits on about six peaks, making them the most desirable and climbable peaks in the area.

Peak Climbing the Most Prominent Peaks on the Annapurna Massif

Climbing Routes

  1. Annapurna I
  2. Annapurna II
  3. Annapurna III
  4. Annapurna IV
  5. Gangapurna
  6. Annapurna South

Annapurna I

annapurna 1
Annapurna 1

With a height of about 8,091 meters above sea level, Annapurna I is the highest peak on the massif. In addition, it is the world’s tenth highest mountain. In 1950, the first summit on this mountain, considered as a milestone in eight-thousander peak-climbing, was achieved. This was the first of its kind and was carried out by a French expedition led by Maurice Herzog.

Annapurna I has killed the more mountaineers than any other peak on the Annapurna massif. Annapurna deaths are the result of the high difficulty associated with this peak. It has the highest fatality to summit ratio of about 32%, with about 61 fatalities to 191 summits as of March 2012.

Why is Annapurna so deadly?

Annapurna 1 is the deadliest mountain on the massif because it is a technical climb. Mountaineers have to battle the altitude, cliffs, crumbly/ slippery surfaces, the environment, equipment failure, operator errors, and possess the technical knowledge to climb on ice, and snow. This is a climb that must be thoroughly planned out first with knowledgeable and experienced guides.

However, despite the number of Annapurna deaths, a lot of successes have been noted on this peak proving it climbable.

Annapurna I climbing route

Of the twelve possible climbing routes, the easiest route to summit Annapurna I is the Northwest Face. The hardest path, however, is ascent via the South Face. Annapurna I’s base camp is called the Annapurna Sanctuary at an elevation of 4,130 meters.

You can get to base camp following the Annapurna Base Camp trek or ABC trek.

Annapurna II

Annapurna 2 and Lamjung Himal
Annapurna 2 and Lamjung Himal from the north

Annapurna II was first climbed via the West Ridge by a British, Indian, and Nepalese team led by J. O. M Robert on May 17, 1960. The summit of Annapurna II is at 7,937-meters high. It is the part of the Annapurna Massif referred to as the “Eastern Mountain Anchor,” and is the 16th highest peak in the world.

Annapurna II climbing route

The quickest way to Annapurna II’s summit is through a shortcut via the North Face. It is between Annapurna IV and V and then continuing along the West Ridge. This route was first used in 1973 by Katsuyuki Kondo, a Japanese expeditioner.

Annapurna III

Annapurna 3
Annapurna 3 above Milerepa Cave

This is the 42nd highest point in the world with an elevation of about 7,555 meters above sea level. Annapurna III was first summited on May 6, 1961 by an Indian expedition led by Captain Mohan Singh Kohli via the Northeast Face.

Annapurna III climbing route

Captain Mohan Singh and his crew set up base camp I (15,400 ft) across from Braga Village. From here they climbed up the east ice fall and set up base camp 2 at 17,400 ft. This gave them access to the east col and a suitable site for their advanced base camp 18,800 ft (base camp 3). They then climbed up the North shelf and set up their 4th camp at 20,800 ft. Camp 5 was set up next, to allow passage through the east saddle then to the summit.

Hire local guides and porters

During their assent, local villagers would loot their camps because the expedition did not hire anyone from the village or pay “the fee.” Government officials sent military aid to keep the villagers from looting the base camps.

Annapurna IV

Found near Annapurna II, this 7,525-meter high peak was first climbed by a Heinz Steinmetz-led German expedition via the North Face and Northwest Ridge in 1955.

Annapurna IV climbing route

The climbing route to Annapurna IV’s peak takes about 21 days and starts in Yak Kharka on the eastern side of the massif.

There are 3 base camps on the way to the summit of Annapurna IV. From Yak Kharka it requires climbing on a fixed rope to reach base camp 1 and 2 at elevations of 4,800 and 5,500 meters respectively. The third base camp, 6,600 meters, is reached by an easy climb with switch backs, and a more difficult climb with a fixed rope. From camp 3 to the summit it is a relatively easy assent and only requires the main rope.


East side of Gangapurna and annapurna II in the background

Gangapurna stands about 7,455 meters above sea level and was first climbed by a Gunther Hauser-led German expedition via the East Ridge.

Gangapurna climbing route

Though challenging, the East Ridge remains the most elegant and most obvious climbing route to summit. This route offers fantastic views of the Annapurna Massif. The climb begins with the crossing of the Gangapurna Glacier and climbing 1,100 m on the northern edge of the face then ascending another 400 m on the eastern face. Base camp is made at the foot of the north shoulder of Gangapurna. From here the trail leads to advanced base camp on the snowfield shelf at about 5,300 m. After acclimating, you climb to camp 1 at 5,600 m on the east ridge. Camp 2 (6,300 m) is located on the north face of the east ridge. You must climb on a snow field to get there. You then climb to camp 3 at 6,900 m. Finally the summit is attainable at 555 m above base camp 3.

Annapurna South/ Annapurna Dakshin

Annapurna South is the 101st highest mountain in the world at a height of about 7,219 meters above sea level. A team from the Kyoto University alpine club was the first to summit the peak in 1964. They had originally wanted to climb Dhaulagiri IV, but the permit was unavailable. There are many climbing routes to the Annapurna South peak; However the route starting at the ABC is easiest.  The Annapurna South Peak climb begins where most people end their trek, at Annapurna Base Camp/ Annapurna Sanctuary.

Annapurna South climbing route

From Annapurna Base Camp the route to the summit takes climbers to advanced base camp on the west bank of the south face glacier. Climbing up the glacier to camp 1 is the next ascent. Then camp 2 at 5,970 m. Camp 3 is the last camp. It is at 6,400m. The summit is about 800 meters higher.

Though peak climbing on the Annapurna Massif can be extremely dangerous, it is rewarding. The mountain views are unparalleled in landscape beauty.

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