Annapurna Massif

Last updated

South Face of Annapurna I (Main).jpg
South Face of Annapurna I (Main)
Highest point
Elevation 8,091 m (26,545 ft)
Ranked 10th
Prominence 2,984 m (9,790 ft) [1] [2]
Ranked 100th
Parent peak Cho Oyu
Isolation 34 km (21 mi)  OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Listing Eight-thousander
Coordinates 28°35′46″N83°49′13″E / 28.59611°N 83.82028°E / 28.59611; 83.82028 Coordinates: 28°35′46″N83°49′13″E / 28.59611°N 83.82028°E / 28.59611; 83.82028
Nepal rel location map.svg
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Location Gandaki Zone, Nepal
Parent range Himalayas
First ascent 3 June 1950
Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal
(First winter ascent 3 February 1987 Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer)
Easiest route northwest face

Annapurna ( /ˌænəˈpʊərnəˌ-ˈpɜːr-/ ; [3] [4] Sanskrit, Nepali, Newar: अन्नपूर्ण) is a massif in the Himalayas in north-central Nepal that includes one peak over 8,000 metres (26,247 ft), thirteen peaks over 7,000 metres (22,966 ft), and sixteen more over 6,000 metres (19,685 ft). [5] The massif is 55 kilometres (34 mi) long, and is bounded by the Kali Gandaki Gorge on the west, the Marshyangdi River on the north and east, and by Pokhara Valley on the south. At the western end, the massif encloses a high basin called the Annapurna Sanctuary. The highest peak of the massif, Annapurna I Main, is the tenth highest mountain in the world at 8,091 metres (26,545 ft) above sea level. Maurice Herzog led a French expedition to its summit through the north face in 1950, making it the first of the eight-thousanders to be climbed and the only 8,000 meter-peak to be summited with a safe descent on the first try. [6]


The entire massif and surrounding area are protected within the 7,629-square-kilometre (2,946 sq mi) Annapurna Conservation Area, the first and largest conservation area in Nepal. The Annapurna Conservation Area is home to several world-class treks, including Annapurna Sanctuary and Annapurna Circuit.

Historically, the Annapurna peaks have been among the world's most treacherous mountains to climb with the particular case of the extremely steep south face of Annapurna I Main - a wall of rock that rises 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) - making it one of the most difficult climbs in the world. [7] By March 2012, there had been 191 summit ascents of Annapurna I Main, and 61 climbing fatalities on the mountain. [8] This fatality-to-summit ratio (1:3.1, or 32%) is the highest of any of the eight-thousanders.

In October 2014, at least 43 people were killed as a result of snowstorms and avalanches on and around Annapurna, thus resulting in Nepal's worst ever trekking disaster. [9] The most recent report of human casualty has been that of 17 January 2020, due to an avalanche triggered by heavy snowfall. [10]


The mountain is named after Annapurna, the Hindu goddess of food and nourishment, who is said to reside there. The name Annapurna is derived from the Sanskrit-language words purna ("filled") and anna ("food"), and can be translated as "everlasting food". [11] Many streams descending from the slopes of the Annapurna Massif provide water for the agricultural fields and pastures located at lower elevations. [12]


The Annapurna massif contains six prominent peaks over 7,200 m (23,620 ft) elevation:

MountainElevation Rank (in World) ProminenceCoordinate
Annapurna I (Main)8,091 m (26,545 ft)10th2,984 m 28°35′42″N83°49′08″E / 28.595°N 83.819°E / 28.595; 83.819 (Annapurna I)
Annapurna II 7,937 m (26,040 ft)16th2,437 m 28°32′20″N84°08′13″E / 28.539°N 84.137°E / 28.539; 84.137 (Annapurna II)
Annapurna III 7,555 m (24,786 ft)42nd703 m 28°35′06″N84°00′00″E / 28.585°N 84.000°E / 28.585; 84.000 (Annapurna III)
Annapurna IV 7,525 m (24,688 ft)47th255 m 28°32′20″N84°05′13″E / 28.539°N 84.087°E / 28.539; 84.087 (Annapurna IV)
Annapurna South 7,219 m (23,684 ft)101st775 m 28°31′05″N83°48′22″E / 28.518°N 83.806°E / 28.518; 83.806 (Annapurna South)
Gangapurna7,455 m (24,457 ft)59th563 m 28°36′22″N83°57′54″E / 28.606°N 83.965°E / 28.606; 83.965 (Gangapurna)

Less prominent and other peaks in the Annapurna Himal include:

The Annapurna Himal from the northeast. Left to right: Annapurna II and IV (close together); a major col; Annapurna III and Gangapurna; Annapurna I.

Climbing expeditions

The Annapurna massif, view from aircraft Annapurna Massif Aerial View.jpg
The Annapurna massif, view from aircraft
The south face of Annapurna I Annapurna I during sunrise.jpg
The south face of Annapurna I
Reflection of Annapurna Dakshin (South) Mountain in fresh water Reflection of Annapurna I.jpg
Reflection of Annapurna Dakshin (South) Mountain in fresh water

Annapurna I

Annapurna I was the first 8,000-metre (26,200 ft) peak to be climbed. [8] Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal, of the French Annapurna expedition led by Herzog (including Lionel Terray, Gaston Rébuffat, Marcel Ichac, Jean Couzy, Marcel Schatz, Jacques Oudot, Francis de Noyelle), reached the summit on 3 June 1950. [13] Ichac made a documentary of the expedition, called Victoire sur l'Annapurna. Its summit was the highest summit attained for three years, until the first successful ascent of Mount Everest (although 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 also without using supplementary oxygen, members of a British expedition led by Chris Bonington that 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 Colonel 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, composed of Vera Komarkova and Irene Miller, and Sherpas Mingma Tsering and Chewang Ringjing, reached the top at 3:30 pm on 15 October 1978. The second summit team, Alison Chadwick-Onyszkiewicz and Vera Watson, died during this climb. [14]

In 1981 Polish expedition Zakopane Alpine Club set a new route on Annapurna I Central (8051 m). Maciej Berbeka and Bogusław Probulski reached the summit on 23 May 1981. The route called Zakopiańczyków Way was recognized as the best achievement of the Himalayan season in 1981.

On 3 February 1987, Polish climbers Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer made the first winter ascent of Annapurna I. [15]

The first solo ascent of the south face was made in October 2007 by Slovenian climber Tomaž Humar; [16] [17] [18] [19] he climbed to the Roc Noir and then to Annapurna East (8,047m). [20]

On 8 and 9 October 2013 Swiss climber Ueli Steck soloed the Lafaille route [20] on the main and highest part of the face; [21] this was his third attempt on the route and has been called "one of the most impressive Himalayan climbs in history", [22] with Steck taking 28 hours to make the trip from Base Camp to summit and back again. [23]

Annapurna from above Annapurna ali 2012092.jpg
Annapurna from above

Fatality rate

Annapurna I has the greatest fatality rate of all the 14 eight-thousanders: as of March 2012, there have been 52 deaths during ascents, 191 successful ascents, and nine deaths upon descent. The ratio of 34 deaths per 100 safe returns on Annapurna I is followed by 29 for K2 and 21 for Nanga Parbat. [8] Climbers killed on the peak include Britons Ian Clough in 1970 and Alex MacIntyre in 1982, Frenchman Pierre Béghin  [ fr ] in 1992, Kazakh Russian Anatoli Boukreev in 1997, Spaniard Iñaki Ochoa in 2008, [24] and Korean Park Young-seok in 2011. [25]

Other peaks

Gangapurna was first climbed May 6, 1965, by a German expedition led by Günther Hauser, via the East Ridge. The summit party comprised 11 members of the expedition. [26]

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.

Mount Machhapuchchhre (6,993 m or 22,943 ft), named after its resemblance to a fish-tail, is another important peak, though it just misses the 7,000 metre mark. Mount Machhapuchchhre 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. Mount Machhapuchchhre 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.


The Annapurna Conservation Area (7,629 km2) 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 [27] ); the Annapurna Sanctuary route to Annapurna base camp; and the Annapurna Circuit, which circles the Annapurna Himal itself and includes the Jomsom route. [28] 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. Mustang is also increasingly becoming popular for mountain biking because of the construction of roads undertaken by the Nepali government in the region.

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. [29] [30] Trekkers are required to purchase a special permit for trekking from the Nepal Immigration Office, with the permit generally being valid for ten days. [31]

2014 trekking disaster

In October 2014, at least 43 people were killed, and some 175 injured, as a result of snowstorms and avalanches on and around Annapurna, including trekkers from Nepal, Israel, Canada, India, Slovakia and Poland. Between 10 and 50 people were thought likely to be missing. [32] [33] It was believed that about 100 trekkers had left a guest house at 4,800 metres (15,700 ft), to climb to the top of Thorong La pass and then descend. [33]

The authorities were criticized for not giving sufficient warning of the approaching bad weather. [33] By 18 October, some 289 people were reported as having been rescued. An official from the Nepal Ministry of Tourism said on 18 October that helicopters were looking for survivors and bodies in snowy areas at up to 5,790 metres (19,000 ft), and were trying to reach 22 hikers stranded at Thorong La. The incident was said to be Nepal's worst-ever trekking disaster. [9]

See also

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Hiunchuli is a peak situated in the Annapurna massif of the Gandaki province in north-central Nepal. The mountain is an extension of the Annapurna South. Between this peak and the Machapuchare is a narrow section of the Modi Khola valley that constitutes the sole access to the Annapurna Sanctuary.

Jean-Christophe Lafaille

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Machapuchare Mountain in Nepal

Machapuchare, Machhapuchchhre or Machhapuchhre, is a mountain situated in the Annapurna massif of Gandaki Pradesh, north-central Nepal. Its highest peak has never been officially climbed due to the impossibility of gaining a permit from the government of Nepal.

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Further reading