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Cumbrian explorers off to the world’s most dangerous mountain range

Jamie Annetts on a previous expedition
Jamie Annetts on a previous expedition

[A]N EXPLORER from Staveley is making final preparations for an expedition to the world’s most dangerous mountain range.

Jamie Annetts is heading off to tackle two peaks on Annapurna, the tenth highest mountain, with Matt Stapley from Penrith, this weekend.

Annapurna has several summits along its ridge and has earned the title of the world’s deadliest mountain because it claims the lives of more than 40 per cent of climbers who attempt it.

Annapurna II has only been summited by five groups (15 people) in the 56 years since Cumbrian mountaineering legend Sir Chris Bonington made the first ascent of the peak back in May 1960.

Jamie, 26 (the same age as Sir Chris was when he summited) is no stranger to danger and is confident he is prepared to meet the challenge, he said: “I feel well prepared. Among other things, I led an expedition to climb Elbrus, 5,642m, the highest mountain in Europe in June, I led two expeditions to climb the highest mountain in northern Africa, Toubkal, 4,167m, in summer and winter conditions.

“I climbed Kilimanjaro, 5,895m, in Tanzania last October and I climbed Mount Kenya, 5,199m, last November. I have done three polar crossings this year, two on the Hardangervidda plateau which is 135km dragging a 35kg pulk across Arctic tundra and also an east to west crossing of Spitsbergen in Svalbard, Iceland, where there are more polar bears than humans. In between my big adventures he is climbing with clients and friends in the Lake District pretty much every day.

“Annurpurna II is at extreme altitude, anything above 7,500m, sleeping becomes very difficult, digesting food is near impossible and the risk of high altitude related issues are greatly increased. It’s is just below 8000m high – 7,937m – so just below what they call the ‘Death Zone’ which means the height of a mountain where you can’t acclimatise.”

“After Ama Dablam, 6,812m, which I climbed in October 2013, I have wanted to climb above 7,500m and ultimately my goal is to climb above 8,000m. I want a soul refresh and to get away from work and running the business. I want to push myself to tears, get out of my comfort zone, experience the euphoria and create some lifelong memories. Ama Dablam is a key lifetime achievement which I am reminded of every time I look at the photo in my lounge.

“I like the simplicity of natural living, of survival, of being where nothing matters except making sure you get up and keep yourself well. I don’t often get the time to push myself. It’s nice to be in a position that I see my clients in. They’re usually worried about whether they can achieve something – whereas when I am guiding, I always know I can achieve it. It’s nice to feel that fear.

“To climb at that height is inconceivable Once we’re on that ridge, we are as likely to get rescued as if we were on the moon. No helicopter can come to rescue us, nobody is going to come and help. The worst bit of the climb is going to be traverse along the ridge between Annapurna IV and II. We’re not taking oxygen because we haven’t got any support on the mountain but also because we want to know where we are with our bodies, we need to know how we are without the artificial support.

“Sir Chris Bonington kindly had a chat with me on the phone about our plans and it was great because he reassured us that all the decisions we have made are sound. He warned us to make sure we have enough in us before we commit to the full traverse as we have to get back and he said the siege tactic is the way to go as oxygen isn’t practical. He wished us luck and said whatever happens we will have an unforgettably fantastic experience.”

In contrast, Jamie has just returned from leading an adventure trekking expedition to one of the seven wonders of the world – Petra, in Jordan.

“I was at the lowest point in the world – the Dead Sea – where the temperatures were 36 celsius and we’re heading to one of the highest points in the world where the temperatures will drop to minus 20 or 30.

“Risk is a funny thing and it is difficult to explain why we take them. What’s more risky? In the hotel in Jordan we were looking at the West Bank and thinking about the Middle East conflict and the fact we were in missile range. Is it more risky to attempt to climb a mountain where you take calculated risks based on the best information you have?”

Annapurna II is a remote peak which Jamie will approach from Nepal up the West Ridge – this stretches for three kilometres above 7000 metres. One of the problems getting up there is you have to tackle Annapurna IV on the way and the whole mountain range is hard and high.

“We’ll set up a base camp where all the kit for the mountain will be. We’ll also set up three higher camps which have two purposes – one is to make sure we have the food and equipment we’ll need as we head for the summit at strategic points but also to help us acclimatise.”

While Jamie is on expedition, his family at home will be able to track his progress on as he will carry a spot device which sends a signal and pinpoints his route.

“I’ll be sharing photos and keeping my blog updated with our progress while we’re away at www.expedadventure.com”

“So far this year I have spent 200 days helping other people achieve their dreams and guide their adventures. It is important that I take the time to go an take on a huge challenge and achieve mine too. It’s what my business is about.”

Jamie Annetts is the Director of Exped Adventure, based in Staveley, near Kendal. When he is not heading off to climb the world’s deadliest mountain, he helps other people achieve their mountaineering or polar expedition dreams.

After Annapurna he will begin a four-month season of expeditions to Argentina, Morocco and Norway.

First he’s heading on a three-week trip to Aconcagua in Argentina in January. It’s the highest mountain outside the Himalaya and lies on the border with Chile.

Then he’s off to Morocco for an eight-day mountaineering course on Toubkal – the highest mountain in north Africa – where he and his clients will wake up and watch the sunrise from the summit.

March and April will see him head to Norway, first to Hardangervidda for an eight-day expedition pulling a sled across the high plateau and then to Svalbard for a 13 night ski crossing of the polar wilderness. These two trips involve skiing and being self-sufficient as well as being able to protect yourself from polar bears.

Find out more about Exped Adventures at www.expedadventure.com

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