TWENTY TWO YEARS AGO, years ago Anatoli Bukreev, Kazakh climber,died in an avalanche during a winter attempt on Annapurna I South face, aged 39
He ascended Kangchenjunga in 1989, Dhaulagiri I twice (1991 and 1995), Everest four times (1991, 1995, 1996 and 1997), K2 in 1993, Makalu in 1994, Manaslu in 1996, Lhotse twice (1996 and 1997), Cho Oyu and Shisha Pangma Central-Peak in 1996 and Broad Peak Foresummit and Gasherbrum II in 1997
Three weeks after receiving the David A. Sowles Memorial Award, Boukreev began his attempt to climb the south face of Annapurna I (8,091 m or 26,545 ft) along with Simone Moro, an accomplished Italian mountaineer. They were accompanied by Dimitri Sobolev, a cinematographer from Kazakhstan who was documenting the attempt. On December 25 around noon, Boukreev and Moro were fixing ropes in a couloir at around the 5,700 m (18,700 ft) level. Suddenly, an enormous cornice broke loose from the heights of Annapurna's Western Wall and rumbled down the 800 m (2,600 ft) long couloir. The avalanche knocked Moro down the mountain where he landed just above their tent at Camp I 5,200 m (17,100 ft). Fortuitously, Moro had somehow stayed near the top of the avalanche debris and managed to dig himself out after a few minutes. Unable to see or hear any signs of Boukreev or Sobolev (whom Moro had witnessed disappearing beneath "car-sized blocks of ice"), Moro descended to Annapurna base camp where he was flown by helicopter back to Kathmandu for surgery on his hands, which had been ripped down to the tendons during the fall.
News of the accident reached New Mexico on December 26. Linda Wylie, Boukreev's girlfriend, left for Nepal on December 28. Several attempts were made to reach the avalanche site by helicopter but inclement weather in late December prevented search teams from reaching Camp I. On January 3, 1998, searchers were finally able to reach Camp I and an empty tent. Linda Wylie subsequently issued a somber statement from Kathmandu:
This is the end... there are no hopes of finding him alive
Boukreev had dreamt in detail of dying in an avalanche nine months before his death. The only thing missing was the name of the mountain. When Boukreev's companion tried to convince him to take a different path in life to avoid a fate that Boukreev was convinced of, he responded, "Mountains are my life...my work. It is too late for me to take up another road"
At the site of Annapurna base-camp there is a memorial chorten to Boukreev including a quotation of his
"Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion"
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