Once C.A.M.P., one of Tomaz Humar’s major sponsors, released details of the Slovenian’s bold solo ascent of Annapurna East (8026m), it became clear that Humar had not, in the event, climbed any new ground.
After arriving in the Annapurna Sanctuary, Humar first acclimatized by climbing the popular trekking peak of Tharpa Chuli (aka Tent Peak, 5663m). On October 24, with a Sherpa companion, Jagat Limbu, he crossed the South Annapurna Glacier and climbed up to a glacial terrace below the east rib of Annapurna, where the pair camped for the night at 5800m. To this point the route followed the line taken by previous attempts and ascents of Annapurna’s long east ridge and features a section of complex ground, including a tricky rock buttress through the icefall. Prior to this, Humar had not slept above 5300m and quite rightly decided to spend the next day furthering his acclimatization by staying put in camp. On the 26th he set off at 6 a.m., taking minimal gear; just bivouac equipment, food and fuel, but leaving behind rope, helmet and harness. Jagat Limbu would wait at this camp until Humar returned.
Humar began climbing the south face of Kangsar Kang (aka Roc Noir, 7485m), slanting left toward the crest of the long east ridge above. Surprisingly, for someone whose intentions appear to have been a new route in this area of the mountain, he seems to have been completely unware of the ascent of the east rib in 1988 by legendary Poles, Artur Hajzer and Jerzy Kukuczka, who climbed the 1500-meter snow and ice spur to Annapurna’s east ridge and then continued upwards to the East Summit. Not surprisingly, he was also unaware of the little-known alpine-style ascent of the south face of Kangsar Kang in 2000 by a three-man party, reported in the November 12 Newswire. In fact, the line followed in 2000 is the most logical on this section of the face, being exposed to serac fall for only twenty minutes near the bottom of the wall at ca. 6000 meters: the Polish route is objectively more dangerous and for a greater length. Humar followed the 2000 line exactly, as confirmed by two of the original party, who also note that on their ascent they found no technically difficult terrain.
In windy conditions Humar climbed to 7200m, where at 3 p.m. he excavated a small ice cave for the night. The wind strengthened, and the Slovenian elected to spend the whole of the 27th inside the cave, partially due to the weather but more to aid his acclimatization before going for the summit. At 6 a.m. on the 28th he re-commenced his ascent and in a couple of hours had reached the crest of the east ridge close to the exit of the Polish route. The wind from the north was very strong, but Humar, obviously feeling stronger, made excellent rapid progress up the crest and reached the 8026-meter east summit before 3 p.m. Continuing to the main summit from this point is tricky, lengthy and very committing: not the sort of thing to consider alone and under the prevailing conditions. In any case the main summit of Annapurna had been Humar’s first 8000-meter peak, which he climbed via the north face back in 1995. Radioing to Jagat Limbu that he was on his way down, he retraced his steps and eventually regained the 7200m bivouac site a little before 8:30 p.m., having been forced to wait for the moon to rise to navigate the last section.
Next day he descended to Limbu in four hours, and the pair continued down to base camp, reaching it that night. Despite the fact that no new route was achieved, this was a committing solo–the first of Annapurna’s east summit–carried out in good style and with a rapid climb on the lengthy summit day. Annapurna East was first ascended in 1974 by the Spanish, Jose Manuel Anglada, Emilio Civis and Jordi Pons, who reached the summit via the north ridge. It has been climbed on only a handful of occasions since.