There’s Been Death and Drama on Annapurna This Week
A veteran climber is dead, another is missing, and multiple others are lucky to be alive after a tragic few days in the Himalayas
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What had been a successful season on 26,545-foot Annapurna turned deadly in recent days days. Now, a veteran mountaineer is dead, another is missing, and multiple others are lucky to be alive after daring high-altitude rescues.
Annapurna is notorious for being among the most dangerous peaks above 8,000 meters, and traditionally it was rarely attempted—and only then by the most skilled mountaineers. Of Nepal’s eight peaks above 8000 meters, Annapurna has the lowest number of successful summits at 395, according to The Himalayan Database. Mount Everest, by contrast, has more than 10,000. Annapurna also has the highest death rate amongst Nepali 8000ers at 2.99 percent.
But things are changing on the peak, and in recent years, guides have supplied high levels of support and supplemental oxygen to make the peak more accessible to less experienced climbers. Of the 395 total summits, 129 (33 percent) have occurred in the past three years.
The climbers at Annapurna this year pushed for the summit on April 15-16, and approximately 40 climbers reached the top during a narrow weather window. But according to multiple reports, the group struggled on the descent—some climbers even got lost. When a violent storm hit the peak, climbers became pinned down at a high camp and some became too sick to descend.
Irish climber, Noel Hanna, 56, died in his tent at Camp 4 at 23,300 feet after summiting without supplemental oxygen. Hanna’s wife, Lynne Hanna, confirmed the tragedy in a post on Facebook on Tuesday.
“He returned to the tent took some hot soup and fell asleep never to awaken again, no drama no big story, it was his time to go and he died in the Himalayas,” she wrote. “What better place
for my Mountain Man sleep well Noel.”
An Indian climber named Anurag Maloo, 34, went missing on Monday, April 17, after reportedly falling into a crevasse below Camp 3. Maloo, who is attempting to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents, had abandoned his summit bid and was returning to Base Camp when he disappeared.
On Thursday, reports from Nepal said that a team of rescuers found Maloo deep in a crevasse and extricated him from the ice. The Associated Press reported that he was airlifted to a hospital in Pokhara, however his condition is unknown.
Both Maloo and Hanna were climbing with the Nepali operator Seven Summits Treks.
Perhaps the most dramatic situation involved 27-year-old Indian climber Baljeet Kaur, who went missing on Monday, April 17, after reaching the summit and attempting to descend to Camp 4. Kaur rose to fame in 2022 after becoming the first Indian to ascend four 8,000-meter peaks in a single season. Guiding company Pioneer Expeditions posted updates as rescuers searched the mountain for Kaur, and on Tuesday, April 18, announced that searchers in a helicopter had located her on the peak—and she was alive. According to newspaper The Hindu, Kaur was able to radio for help, and GPS data showed her at 24,193 feet.
On Tuesday, a helicopter team completed a daring long-line rescue and was able to pluck her from the mountain.
“We owe a special debt of gratitude to Captain Cloudy Martin of Kailash Helicopter Services, whose daring and skilled high-altitude helicopter flight made the rescue possible,” wrote Pioneer Expeditions online. “We also wish to acknowledge the vital role played by our Director, Mingma Dorchi, who accompanied Captain Cloudy on the search and helped locate Baljeet.”
A long-line rescue is a technique that involves a rope attached to a rescuer who is lowered to a person in peril. The rescuer attaches the rope to a rescue harness; then, the person is flown to safety. The method requires low winds and good visibility. The highest long-line rescue was in 2013 at 25,590 feet on Everest.
On Annapurna, a window of good weather appeared on Tuesday, allowing crews to rescue other climbers stuck on the mountain with helicopters. Seven Summits Treks’ Executive Director Chhang Dawa Sherpa told the Himalayan Times that three other climbers in its party needed evacuation from Camp 4 after they became sick during the descent. One evacuee, Pakistani climber Shehroze Kashif, 21, is famous in his home country, along with Sajid Ali Sadpara, both of whom reached the Annapurna summit. Sadpara—who has climbed five peaks above 8,000 meters, is the son of the highly renowned Pakistani climber Ali Sadpara, who died while climbing K2 in 2021. Kashif is known within the mountaineering community by his nickname “Broad Boy,” because he ascended 26,414-foot Broad Peak when he was just 17.
The other climbers rescued included Pakistani Naila Kiani and Indian climber Arjun Vajpai. Kiani is the first Pakistani woman to climb Annapurna. On Tuesday, Karrar Haidry of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, confirmed the rescues.
“A helicopter was dispatched from Kathmandu to the higher camps of Annapurna, and the climbers have been safely picked up and taken to Annapurna Base Camp,” Haidry said. “Thank you to all the friends for their support and assistance in this matter.”
A Veteran of Everest Expeditions
A native of Northern Ireland, Hanna was one of his country’s most respected climbers. He had summited Mount Everest on ten occasions, and in 2018 became the first person from the island of Ireland to ascend and descend K2. After his death, tributes to Hanna were published online and in local media.
His sister, Irene Hunter, told BBC News that Hanna “loved a view and he just loved people.” A fellow guide, Robbie Marsh, told the outlet that Hanna had a major impact on the local climbing community. “Part of his legacy is that inspiration that he has given people,” Marsh said.
Hanna served as a police officer for fifteen years in Northern Ireland before tiring of the role, but he still sought the adrenaline rush he had in policing and took up mountaineering. In an interview, Hanna said it was during a 100-mile trek across Nepal in 1999 that he fell in love with the mountains.
In the interview, Hanna tells the story that upon seeing Everest, Lhotse and Cho Oyu, he said to his friend, “Someday, I’ll be on top of those.” His friend replied, “You haven’t even been drinking, and you’re saying things like that.” Smiling, Hanna responded, “I proved him wrong.” Bill Burke, who once held the record for the oldest American to summit Everest, said the Hanna showed amazing strength and courage when in 2017, he led a small Sherpa team to the summit of Burke-Khang, a mountain named after Burke. Hanna and his wife, Lynne, are the only married couple to have summited Everest from the Nepal and Tibet sides.
Officials have yet to publish Hanna’s cause of death, however his sister, Irene, told the BBC that her brother had phoned her earlier, saying he was not feeling well. According to multiple reports Hanna’s body was removed by officials and flown to Kathmandu.