Annapurna Death Rate can be a significant concern for those willing to summit the mighty Annapurna shortly.
Annapurna, one of the eight-thousanders, is the world’s tenth tallest peak. The mountain lies at an elevation of 8091 meters and is notorious for its dangers. The expedition to Annapurna’s peak is one of the most dangerous mountain climbing tasks.
Annapurna I, the primary peak of the Annapurna range, had the highest fatality-summit ratio. The mountain held this record for the longest time but has dropped recently. The Annapurna death rate used to stand at a whopping 32% in 2012 and has dropped to 20% as of 2022.
The Annapurna death rate lies below estimates of Mount K2 death rates, which is about 24%. As of 2022, 365 people have been able to summit the Annapurna peak, and 72 people have died trying.
The Annapurna death rate results from avalanches, unpredictable weather, and dangerous routes.
The high-altitude mountains pose risks of avalanches due to snowstorms. Avalanches are much more fatal in eight-thousanders as the impact is worse. Annapurna, along with nearby peaks like Dhaulagiri, also poses this threat. The 2014 snowstorm of Dhaulagiri caused the death of 43 people due to avalanches.
Along with avalanches, the unpredictable weather in the Himalayas is another danger. Snowfalls and storms could occur at any time of the year. They destroy the routes and bring health hazards. The results of unpredictable weather could also cause accidents and falls.
The complex and steep nature of the climbing route also makes the Annapurna climb dangerous. The mountain’s south face is at 7,219 meters (23,684 feet). It is one of the most challenging climbs.
Let us break down these significant factors leading to Annapurna’s high death rate.
Avalanches are sliding off of massive snow blocks from high-altitude places. Such snow blocks fall onto lower elevation places and affect the people trekking down. Avalanches could either occur spontaneously, like through precipitation or snow blocks weakening. External factors like human activities or earthquakes could also cause avalanches.
Those who face avalanches could die through hypothermia, suffocation, or trauma. When in high elevations, avalanches could cause falls and accidents too.
Annapurna Avalanches frequently occur, as the mountains have snowfalls and storms all year round. The technical climbing route is at massive risk due to avalanches. The climbing route for Annapurna even has a window for an avalanche-free hike. People wait out their turn to pass avalanche-prone zone to ascent safely.
Your chances of surviving in an avalanche’s course are unknown. It depends on the avalanche’s intensity and the location where you encounter it. Rescue squads might be present in lower regions but not throughout the ascent. You are probably aware of the Everest expedition and the rescue helicopters that can ascend to camp III. On Annapurna, however, there isn’t any such assistance, so you’re entirely alone.
Out of 72 deaths, 43 of the fatalities of Annapurna ascent are results of Avalanches. The risks of avalanches and their dangers are evident from such data.
Challenging climbing routes
There are around twelve possible routes to ascent Annapurna mountain. The Northwest Face is Annapurna’s most straightforward ascent path out of the twelve routes. However, climbing up the South Face is the most demanding route.
Annapurna’s trails are notorious for being challenging and technical. Mountaineers must contend with the high altitude, cliffs, crumbled/slippery trails, etc. Paying attention to the environment, equipment breakdowns, and errors in operations, and having the technical skills to ascend ice and snow is also necessary. This climb needs to be planned with informed and skilled guides first.
You must also navigate routes independently as the mountain is in the remote Himalayan range. You might get stranded and lose your route, which is another issue.
There might also be issues regarding the visibility of the tours due to the weather. You could risk tripping or falling down slopes if the routes are not visible. Falls during an ascent of mountains area is pretty deadly.
Compared to flat land, the weather is more erratic in mountainous places. This is partly because mountain weather is dependent on several variables. The variables include altitude, direction, speed of wind, humidity, temperature, and air pressure.
These variables’ interaction with each other will also increase their unpredictable nature. But, there are various recognizable weather patterns throughout the Himalayan ranges. Unpredictable weather doesn’t mean you should avoid or be afraid of it. Variable weather means you should always be ready for everything and have faith in your gut when exploring.
However, the optimism for high mountain ascents like Annapurna must be low. Annapurna lies in to the further northern region of Nepal. Due to its location, the weather is harsher and more unpredictable than on Everest. The mountain range receives snow almost all year round. Moreover, strong gusts of winds, rainfalls at lower elevations, and heavy snowstorms can occur anytime.
Harsh and unpredictable weather in Annapurna could cause frostbite, slip and fall injuries, etc. You could even freeze to death or lapse into a coma somewhere. The weather could affect the icy roads, and you might even tumble down a crevasse or get wounded on rocks.
Annapurna lies in the death zone, 8000 meters above sea level. Hence, climbing Annapurna requires oxygen. Unpredictable weather could cause health issues that would require significantly more oxygen supplements. Such issues could cause a shortage of oxygen for the trip and be life-threatening.
Lack of support system
The extensive range of Annapurna Massif does not have enough resources to support mountain climbing locally. The local support of Annapurna is very scarce and difficult to access. You must face it alone if anything is wrong during your trip.
The support system of Everest is relatively more robust than that of Annapurna. Everest houses many local resources, starting way back from Lukla. Everest’s reputation for being the world’s peak might aid it. But Annapurna, however, does not get the same treatment as Everest. Due to such a rare local support system, Annapurna peak climbing is very tough. Most experienced mountain experts repeatedly think if they want to approach this peak.
Moreover, the Annapurna ascent also does not have the availability of Sherpas like Everest. The climb has no fixed ropes, so the route gets more technical. If things go wrong, you need to manage it yourself. If caught in an avalanche, you and your team must help each other. If you cannot, there are rare chances of getting you out. More prolonged exposure to avalanche snow could result in extreme health conditions. Even death or coma lapse could occur in some situations.
No one will set up camp or make meals; you must do it yourself. Transporting your essentials for the ascent should be done by you. The essentials include medical supplies, food, oxygen tanks, tents, etc.
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Health hazards of Annapurna ascent
Altitude sickness is a health hazard that occurs when people rapidly gain a lot of altitudes. Such sickness usually occurs when people go mountain climbing or hike at higher altitudes. Altitude sickness can be discovered by symptoms like exhaustion, dizziness, headache, etc. Vomiting, nausea, and shortness of breath could also be a result.
The hazards brought by altitude sickness come in different forms. These forms depend on the severity of the illness and are usually dependent on the altitude. Altitude sickness gets progressively worse and ultimately leads to coma lapses or death.
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
The earlier altitude sickness on lower levels is called acute mountain sickness. Acute mountain sickness can occur at comparatively low altitudes. You could get symptoms of AMS as low as below 3000 meters elevation. AMS is the first and most easy to mitigate among other forms of altitude sickness. It has general symptoms like headache, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, nose bleeds, etc.
People mitigate AMS by taking rest or returning to a lower altitude. If you do not handle AMS symptoms, they could manifest into other stages of HAPE or HACE. AMS could occur as low as before the Annapurna Base Camp.
High-altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE)
The next level of altitude sickness is HAPE. HAPE translates to High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema, resulting from the fluid secretion in the lungs. HAPE occurs either due to worsening AMS or an ascent higher than 3000 meters suddenly. Symptoms of HACE include worsening of AMS-like symptoms. People get a tightening sensation in their chest, get dry coughs with blood, have icy and dry skin, etc. A person cannot handle these symptoms alone and needs assistance.
To mitigate symptoms of HAPE, you need to use supplemental oxygen and rest. Traveling further while showing symptoms of HAPE might lead to HACE or, worse, death. The occurrences of HAPE are very probable during Annapurna ascent.
High-altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE)
HACE or High-altitude cerebral edema, is a worse form of HAPE. It is the worst type of altitude sickness one can get. HACE is a condition where the brain secretes excess fluids in the brain. The dangers of HACE persist when one goes above the height of 6000 meters. The Annapurna ascent needs you to reach as far as 8000 meters above. So the likelihood of being sick with HACE is very high.
Symptoms like blurred vision, altered mental state, hallucinations, etc., occur due to HACE. HACE needs people to act immediately toward the victim as they will likely be unable to. The patient must receive an immediate oxygen supply and be taken to a lower altitude region. Continuing the ascent after the symptoms stabilize is not a good idea with HACE.
At high-elevation places, oxygen saturation levels drop considerably as air pressure decreases. Low oxygen levels often cause the hazards mentioned above of altitude sickness. But oxygen deprivation in itself could be hazardous to health.
The oxygen levels in the airdrop as low as 50% in areas below 6000 meters altitude. The 8000 meters elevations have air only saturated by oxygen up to 33%. The name of “death zone” for 8000 meters places is adequate considering the dangers of low oxygen levels.
During your ascent to Annapurna peaks, you need to accommodate to oxygen level. But this accommodation must be a slow process and almost always requires supplements. Extra supplemental oxygen can prepare you for any danger to come. Oxygen deficiency issues can manifest as other health hazards. So, you cannot take it lightly.
Despite dangers in ascent, treks in the lower Annapurna region do not require supplemental oxygen. Trips like the Annapurna circuit trek take you to places like Thorong La pass. But oxygen accommodation issues here are solved easily for the general population. Hence, the Annapurna circuit death rate is lower, and the treks are much more manageable than ascents.
Frostbites are injuries that cause the freezing of underlying tissues of the skin. This condition occurs when you expose yourself to a freezing climate. Initially, frostbite causes your skin to get very cold with a prickling feeling. Then your skin becomes numb, and you can see discoloration on the skin. Frostbite can eventually lead to the loss of specific external organs of your body.
Frostbites are common occurrences in mountain climbing due to the freezing climate. Most mountains have snowfalls or snowstorms all around the year. So, the likelihood of frostbite occurrences is not uncommon. If avalanches result in frostbite, they could be more dangerous.
You should wear warm thermal clothes covering your whole body throughout the ascent. You also must avoid getting amid avalanches to prevent dangerous forms of frostbite.