The ascent of Annapurna (8,091 metres) will not take its place among the “Everest sprinter’s” list of accomplishments. At 69 years of age, Marc Batard, who holds the record for the speed ascent of Everest in less than 24 hours, has nothing else to prove in the Himalayas. All that remains is the pleasure of going back to relive his exploits undertaken in this world above the clouds. But not at any cost. While a large group of climbers on oxygen headed for the summit, Marc Batard decided to turn back. We interviewed him over the phone in Kathmandu few weeks ago.
What happened on Annapurna ? Why did you turn back ?
Marc Batard : I decided not to take on the huge risks of climbing the route chosen this year. Between Camp 2 at 5700m and Camp 3 at 6700m, you have to climb a mid-section that is several hundred metres long with seracs looming over you and a constant risk of icefall. After leaving the ice shelter we dug at Camp 2, Pasang and I set off with the idea of meeting up with Bertrand Delapierre and Yorick Vion who were already at Camp 3, so we could climb the summit together. I was prepared to take the risk, but at 10 am I decided that taking this route was going to be too dangerous. When I told Pasang, my rope partner, that we were going to turn back, he was so relieved he started crying.