American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Nepal, Kumbharkarna (Jannu), Southwest Spur

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984

Kumbharkarna (Jannu), Southwest Spur. The Nepalese name for what has long been called “Jannu” is Kumbhakarna, the name used by the inhabitants of the high valleys, who have never heard the name “Jannu.” (Kumbhakarna is now the official name. —Editor.) The first ascent was made by the French in 1962 by the very long south ridge. A French reconnaissance in 1960 had directed its first attempts toward the southwest spur, but after a huge avalanche had fallen from the upper face, they gave up this route. The spur was twice assaulted by Slovaks in 1979 and 1981. The second expedition scaled the icefall between Camps I and II, “the first real difficulty and certainly the toughest of the route,” and continued to Camp III by a snow gully. From there they followed a chimney with an overhang at its entry, which led them to the ridge. They followed the ridge to the top of the spur and onto the Throne, where Camp V was pitched. There they divided. The first group went toward the west ridge but they stopped some 100 meters from the summit on May 22, 1981 while the second group crossed to the 1962 French route by which they reached the summit on May 23. Our expedition, which completed the entire route, was composed of Elisabeth Julliard, Dr. Denis Ajasse, Dominique Bourret, Roger Fillon, Luc Jourjon, Jean-Noël Roche, Pascal Sombardier and me as leader. The approach from Dhankuta through Ghunsa took 14 days. From Ghunsa we made our way to Base Camp on March 29 by sometimes snow-covered paths with a few yaks in addition to the porters. Base Camp at 4500 meters was on the right bank of the Yamatari Glacier. Camp I was set up on the Yamatari Glacier on March 31. On April 1 we reached the foot of the dangerous icefall. From the 2nd to the 6th we reconnoitered. We had to climb a rock comer groove leading to a 70° ice chimney. This led to a gully which got us to a glacial shelf. At first this shelf was bounded at the top by a 10- to 12-meter ice wall, which had to be climbed. On April 12 much of the wall collapsed, leaving a chaos of ice blocks. The route then went eastward. After traversing a crevassed area, we reached snow slopes. We proceeded to Camp II at 5500 meters on the left of the lower part of the ridge. From Camp II, a traverse led to a snow gully which ended at a rock chimney which overhung for a few meters. The chimney led to a secondary ridge which petered out on the west face. A traverse right allowed us to get to the crest of the southwest spur which we followed to a gully and a chimney and finally steep snow and Camp III. It took until April 17 to establish this camp at 6000 meters. Above Camp III the spur is rock and then snow and ice. Though easy at the beginning, the slope became steep and the ice Very hard. We reached an overhanging sérac with a 30-meter-high, 65° ice slope. Above, there were easier but steep passages which led to the big glacial formations of Camp IV, which we established at 6500 meters on April 20. Roche, Jourjon and Fillon fixed ropes above Camp IV on April 26. On the 27th they set up Camp V at 7000 meters. Unlike the Slovaks who went up the edge of the buttress, we headed up the right of the spur on wide slopes which ended in a couloir which led to the Throne Glacier and Camp V. On April 28 we moved Camp V up the Throne Glacier to 7300 meters. On the 29th the three climbers climbed steep snow to the bergschrund under the summit tower. On the rocks they found frayed Slovak ropes. The route followed a system of cracks and a dihedral on the right which allowed access to the snow above. This was the Slovak high point. Above the snow, a climb of some 80 meters, they got to a chimney which took them to the snow slopes of the summit. They got to the summit (7710 meters, 25,296 feet) at three P.M. Elisabeth Julliard and I had been at Camp IV for two days. We got to the entry of the final chimney of the southwest spur, but a lack of equipment forced us to turn around.

Henri Sigayret, Club Alpin Français

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