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Asia, Nepal, Western Nepal, Janak Himal, Jannu, Wall of Shadows, Ascent

Jannu, Wall of Shadows, Ascent. Athol Whimp and Andrew Lindblade made a rare alpine- style ascent of the north face of Jannu (a.k.a. Kumbhakarna, 7710m) in the Nepal Himalaya during the spring. The pair went to Jannu to attempt its stunning unclimbed north face direct. They were forced to abandon the route when, during their second attempt, their portaledge (and nearly them) was destroyed by a rockfall.

Still determined to climb the mountain, the pair turned their attention to the Wall of Shadows, the left-hand icefields and rock bands of the 2200-meter north face. This face was first climbed by a big, fixed-rope Japanese expedition in 1976. The only alpine-style ascents were made in 1987 by a Dutch team (of which two men died during the descent), and by the two-man team of Erik DeCamp and the late great Pierre Beghin. Despite many attempts, Jannu had not been climbed since 1992—and the north face not since 1987. Tomo Cesen’s claim to having soloed a new route on the north face in 1989 is highly dubious, and strong international doubt exists about this claimed ascent.

Athol and Andrew departed their Camp II (5450m) on May 12 at 3:30 a.m. and climbed through the severely ice-avalanche-swept lower icefields to 6100 meters by early afternoon in clear weather. The next day they climbed through the hard ice and rock bands to 6500 meters, battling through many spindrift avalanches. On May 14 they reached 6750 meters and rested under a ’schrund through more snowfall. Leaving their tent and sleeping bags here, the pair left for the summit at 1:30 a.m. on May 15. By 9:30 a.m. they gained the summit ridge, and immediately knew they were going to have one, maybe two, nights out in order to reach the summit. At dusk, after spending the day climbing the intricate summit ridge in sporadically windy and stormy conditions, they were caught in a strong electrical storm. Both came alive with electricity.

The night was spent in a small ice cave on the edge of the north face at 7600 meters. It reached -20°C that night, and the pair fought off frostbite and exposure.

Athol and Andrew reached the summit at 10 a.m. the following morning, four hours after leaving the cave. Then, in a long and debilitating effort, they continued down to their tent at 6750 meters, arriving at 9:30 p.m., nearly 48 hours after leaving. They rested on May 17, and downclimbed and abseiled the face to the Camp II névé on May 18.

With the continued commercial nature of Himalayan mountaineering, their lightweight, two-person expedition was in stark contrast to the estimated crowd of 700 people at Everest Base Camp, and 300 people at Kangchenjunga South Base Camp.

Andrew Lindblade, Australia