Asia, India, Garhwal, Janhkuth, West Face Attempt

Publication Year: 2005.

Janhkuth, west face attempt. The main goal of the expedition was to make the first ascent of a 6,805m peak known as Janhkuth, north west of Chaukhamba. Only one other party has attempted to climb this mountain: the Austrians, Josef Jochler, and Christian Zenz, in 2002. Their attempt was stymied by inclement weather to such an extent that the climbers barely left Base Camp. Like Jochler and Zenz’s attempt, our expedition proved unsuccessful in attaining the summit.

After establishing base camp at Sudenban (4,535m) on the lateral moraine of the Gangotri Glacier, Malcolm Bass (UK), Marty Beare (NZ), Andy Brown (UK), Pat Deavoll (NZ) and Paul Figg (UK) used five porters to help place a “dump camp” at 4,635m. They then ferried loads to an Advanced Camp (5,000m) at the base of the Maiandi Bamak. For this their snow shoes proved invaluable. By September 27 the New Zealand couple had three weeks food at Advanced Camp, while the three British, opting for a “lighter-loads, more-mileage” approach, took until October 4, though during this time all the climbers reached a Camp 1 at 5,230m on the Maiandi Bamak below the West Face of Janhkuth.

After a spell of heavy snowfall, Beare and Deavoll started up the central couloir on the west face at midnight on October 6. They climbed for 12 hours up 45° deep snow to camp at 5,700m. Next morning they continued up steeper ground, including two pitches of 80° ice, and after another 12 or more hours reached the crest of the South Ridge at 6,400m. That night Deavoll developed a bad headache. In addition a big electrical storm hit the mountain, though the heavy snowfall was at lower altitudes. Next morning Beare reached 6,500m on a horizontal section of the ridge leading to mixed ground beneath the summit and then returned to camp. He estimated another two days would probably be required to reach the top. Unfortunately, Deavoll continued to deteriorate and by evening was vomiting. The following morning was cold and with Deavoll clearly very ill the pair had no option but to descend (10 rappels from Abalakovs, then down-climbing).

Meantwhile at 10pm on the 6th, Bass, Brown and Figg left Camp 1 and climbed mixed ground up a buttress line to the right of the central couloir, reaching a point roughly level with the first New Zealand camp (ca 5,700m). The storm during the evening of the 7th deposited far more snow at this altitude and at midnight they decided to descend before retreat became impossible due to building avalanche danger.

By the 10th heavy snowfall and cold temperatures had arrived and it was obvious further climbing was out of the question. The team had a difficult time stripping their camps and breaking a trail down to Tapovan so that porters could reach base camp but by the 18th they had made it safely to the road at Gangotri.

Marty Beare, New Zealand, and Malcolm Bass, United Kingdom