Kham region: Jarjinjabo, Jantno Spire summit block, first ascent. In August Bernie Laforest, Ben Ditto, Jonathan Knight, Steve Cater, and I journeyed to the Jarjinjabo Massif in the Sichuan Province of China. With help from the American climber Jon Otto, we hired a translator and two 4-wheel-drive vehicles. From Chengdu, our drive took us three days over a route that has the reputation of being the highest and worst road in the world. The Chinese are on a paving frenzy, however, and the road is quickly being subdued. Our trip was similar to the American team in 2002 (see Pete Athans’ feature article in the AAJ 2003) in that we traveled first to Litang en route to Zhopu Pasture, the gateway to the Jarjinjabo massif. Our stopover in Litang enabled us to acclimatize, as well as mingle with the Tibetans at the largest horse racing festival in the Kham region.
The dreary rainy weather began to clear as we arrived at our destination, and we quickly started outfitting our high camp and getting acclimatized. Ben and I were psyched for the main wall of Jabo, whereas Jonathan and Bernie were looking to the unclimbed spire atop Janmo, and Steve and Mark simply wanted to climb both formations and explore the surrounding walls.
Over three climbing days Jonathan and Bernie completed three different routes on Janmo Spire that reached a common highpoint. The highpoint positioned them at the base of a summit block, which they began by climbing a short off-width to a ledge. From the ledge they reached the top by delicate face climbing, placing four bolts and one pin on lead from stances and hooks. Their complete route went at IV 5.11R and is reminiscent of a desert tower with a classic summit block pitch. After this they climbed a new variation to a route on the face of Jabo at III 5.11. Also of note were two excellent single pitches Jonathan put up on and near the base of Jabo, just above our camp.
Ben and I climbed one new route on the lower section of Jabo, which was four pitches at 5.10, and two new routes on the beautiful upper face. The first one of these followed cracks up and left towards the southeast buttress. It didn’t quite make the summit, but was still excellent climbing on beautiful rock that went at III 5.10. The second went straight up the face, again with beautiful straight-in hand and finger cracks, and was probably III 5.10+ A1 (a few pulls through a wet section). We also repeated a route Jonathan and Bernie had done on Janmo.
Steve and Mark started out by summiting Jabo via the east ridge and climbing Janmo via a route on the right side. Their first day on Janmo was hampered by funky weather, but on their second attempt they made it to just below the summit block. They then made an attempt on another spire to the west of camp, but bad climbing conditions cut this attempt short.
We would like to express our gratitude to the AAC for supporting this trip through the Lyman-Spitzer climbing grant, as well as our friends and families for the support they gave. Not only did we make some great friends in China, we also came back as better friends than before. We were truly lucky to be able to experience a place as remote and unspoiled as this.
Tommy Chandler, AAC