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Asia, Nepal, Upper Dolpo, Kumbhakarna Himal, Jannu, West Pillar

Jannu, west pillar. After their ascent of Merra Peak, reported above, Valery Babanov and Sergey Kofanov made the first ascent of the west pillar of 7,710m Jannu. The pair left base camp at 4,700m on October 14 and reached the summit on the morning of the 21st, after an alpine style ascent. They took only a small tent and a sleeping bag for two. Their route followed previous attempts into the upper glacier basin below Jannu’s north face but reached the Yamatari La (the 6,350m col between Jannu and Sobithongie) by a line to the right [A French expedition reached the col in 1994 by slanting right up the 80° ice face below it, where they fixed 500m of rope. They continued up the west pillar to 6,900m before being forced down by the difficulty, cold, and wind. A French expedition in 1998 also began fixing rope on the face below the Yamatari La but abandoned the attempt 150m below the col when they decided the line was too threatened by falling seracs—Ed.]

From the col Babanov and Kofanov climbed directly up the crest of the west pillar, making their sixth bivouac 100m below the west shoulder at 7,300m. On the 20th they took minimal equipment (caching the sleeping bag but taking the tent) for the last part of their ascent, which joined the 1983 French route (the French reached this point via the southwest ridge) for some technical pitches on mixed rock and ice. They slept at 7,600m and next day woke at 4:30 a.m., because they were very cold after spending the night without a sleeping bag. They completed the ascent of the summit ridge and at 9:45 a.m. reached the highest point. This lay slightly beyond a false summit, a 20m-high lower point which at first they thought was the top. He found it more demanding than his ascent of the south face of Nuptse East in 2003, where he fixed a considerable amount of rope, but the climbing on Nuptse was technically harder. The total height gain on Jannu was around 3,000m and the difficulties WI4+ M5 80°. The pair spent two more nights out while descending their route, although they didn’t stop thesecond night but continued downclimbing to arrive at base camp, totally exhausted, between 2:00 and 3:00 the following morning. For a complete account see Sergey Kofanov’s article, “The Magic Pillar,” earlier in the Journal.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, www.climbmagazine.com