Sergey Nilov and Dimitry Golovchenko have made it off Jannu, the 32nd highest peak, after climbing a new massive route up the east face. They spent 18 days at high altitude, six of which were spent descending the southwest face of the 7,710-metre mountain.
Despite not reaching the summit or climbing their goal, which was the big headwall on the southeast face of Jannu, they did open a new major alpine line. Over the next few days, they’ll continue down the Jeunes and Yamatari Glaciers to the village of Ghunsa with their support team.
In 2012, Golovchenko, Nilov and Alexander Lange spent 17 days climbing the 7,273-metre Muztagh Tower up a new line on the northeast buttress.
The official name of Jannu is Kumbhakarna and is called Phoktanglungma, literally “mountain with shoulders” in the Limbu language, and is sacred in the Kirant religion. French climbers first attempted it in 1959 and it was first climbed in 1962 by a team led by the French alpinist Lionel Terray.
A huge team of climbers reached the summit, including: René Desmaison, Paul Keller, Robert Paragot and Gyalzen Mitchung Sherpa (April 27) and Lionel Terray, André Bertraud, Jean Bouvier, Pierre Leroux, Yves Pollet-Villard, Jean Ravier and Wangdi Sherpa (April 28).
Their route started from the Yamatari Glacier and followed a circuitous route to the large plateau known as the Throne (a hanging glacier south of the summit), continuing to the summit via the southeast ridge.
The north face, known as the Wall of Shadows, was first climbed in 1976 by a Japanese team via a route that starts on the left side of the face and then meets the east ridge, avoiding the steep headwall at the top of the face. A New Zealand team had already climbed the north face but didn’t summit. A Slovenian climber, Tomo Česen, claimed a solo ascent of a more direct route on the face in 1989, but this claim is considered suspect by many in the climbing community.
In 2004, after a failed attempt the previous year, a Russian team led by Alexander Odintsov succeeded in climbing the direct north face route through the headwall. This required big-wall aid techniques in a sustained, committing setting at over 7,500 metres.
The team won the Piolet d’Or which led to some in the climbing community being upset after they learned that the Russians left a good deal of equipment on the wall.
The Himalayan Index lists over a dozen ascents of the peak, but some might night have been recorded. See the list here. This new route up the east face won’t make it on the list because the team did not summit.
While some will argue the route doesn’t count because the team didn’t reach the summit, many alpine routes in the world don’t top out. Even in the Canadian Rockies, the first ascent of Mount Robson’s Emberor Face by Jim (Jamie) Logan and Mugs Stump stopped at the Emperor Ridge and didn’t summit.
Golovchenko and Nilov’s route is a major achievement in the world of high mountains in the past year. Others include the recent free-solo up and down of Fitz Roy in Patagonia by Jim Reynolds and the 2018 first ascent from the north of Latok I by Tom Livingstone, Ales Cesen and Luka Strazar. Livingstone will be talking about the ascent in Canmore on April 21, see here for more.