It’s projects like this that show that alpinism is far from dead – even if the crisis of meaning in eight-thousander mountaineering sometimes makes it seem that way. The U.S. Americans Alan Rousseau, Jackson Marvell and Matt Cornell opened a new route on the 7,710-meter-high Jannu in eastern Nepal through the extremely steep, demanding and therefore rarely climbed North Face. It was the first time the 2,700-meter-high so-called “Wall of Shadows” had been mastered in alpine style – that is, without bottled oxygen, fixed high camps, fixed ropes or Sherpa support.
“So for three years I’ve been trying to climb the North Face of Jannu in alpine style with Matt and Jackson,” Alan Rousseau writes on Instagram. “We finally got it done! In a 7 day push BC (Base Camp) to BC.” The three climbers christened their route “Round trip ticket”.
It was a team effort to which everyone contributed, Alan says. Matt sounds similar: “We dove deep into what we thought was possible and returned with a profound experience. Consumed by events of the climb we lost the meaning of individuality.”
Jackson Marvell also still seems quite impressed by the experience on the North Face of Jannu: “It was years in the making and it feels surreal or even unthinkable at times that it worked out. We are still deep in the works of processing the experience and likely will be for a long while.”
New territory at the top of the route
According to Alan, they climbed the lower section of the wall following the line of the 2004 Russian team under expedition leader Alexander Odintrov (the “Russian Direct” route was later awarded the Piolet d’Or) and turned to the Southwest Ridge for the last 200 vertical meters. “Our hardest steepest climbing was from 7,000 meters to 7,500 meters,” Rousseau writes. “This recessed portion of the North Face has not been climbed previously. This is where we experienced some of the most intensely wonderful mixed climbing any of us have had the pleasure of partaking in.”
Jannu, also known as Khumbakarna, lies about ten kilometers as the crow flies west of the eight-thousander Kangchenjunga. The first ascent of the seven-thousander was made in 1962, by a French expedition via the south side of the mountain.
After returning to the hospital
In the two previous years, the U.S. climbers had had to abandon their attempts because of poor conditions on the North Face. This time everything went well. However, the fact that it was not a walk in the park, but an uphill battle, is shown by the fact that Rousseau and Marvell had themselves treated in the hospital after returning from Jannu to Kathmandu: for “some frostbite on our pinky fingers,” as Alan writes to me. “We should be fine in a couple months.”
Last spring, the trio had opened a new, direct route up Alaska’s shapely, 2,909-meter-high Mount Dickey through the roughly 1,200-meter East Face – also in alpine style. With their coup on the North Face of the seven-thousander Jannu, they have provided another real icing on the cake of alpinism.