Himalayan Spring Roundup: Everest, Annapurna, Jannu

Everest base Camp with Puya shrine

Everest Base Camp will soon hum with activity. Photo: Ryan Waters/mtnprofessionals.com

While winter in the Karakorum ended this weekend, with the retreat of Alex Txikon and his team to Base Camp on K2, spring in the Himalaya has officially begun.

Typically, the first sign of spring is not a robin or the equinox itself, but the puja ceremony to please the mountain gods before the Icefall Doctors begin their work at the base of Mount Everest. Eight Sherpas performed that ritual, and the pre-monsoon climbing season in Nepal’s Himalaya is underway.

Commercial expeditions will soon flock to the mountain on both the north and south sides. Troops of porters and Base Camp staff have begun to prep the canvas villages for their clients, some inexperienced, some not, all well-heeled. A guided climb costs $25,000 to $75,000.

Nirmal Purba aims to climb all 14 8000’ers in half a year.

Following the trend of recent seasons, a number of Everest-Lhotse double-headers are planned, plus the odd record attempt, including the remarkable quest of Nirmal Purja Magar. The ex-Gurkha soldier aims to complete all 14 8000’ers in just seven months. His plan, which he dubs Project Possible, targets all Nepal’s 8,000m peaks in spring, the Pakistani ones in summer and the three remaining peaks, all in Tibet, during the fall post-monsoon. Style is secondary: Magar will use all available resources in the name of speed.

Cory Richards during his 2011 winter Gasherbrum II expedition.

However, Everest’s north side could garner most of the eyeballs, for two reasons: First, the partial closures announced by China for its intensive cleaning program may, while necessary, affect the climbing teams. Second, because Cory Richards and Esteban “Topo” Mena are attempting a (slightly) new route up the peak’s North Face, in light style and with no supplementary oxygen.

Beyond Everest, Adam Bielecki is again taking on the ever-dangerous Annapurna. He leaves for Kathmandu on April 7. More details to come.

Jannu East face team

Tomaszewski, left, with his Russian climbing mates, before approaching  Jannu.

One of the most interesting projects of the season has already started. Sergey Nilov and Dmitry Golovchenko of Russia and Marcin Tomaszewski of Poland left for the rarely attempted and even more rarely summited 7,710m Mount Jannu (aka Kumbakarna). This breathtaking peak rises in the Kangchenjunga region and features a sheer, unclimbed South East Face: the goal of the bold expedition. It was attempted just once, 10 years ago.

Jannu is also located in the wildest part of the Himalaya, and even reaching Base Camp  proved difficult: hard trekking, few or no porters, isolation — meaning, heavier packs. Previous plans to acclimatize in nearby mountains didn’t work out, and even the prep work will have to take place on Jannu.

Early conditions were so dangerous that Marcin Tomaszewski has already decided to pack it in. “Research back in Poland did not bear much resemblance to what we were seeing in real life,” Tomaszewski explained to ExWeb’s Ash Routen. “We would be forced to wind our way between overhanging seracs and other dangerous snow features.”

The two Russians are still at it, however, together with filmmaker Eliza Kubarska.

Climbers approaching Jannu’s SE face. Photo: Marcin Tomaszewski