Jonatan Garcia and Topo Mena Head for Gangapurna

Jonatan Garcia of Spain and Topo Mena of Ecuador are preparing for an alpine-style ascent of Gangapurna (7,455m). They have the permit, the plane tickets, and the longing to be alone on a wild face. What they haven’t yet nailed down is the route or even the side of the mountain they’ll climb.

The two young climbers first met on Dhaulagiri last spring and instantly became friends. They shared a common language and a desire to summit Dhaulagiri without oxygen. At the time, Garcia had partnered with Andorra’s Stefi Troguet, while Mena was with Carla Perez.

Left to right, Stefi Troguet, Jonatan Garcia, Carla Perez, and Topo Mena on Dhaulagiri, spring 2021. Photo: Carla Perez


In the end, no one summited that spring. First, constant snowfall made the avalanche-prone normal route even more hazardous than usual. Then COVID spread through Base Camp. First, it hit local staff. Then it worked its way through many clients who had previously summited Annapurna and celebrated in Pokhara. Troguet was one of those who reached Camp 2, then tested positive and was airlifted to the hospital.

Seeking solitude

Garcia returned home disappointed with the Base Camp atmosphere. He declared that he was done with crowded 8,000’ers. So he was delighted when Mena suggested a quick climb to the rarely visited Gangapurna, in the Annapurna massif.

“Gangapurna has two normal routes, which follow the mountain’s East and West Ridges,” Garcia told ExplorersWeb. “We want to climb either the North or the South Face, but we haven’t made our minds about which one yet.”

Gangapurna’s North Face. Photo: Jonatan Garcia


Garcia went on: “The North Face looks just amazing: a sheer wall of ice and snow, all to ourselves, with no previous direct routes yet opened.”

In the past, two Yugoslavian teams had managed to climb the lower part of the face, then proceeded up the NE Ridge. But bad conditions or the high technical difficulty of the route thwarted the few attempts on the North Face itself.

“We have been unable to spot a safe place for Base Camp from the few available images,” said Garcia. “The base of the mountain seems to be in a basin surrounded by big, threatening seracs.”

North Face: where to acclimatize?

An extra problem, at least for Garcia, is that few nearby peaks exist on which to acclimatize. “Topo [Mena] will be just fine because he guides in the Andes all the time, but the highest peak I can train on here in the Pyrenees is Aneto, at only 3,440m.”

Gangapurna South Face.


South Face better known

Meanwhile, the South Face is easy to reach via the famous Annapurna trail from Pokhara.

“It will be drier, with mixed terrain, and the most obvious line up the face was opened by a Canadian team, led by John Lauchlan, in 1981,” said Garcia.

A South Korean team under the leadership of Kim Chang-Ho climbed a second line in 2016. That was the latest ascent on Gangapurna.

“If we choose that [South] Face, we will just look up and decide which route we’ll climb — either a repetition or if possible, a new line,” Garcia said. “We will also decide at that time where to acclimatize.”

The climbers meet in Kathmandu on March 2. “Once there, we need to decide right away which face we want to climb, because we will fly into Base Camp,” Garcia said. “Otherwise, we plan to travel light, with no Base Camp staff or Sherpa support. The idea is to acclimatize well, then launch a single summit push.”

The Annapurna massif. Photo: Wikimedia Commons