Spanish Team to Attempt First Ascent of Jannu East

Jannu East (7,468m) is one of the most coveted prizes in Nepal for elite mountaineers. The easternmost point of the Jannu massif, it is one of the highest unclimbed peaks in the Himalaya. So far, it has rebuffed all attempts. Now Mikel Zabalza, Iker Madoz, Ekaitz Maiz, and Mikel Inoriza will try.

“It’s been 16 years since I saw this impressive mountain while climbing Kangchenjunga,” said team leader Mikel Zabalza. “Finally, the moment has come.”

Jannu East. Photo: Mikel Zabalza

 

The foursome will climb in pure alpine style via the East Face, following Slovenians Vanja Furlan and Boran Pockar, who attempted that line in 1991 and 1992. On the second attempt, the Slovenians reached 7,000m via a southwest-facing couloir on the upper section.

Zabalza and his partners believe that this is a suitable option. However, the Slovenians warned of 90º ice pitches and mixed terrain up to M5. Overall, the 2,000m face is relentlessly difficult.

Jannu massiff a rocky clacier at its feet.

C: Jannu Main, with the Russian first ascent in red. D: Jannu East with the Slovenians’ 1992 route in blue. Topo courtesy of the expedition team

 

They will decide their precise route after checking the conditions on the mountain. Conditions will also determine their descent route, although the South Face is their tentative line. Although its many seracs pose a danger, it is also easier and faster to go down.

The climbers reached Kathmandu today and have a long trek ahead of them into the Kangchenjunga region. They will set their Base Camp on the Yalung Glacier, near the base of Kangchenjunga.

Mikel szabalza in a granite & ice couloir, dressed in winter gear and helmet.

Mikel Zabalza. Photo courtesy of the expedition team

 

Zabalza, 52, may not be the best-known Spanish climber but he is one of the best. Although he has not summited the prestigious 14×8000’ers like regular partners Juan Oiarzabal, Alberto Iñurrategi, and Edurne Pasaban have, his resumé includes:

– the north summit of Gasherbrum IV (7,915m) via the northwest spur

– a new route up Broad Peak’s central summit (8,013m)

– Chamlang’s West Ridge

– a new route on Dragnag-Ri (6,801m)

Zabalza did all of these except GIV in alpine style. He was also part of a Basque team that attempted some hard alpine-style 8,000m routes, including Everest’s Hornbein Couloir, the West Pillar of Makalu, and the traverse of the Gasherbrums. He heads Spain’s National Alpinism Team.

Ekaitz Maiz is a sport and classic rock climber who has done 9-degree sport routes and 8-degree trad and multi-pitch routes, as well as ice, mixed, and big-wall climbing. Younger partners Iker Madoz and Mikel Inoriza earned their experience in the Alps and on expeditions to the Pamirs and the Caucasus.

Americans trying for Jannu Main

The Spaniards will not be the only team in the area. Four Americans, led by Alan Rousseau, are already in Base Camp, ready to start up Jannu Main (7,711m) for the second year in a row. Deep snow stopped them last year.

This time, the climbers will attempt a new route up the Northwest Face of the mountain, also known as Kumbhakarna, said Namgya Sherpa of Grand Himalaya Expedition.

Last year, Rousseau teamed up with regular partner Jackson Marvell, along with Sam Hennessey and Seth Timpano. While Rousseau and Marvell attempted Jannu Main’s north summit, Hennessey and Timpano tackled Jannu East. Both teams reached between 5,500m and 5,700m on their mountains before bad weather pushed them down.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides is a college-graduated journalist specializing in high-altitude mountaineer and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.