JANAK

Posted on: September 1, 2006


Janak, aka Janak Chuli (7090m or 7041m, depending on the source), had been a goal of Slovenian alpinists since 2000. Then, it wasn't on the list of permitted peaks, and we received authorization to climb Kirat Chuli, Jongsang Peak and Patibara instead. That expedition ended tragically: one member died on the way down from the first ascent of Jongsang's South Summit I (7350m), and we stopped all other attempts. I used the remaining time to reconnaissance Janak, focusing on the south face via the Broken Glacier approach. The southwest pillar in particular drew my attention. I put Janak on the list and waited for the opportunity.

Rok Zalokar on the first ascent of the Southwest Pillar (VI 5.6 70 degrees, 1150m) of Janak Chuli (7090m). The route of ascent follows the left-hand skyline of the photo in Alpinist Issue 4, Page 61 (“Unclimbed”). Andrej Stremfelj notes that the climb was “only slightly easier” than a winter ascent of the Grandes Jorasses’ Croz Pillar, which is 3000 meters lower. Zalokar and ˇStremfelj traveled seventeen kilometers from Pangpema to the head of the Broken Glacier in a day, then made the climb in pure alpine style on May 5–6, simulclimbing most of the route in poor conditions. Zalokar is 23, Stremfelj 49. [Photo] Andrej Stremfelj

The first opportunity arose last fall. Miha Habjan and I wanted to climb the southwest pillar, but Miha didn't feel well, so we decided to try a gully on the right side of the south face (behind the significant serac). We managed to climb the whole wall up the plateau, but had to retreat because of bad weather. The summit remained untouched.

This spring Rok Zalokar and I joined a Novo Mesto alpine club expedition to Patibara (7123m). After completing that part of the expedition (which served as an excellent acclimatization), we had five days left. The first day we rested in Pangpema base camp; the next, we set up an advance base camp seventeen kilometers higher at the end of the Broken Glacier. We then spent a day resting and inspecting the face (the first time Rok had seen the wall for himself). On May 5 we left ABC at 12:30 a.m. and started up the wall at 2 a.m. At 6 p.m. we reached a bergschrund at the upper edge of the icefield beneath the headwall at 6800 meters, where we put up a small tent (we had a stove but no sleeping bags). We continued the climb at 6 a.m. the following day. The route's defining characteristic was a two-pitch traverse on very hard and steep (up to 70 degrees) ice under the headwall at 6850 meters. We expected an exit gully at the end of the traverse, but unfortunately, we encountered another steep wall instead, which we managed to climb in three mixed pitches—the crux of the climb.

Finally we attained the short summit ridge, and at 2:30 p.m. we reached the summit, which welcomed us with a snowstorm. We rappelled our route (except for the traverse, which we had to reclimb), regaining our bivouac at 7 p.m., then packed our tent and equipment and continued with the descent, reaching the glacier at 5:30 a.m. and ABC at 9 a.m.

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The route featured mostly hard, glassy ice of poor quality, sometimes covered with soft snow. Six pitches were mixed or rock. We simulclimbed the entire route except for the rock pitches and the traverse. The wall was strenuous the whole way, and the top surprised us with its difficulty: even the final fifty meters was still 5.3-5.5. Janak's Southwest Pillar (VI 5.6 70 degrees, 1150m) were harder than Menlungtse and Gyachung Kang and only slightly easier than the Grandes Jorasses's Croz Pillar, which I'd climbed in good winter conditions.

—Andrej Stremfelj, Kranj, Slovenia

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