Adventurous New Route Attempt for British Team

by Simon Yearsley Jul/2014
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High-point selfie: the strain and disappointment of deciding to descend so close to success., 193 kb
High-point selfie: the strain and disappointment of deciding to descend so close to success.
© Simon Yearsley

British alpinists Malcolm Bass and Simon Yearsley have been active in the Garhwal Himalaya this June. They came tantalisingly close to making the first ascent of Janahut, a technical 6805m peak at the head of the 32km-long Gangotri Glacier.

Unfortunately they retreated 140m from the summit.

Janahut has had four previous attempts before Simon and Malcolm but was not the pair's original objective, which was the South-West Face of Rimo III in the Eastern Karakorum. However, after a last minute permit refusal Simon and Malcolm switched their attentions to the Garwhal Himalaya, where they had a number of possible objectives.

After heavy snowfall in May left dangerous avalanche conditions on the approach slopes to Chaukhamba IV ruled out the 'Chaukhamba Skyline' they decided to attempt Janahut.

Janahut is a remote mountain: 6805m, 20km from Base Camp. High and elegant, the mountain has attracted many suitors. It was first attempted in 2002 by an Austrian team.

In 2004 the New Zealand team Pat Deavoll and Marty Beare made a strong attempt up the big couloir on the West Face, reaching 6400m. At the same time, the British team of Malcolm Bass, Andy Brown and Paul Figg reached around 6000m on the South West Buttress.

In 2010 and 2011, Bryan Hylenski and team, made two expedition style attempts from the south east, using fixed ropes and reaching around 6500m.

The pair take up the story of what proved to be an adventurous trip:

"We left Base Camp on Friday 6th June 2014, and two days later, pitched our tent at 5050m the foot of the South West Buttress. At 11pm on Monday 9th we set off, crossing the bergshrund at 1am. We made good progress, climbing unroped up snowfields and short gullies, and by 10am reached a well-protected bivouac site beneath an overhang at 5900m. This fine bivi site meant we could rest safely, protected from the rockfall and icefall which began when the sun hit the face.

Foreshortened view of SW Buttress of Janahut. The summit is some way out of view beyond the forepeak, 119 kb
Foreshortened view of SW Buttress of Janahut. The summit is some way out of view beyond the forepeak
© Simon Yearsley

Malcolm Bass starting the first technical crux - Scottish tec 5 at 6600m, 115 kb
Malcolm Bass starting the first technical crux - Scottish tec 5 at 6600m
© Simon Yearsley
At 2.30am, with the face safely frozen we were off again. Pockets of windslab kept us roped up as we moved together, weaving our way through white granite towers. It was a ferociously cold morning, with temperatures around -30c, and it was a relief to eventually emerge into the sunshine. We had climbed the South West Buttress, but we were still a long way from the summit. A loose, scratchy rock pitch lead onto a steep ridge of hard ice. A few rope-lengths along this ridge brought us to a small hollow beside a large rock gendarme. Two hours of chopping hard ice turned the hollow into a tent platform - our Eyrie Bivi site at 6300m. From here we were going for the summit.

At 4am the next morning we set off, leaving the tent pitched at the Eyrie. A long, superb and exciting day's climbing lay ahead. After another couple of pitches up the hard ice ridge, the angle eased to a long horizontal section of ridge. Now with stunning views to east and west, we made good progress along the ridge, with occasional technical sections through short rock steps. Ahead lay a formidable 80m high rock barrier, which we had named The Castle. Whilst the weather remained beautifully clear, by now a cold wind had strengthened dramatically. Malcolm lead the first of the technical cruxes through the lower section of The Castle, with steep mixed climbing. The sting in the tail of The Castle was an awkward, holdless chimney on Simon's pitch above. This pitch ended at a short wall on the top of The Castle. Beyond we could see the continuation ridge leading to a fine but false summit, with the true summit visible beyond.

We had reached 6660m. It was 6pm. We had been climbing for 14hours. It would be dark in less than 2 hours. The summit lay 140m above. Our tent, stove and food were 360m below. The freezing wind continued to strengthen. We decided to descend.

By the time we regained the Eyrie bivi site, we had been on the go for 21 hours and were very cold. In the relative warmth of the tent, we spent the few hours left of the night making bowls of noodles and endless brews.

Friday 13th was a day of sleeping, eating what remained of our food, and planning our descent back to the glacier 1300m below. On Saturday 14th we left the Eyrie at 9am with a plan to descend the shorter east side of the mountain to a high glacial basin from which we hoped to drop down through a series of icefalls to the glacier. By 8pm we were relieved to be on the flat ground of the glacial basin. We were now at the end of our 5th day, and out of food. The evening meal was two cups each of ginger & lemon tea made from used tea-bags scavenged from the rubbish bag.

The icefalls separating us from the safety of the glacier proved surprisingly benign. By mid-morning all we had to do was to walk the 5km back round to our campsite at the foot of the buttress where we'd left a small stash of food. Day 7 was a simple matter of walking for 10 hours down the Gangotri glacier back to Base Camp.

We were sad to be walking away from Janahut".

Malcolm Bass traversing snowfields on Day 1

Malcolm Bass and Simon Yearsley are sponsored by: La Sportiva, Montane and Petzl

They would like to thank The Mount Everest Foundation, The BMC, High5 and The Alpine Club for their support.




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