In the pre-monsoon of 2000, Athol Whimp and I went to Jannu in the northeast corner of Nepal and attempted a new route on the unclimbed direct line of the north face. After our portaledge was destroyed by rock and ice fall at ca. 6100m on the direct line, we turned our attention to making an alpine-style ascent of the Wall of Shadows, also on the north face.

The Wall of Shadows route takes the vast, steep ice fields and rock bands of the left side of the north face, and eventually reaches the summit ridge at ca. 7250m, where a long, rising, corniced traverse to the summit waits. Climbing from our highest tent site at ca. 6750m to the summit and back was an extraordinary adventure.

We left our tent at 1am and climbed unroped through the night up the steep and vast ice fields that wrap around the huge rock ramparts at the left end of north face. At dawn we hit the cliff protecting the summit ridge. We pitched this short section and were soon on the summit ridge, a little shocked at the intricacy of the ridge ahead. By the evening we felt close to the top and kept climbing into a fierce electrical storm. At this point we found a small slot on the very edge of top of the north face at ca. 7500m and spent the night shivering and wondering about what lay ahead. After a windy  -18C night we made our way to the summit, front pointing along a steep, sharply defined ridge in demanding snow/ice conditions.

On top it was fortuitously calm and serene, everything dropping away.  By 10.15am we were down climbing and making our way back along the summit ridge. Darkness hit us at the end of the ridge, and we continued to down climb unroped after rapping the cliff. At around 2.30am we were back at our tent, two days after leaving it. The next day, we scraped by on our last fuel and got just enough to drink. We then down climbed and rappelled the rock bands and ice fields to the plateau at the foot of the face, relieved and deeply content to have had such a demanding adventure.

North face of Jannu from near Kambachen.

On the Jannu glacier during the earlier stages of our trip.

On the Jannu glacier during the earlier stages of our trip.

Dawn at base camp (4700m), under the massive north face.

On the huge, undulating plateau (ca. 5500m) at the foot of the north face proper.

Athol approaching the north face direct line during our first day on the mountain.

Looking down the Wall of Shadows. 

Moving up ice fields on the Wall of Shadows, about to be hit by waves of spindrift.

The highest our tent and sleeping bags went, ca. 6750m

Athol moving fast and unroped at dawn, about to reach the summit ridge, ca. 7250m. 

Pushing along and up the summit ridge into bad weather at ca. 7400m.

Into the storm @ ca.7500m.

Bad conditions at ca. 7500m. We spent the night just left of the rock buttress.

Athol Whimp on the summit. Way out there...

Athol's shot of me from the summit. Soft snow over hard ice made for very demanding climbing. The incredible Kanchenjunga (8586m) is in the background. Photo: Athol Whimp.

Loading camera film as we returned in a daze along the summit ridge.

On the plateau beneath the north face (ca. 5500m) the morning after descending. The blurring is a result of moisture on the inside of the camera lens.