THIS SUMMIT (7710 m) is located in the eastern part of Nepal near Kangchenjunga (8598 m) the world's third highest summit. Despite this giant's presence, Jannu remains a very distinctive peak. The Nepalese name for Jannu is Kumbhakarna. This name is used by most of the inhabitants of the high valleys who have never heard of the word Jannu.

Jannu was climbed for the first time in 19621 by the very skilled French team of Bertrand, Bouvier, Damaison, Keller, Lenoir, Leroux, Magnone, Paragot, Pollet Villard, Ravier and Terray. After this ascent, Lucien Devies wrote, 'Jannu is the most difficult and audacious accomplishment ever in the Himalaya. No other success in this field compares with it.'

The means used by the expedition were, it is true, impressive enough to make young Himalayan climbers dream: 12 tons of gear, 30 sherpas, bottles of oxygen. . . .

Why did Jean Franco, who organized the 1962 expedition choose this peak? It seems that during a meeting at Darjeeling, which was attended by the French conquerors of Makalu and the British returning from Kangchenjunga, the name Jannu was spoken. The description of the silhouette of this apparently inaccessible summit must have incited the French to attempt its ascent. The idea was an original one for that period when, even more than today, a climber's only passion was the number 8000 m.

The Mountain
South Ridge

The first ascent in 1962 was made via the very long south ridge. A reconnaissance had been made beforehand in 1957. An attempt in 1960 took climbers to an altitude of 7400 m. That expedition was lead by Jean Franco; the successful one in 1962 by Lionel Terray. The same route has been successively taken by a Japanese expedition in 1974; by a light British expedition, which attempted the east face2 and by a Basque expedition in 1981.3


  1. See H.J. Vol. XXIV, p. 3.—Ed.
  2. H.J. Vol. 36, p. 19.
  3. H.J. Vol. 38, Illustrated Note 2.— Ed.


Southwest Spur

The French expedition of 1960 directed its first attempt toward the foot of this spur along its lower, sloping part and assaulted the rock base, which looks like the 'Poire' of the Italian slope of Mt Blanc. An avalanche of Himalayan dimension falling from the upper part of the face, which was undoubtedly caused by the slide of a serac and which snowed in the whole valley, persuaded the climbers to abandon this route.

Next the spur was twice assaulted by a Czech team. The second expedition, composed of nine members, scaled the cascade of seracs between Camps 1 and 2 'the first real difficulty and certainly the toughest of the route* and continued to Camp 3 by a snow-gorge. From there they followed a chimney with an overhang at its entry, which they marked with the reference V+ and which led them to the ridge. They followed the ridge to the top of the spur and on the Throne where Camp 5 was pitched. From this camp — surprisingly enough — they divided themselves into two groups. The first went on towards the west ridge, scaled part of the rock face, but stopped some 100 m from the summit on 22 May. The second group headed towards the 1962 French route by which they reached the summit on 23 May.

The first ascent of Jannu by the southwest pillar had been realized. However, 100 m of unsealed mountain remained between the point reached by the Czechs and the summit.

North Face

A route was pioneered in 1976 by the Japanese on the left part of the face. In 1982, a French expedition led by Pierre Beghin tried to open a direct route under the summit but failed.


Henri Sigayret, (leader), Elisabeth Julliard, Danis Ajasse, Dominique Bourret, Roger Fillon, Luc Jourjon, Jean-Noel Roche, Pascal Sombardier.

Summary of the Expedition

Arrival in Kathmandu, 7 March.
Depart for Dharan from Kathmandu, 15 March.

16 March : beginning of trek to the base.
27 March : arrival at Ghunsa, the last village before base camp.
29 March : arrival at base camp.
31 March : Camp 1 established.
7 April : Camp 2 established.
17 April : Camp 3 established.
20April : Camp 4 established.
27 April : Camp 5 established.
28 April : Camp 6 established.
29 April : summit.
2 May : the entire team returns to base camp.
5 May : depart for Ghunsa.
16 May : return to Dharan.
17 May : return to Kathmandu.
26 May : depart for France.


Trek to the Base 15 to 29 March

Using two trucks (one for men and the other for food and gear), we proceeded to Dharan across the Terai, which took a whole day, and then in a half a day to Dhankuta.

The approach on foot starts from this last village. (In a few months, a road will be finished and will permit saving a day's walk).

The approach on foot was to last about 14 days. We either walked on the crests of the hills, where there are beautiful forests of deodars, rhododendrons and an occasional pine, or alongside the Tamur or the Ghunsa khola, until the last and very picturesque village of Ghunsa. There we had a day's rest, we sorted loads and made some purchases.

From Ghunsa, we made our way to base camp by a sometimes snowfilled path with, in addition to the porters, a few Yaks.

The base camp, whose altitude must be near 4500 m, is situated on the right bank of the glacier Yamatari.

This camp was used by the French in 1960 and 1962 and other expeditions. It is very pleasant near the morainic lake of Yamatari, on the lower end of a rocky bar. (Its only drawback was that, the lake being the lone source of pure water in the area, the liaison officer asked us not to wash ourselves in it).

On 31 March, the traditional Sherpa ceremony took place with the placing of prayer flags and rice, flour and sugar offerings to the divinities.

Camp 1

Camp 1 set up on 31 March.

Between base camp and Camp 1 the route follows the Yamatari glacier. No difficulties. Only the descent of the moraine calls for fixed rope of 10 to 15 m length. The camp is set up on the middle of the glacier's bed. Small glacial lakes furnish water. Normally, this camp should be sheltered from avalanches.

Camp 2

On 1 April, a group reaches the foot of the cascade of seracs. The cascade is very dangerous. No route seems safe. From 2 to 6 April, we search a route first on the right bank, then on the left, where we finally find a way to rock-ice limit.

The west ridge of Everest from Camp 3.

11. The west ridge of Everest from Camp 3. (Photo : Jordi Pons)

The ice-cave kitchen, Camp 1 of the Spanish Everest expedition 1982.

12. The ice-cave kitchen, Camp 1 of the Spanish Everest expedition 1982. (Photo : J. Alldill)

Upper face of the Api glacier.

13. Upper face of the Api glacier.

One has to climb a rock base which is composed of an open corner groove leading to an ice-chimney with a slope of 70°. This leads to a gully by which one gets to a sort of glacial shelf. In the initial part this shelf is bounded at its head by a vertical or overhanging wall of ice 10 to 12 m high. This very difficult wall and its lower passages were climbed with Jean Noel Roche as lead man. This part of the route is particularly dangerous. Numerous seracs overhang the passages, the chimney is very narrow and there is no really safe shelter.

Due to the altitude and loads carried, it is impossible to climb rapidly. (On 12 April, the 12 m length vertical wall has disappeared. There is now a chaos of ice-blocks and a 50 m wide breach). The route then goes eastward. After a traverse of a crevassed area, we reach the snow-slopes (40 to 45°) which line the rocks of the pillar. We proceeded to the site of Camp 2 on the left side of the lower part of the ridge on a little platform of the glacier-sheltered serac.

Camp 2 (at about 5500 m) seems sheltered from avalanches. Although snow is falling, the west face is continually swept clear by light snow-slides and the danger of a massive avalanche does not seem very great. (We checked quite often). On the other hand, if heavy, sticky snowfall cover the west face, it would be an illusion to consider the shelter of the serac sufficient even given the large distance between the foot of the west face and Camp 2. Most likely the camp would be destroyed in the wake of any large avalanches.

Camp 2 site is not well positioned. The sun reaches it in April only at 10 or 11 a.m. Strong blasts of wind make this site uncomfortable. In order to avoid carrying loads between the foot of the icefall and the upper part of the serac barrier, we installed a rope system on a rock face which constituted the foot of the spur. In this manner, most of our loads were hauled up to a small platform located at about 30 minutes from Camp 2. This solution however, requires a lot of work pulling and forces some expedition members to remain in the assault gorge for hours at a time to tie up loads.

Camp 3

Altitude about 6000 m, 7 to 17 April.

Leaving Camp 2 a traverse joins a snow-gully, estimated slope: 40/50° which ends up on a rock chimney which overhangs on a few metres (this is the passage marked V+ by the Czechs). This chimney's bottom is partially ice and though still steep, less difficult then the beginning.

The chimney ends up on a secondary ridge which peters out along the west face. A traverse on the right (through rock or mixed passages) allows getting to the SW spur without difficulty and to its crest. Here the spur consists of an ice-bridge whose left slope is lined with rocks. One makes his way on the west slope to the ice-rock limit, then on the ridge edge or its right slope where it becomes entirely ice. Then a gully blocked by a wedged boulder leads to an easy small chimney and to a small ledge. From this pitch through a steep snow-slope, one gets to Camp 3. It is much snow-filled. It is set up on ice-block in which we chop two small superposed platforms of the exact dimensions of the tents. We found bits of the Czechs' tents in the ice. Between Camps 2 and 3, we found some bits of rope left by the Czechs in the rock passage. In the chimney, we found an aluminium ladder.

Camp 4

Above Camp 3 the spur is in rock (with some beautiful passages in III). A traverse up direct on the left slope permits getting to the edge of the spur, an area of huge blocks. We then found snow and ice. It was easy at the beginning, but then the slope became steep with some lengths of ice (about 50°).

We then reach an overhanging serac with an ice-slope of more than 65° of about 30 m high. This passage is one of the toughest of the route. (Ice exceptionally hard).

Above there are some easier passages but still abrupt which lead to the big glacier formations of Camp 4.

Between Camps 3 and 4, we watched exceptionally beautiful views of the SW spur of Jannu (altitude of Camp 4 about 6500 m).

Camp 5

Jean-Noel Roche, Luc Jourj on, Roger Fillon set up fixed ropes to Camp 4 on 26 April. On the 27th they set up Camp 5.

As opposed to the Czechs who went on the edge of the buttress, we head on to the right hand side of the spur on very wide slopes '(40° to 50° at the beginning) with some crevasses. The slopes end up in a couloir visible on the photos, and from Camp 1. At the beginning of the gully, there is a 10 m high vertical passage, one of 1;he toughest of the route. The gully leads to the Throne glacier where Camp 5 is set up.

Altitude of Camp 5, about 7000 m.

Camp 6

28 April, Camp 5 is dismantled. The three climbers go up to the Throne glacier. It is easy at the beginning, then traversing under the seracs (dangerous area) they reach a crevasse pattern and Camp 6 site at about 7300 m.


Jean-Noel Roche, Roger Fillon and Luc Jour j on are at Camp 6. The weather is fine. They depart via a steep slope in the snow. They get by the bergschund under the summit tower. These climbers find their footholds on the rocks. They find there some fixed ropes from the Czech expedition which are in a very bad state. The route follows a system of fissures (IV) and a dihedron easier to climb on the right (equipped for 200 m) allowing access in the neve above. This was the highest point reached by the Czechs. After having gone up through this neve, a climb of about 80 m, they get a foothold in a chimney (III) which takes them to the snow-slopes (55°) of the summit. The three arrive at the summit with Luc Jourjon in the lead at around 3 p.m.

Elisabeth Julliard and Henri Sigayret have been at Camp 4 for two days. They got up as far as the entry of the final chimney of the southwestern spur, but lack of equipment forced them to turn round. The other members of the expedition are at base camp.


Even though they weren't able to finish their climb, stopping around a hundred m, from the summit, the Czechs are the real conquerors of this spur. During the whole climb, we admired the enormous work they accomplished — the emplacements of fixed ropes of a large diameter, the high quality of the passages they had taken.. It must have been a great disappointment for them when, during their second attempt, they were forced to abandon so close to their objective. And if we hadn't found their fixed ropes would we have succeeded? Taking into account that only three of our climbers occupied our upper camps, while two others were busy making a film of the expedition and the rest were ill at base camp, I would have to answer no. Logically, therefore we must associate our success with the work of the Czech team and earlier attempts. In conclusion, I cannot say enough about the terrific work done by two members of the expedition. First of all, Jean-Noel Roche, who has shown himself to be an outstanding Himalayan climber, rapid and resistant, completely mastered all the technical problems we came up against, even some of extreme difficulty, whether on ice or rock.

Next, Roger Fillon who took the lead preparing the way between Camp 1 and 2 where, because of the heavy concentration of dangers along that part of the route, the climbers wished to progress as rapidly as possible. Furthermore, being a specialist in slope parachuting, he carried to the summit, along with the rest of his gear, a glide parachute in the hope of returning by air to Camp 2. However, atmospheric conditions prohibited his take-off.

In conclusion, Jannu's southwest spur is a very fine climb almost without inherent dangers, excepting the icefall between Camps 1 and 2 which is particularly dangerous. Another expedition might, for that matter try to avoid this part of the route by looking for a direct vertical ascent along the southern flanks of the base of the pillar.


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