Zannu. West pillar.
To surpass oneself.
An extrac from long story
Altitude 6700 metres…
The weather has finally deteriorated.
The visibility has fallen to a few dozen metres, sometimes
to nothing. I don’t know what motivates us to go up, but we are definitely crazyJ.
Gradually the slope gets steeper and, in places, bare ice
appears. We are climbing tied together with a thin, five-millimetre static rope.
I understand perfectly well that this is silly; the static
rope will never withstand a hard pull if either of us falls, but we don’t want
to change anything.
Anyway, it seems easier with the knowledge that you are
tied to your partner. And what about the bad things? Here, it’s better not to
think about them.
There goes an intense battle of two exhausted bodies with
the nature gone mad.
Altitude 7000 metres…
Twenty minutes have passed already, but I am still standing
in one spot without knowing what to do.
Sergey, my rope-partner, is motionless on belay somewhere
far below me. He cannot see me because of a bulge in the cliff. Maybe it is
better that way.
Right now, I am better off alone, as I struggle to
correctly evaluate the situation and to overcome the wave of doubt that is
rushing through me.
At this moment, my two personalities are struggling inside
me. One of them is always in doubt. It is the careful one.
It always whispers to me: “Stop, look around. You have
already reached the Limit. Impassable cliffs are ahead, and what lies after
that? There lies The Unknown, and there are only two of you. You have no backup
whatsoever. Isn’t it better to descend now, and to choose something easier?
Think about it! Maybe you will never return from here alive…”
The second one is the optimist. It always cheers me on,
gives me energy and guides me trough life. It says: “Don’t worry, everything
will be fine! You call these difficulties!? This is nothing but a game. Play,
and you will win. But, if you make a decision to descend now, you will never
come back here again. Don’t stop at what you have already reached.
The one who believes in something, will attain it…”
Altitude 7600 metres…
It looks as though we have survived this cold, endless
night. It seemed that the unearthly cold had managed to stop even Time itself -
that’s how slowly the hours dragged on in our anticipation of the morning.
Understandably, there was not even a mention of sleep.
Instead, we had to light the gas stove every 10 to 15 minutes for a short burst,
in order to preserve what little warmth remained in our cold and tired bodies.
It had just turned light, and the watch now shows six
o’clock in the morning.
We are ready to start moving. After a night like this, it
would be nice to go to some resort, to rest, but here… Sergey leads a horizontal
traverse to the right for an entire rope length.
Perhaps the route is located further in that direction,
because the ground directly above us looks completely impassable.
Altitude 7710 metres…
The summit is right in front of me. The final steps towards
it are made through an effort of sheer willpower.
A few more metres, and the shockingly huge massif of
Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak, comes into view, filling the
entire space to my left. It seems as though it is very near.
Leaning with my ice axes against the ridge, which is
thankfully devoid of a cornice, I throw my leg over it.
Momentarily, I am sitting astride the ridge. This is the
actual summit of Jannu. It is truly the moment of realization of my dreams.
How many days, maybe years, have I waited for this moment,
and now it is reality.
Seven o’clock in the morning. The cold is unearthly. I am
trying to fold the tent, but the crazy wind wants to rip it out of my hands.
My entire morning procedure of heating my boots and rubbing
my feet has been for naught. Five minutes after climbing out of the tent, I have
already lost the feeling in my toes.
My frozen hands also refuse to obey me. This has nothing to
do with boots and mittens – quite simply, the internal energy that has been
keeping us warm all these days is quickly starting to dissipate.
I am fully aware of the seriousness of the developing
situation, especially when I begin to comprehend the height that we are at, and
the amount of vertical space beneath our feet. It is almost unbelievable that we
still have to cover all that.
Sometimes it seems to me, that we have become the prisoners
of this Mountain, and that it no longer wants to release us – at least, not
One o’clock in the morning… I have a feeling that I am
watching myself from outside, and that I see two exhausted and tortured
creatures, barely moving their feet like two nocturnal ghosts, shuffling along
They are walking towards the base camp. The distance that
had previously taken about an hour to walk, now seems to stretch on forever.
Sometimes I have a vision that the base camp does not exist
at all, that it is merely a figment of our sick, altitude-inflamed imagination.
The stony chaos of the enormous glacier is weakly
illuminated by moonlight.
I am watching my shadow on the rocks and it seems to me,
that this shadow is all that remains of me.
There are no feelings – only great fatigue and resignation.
I have an impression that the world has fragmented into a
multitude of separate, disconnected worlds, and that I am lost somewhere among
them, a wanderer in search of something, but unable to find it.
Summary of Statistics:
Area: Himalaya. Nepal.
Mt. Jannu (7710m) Kumbhakarna
The West Pillar (3000m/VI, WI+4, 80 degrees, M5 )
October 14 – 23, 2007
Valery Babanov & Sergey
Alpine-style First ascent.
Descent via the route
Sponsors: «Grivel», «Scarpa», «Bask», «Beal», «Julbo».
10.12.2007 Translated from
the Russian by Yuri Lipkov.