Himalaya Spring 2019: Russians Abandon Jannu Attempt

Last week I shared the news that two Russian mountaineers were attempting an early season summit bid on Mt. Jannu in eastern Nepal. The mountain, which is located not far from Kangchenjunga, is known for its technical difficult and remote location, which makes it a seldom visited or attempted peak. That didn’t deter Dmitry Golovchenko and Sergey Nilov from giving it a try however, although they soon discovered that it was even more challenging than expected. Since posting that story the two have abandoned their climb, but not after a harrowing few days that included a treacherous descent.

When I posted the details of the expedition last week, Golovchenko and Nilov were already well into their climb. In fact, they had reached an altitude of 6510 meters (21,358 ft) and were looking for the clearest route to the summit. A day or two later however they stalled out and decided to turn back. What followed was a six-day odyssey that left those following the climb on edge. It seemed that we had seen this story play out before, with two stranded mountaineers on an incredibly dangerous peak. Fortunately, this time it had a happy ending.

The duo turned back due to poor weather conditions and heavy snowfall, but soon found themselves stuck above 7000 meters (22,965 ft). Poor visibility made it challenging for them to find a route down and they ended up spending several days locating a ridgeline that would allow them to descend safely. But the journey was far from over at that point as they still had to make their way down. All told, it took them six days to return to Base Camp, arriving there yesterday.

In the photo that Dmitry and Sergey posted to social media the effects of their nearly three weeks on the mountain are evident. They look gaunt, tired, and appear to have lost a lot of weight. Still, they are ecstatic to be safely down and have survived a close-call in the mountains. We haven’t had enough of those stories of late, as it seems that similarly stories have only ended in tragedy. Thankfully that isn’t the case here.

Despite the fact that they weren’t successful in their bid to summit Jannu, the two men have displayed a great deal of strength, endurance, and skill. This is no easy mountain to climb and they managed to safely get off of it even when the odds were stacked against them. It seems likely that they will now head home, but the spring season is only now getting under way. It is possible that they’ll regroup, rest up, and set their sights on another peak before they are through. For now, we’re awfully glad they are safe.

Kraig Becker