Jasemba SSE Face success for Simon & Samuel Anthamatten and Michi Lerjen
Interview with Samuel Anthamatten after the first ascent of the South-South-East Face of Jasemba, Nepal via their Hook or Crook (VI, 1550m, 90°, M5.
At 14.30 on 29 October Simon Anthamatten, his brother Samuel and Michael Lerjen-Demjen from Switzerland reached the summit of Jasemba (7350m), Nepal. The trio spent four days forging an important new route up the south-south -ast face in alpine style and, after descending to 6900m for another bivvy, reached the safety of the base camp the following day.
The mountain was first climbed in 1986 by a Japanese team, in 2004 a Slovenian team climbed the SE Face and S ridge, while in 2007 Hans Kammerlander and the late Karl Unterkicher climbed the S Ridge. The three Swiss Mountain Guides from Zermatt, all in their mid-twenties, needed all their considerable experience gained in the Alps, Patagonia and Himalaya to successfully ascend their new line Hook or Crook (VI, 1550m, 90°, M5). Samuel has now provided us with the following insight into their latest climb.
Jasemba - why this mountain in particular? And what challenges lies in store?
We visited out main sponsor New Rock and Romolo Nottaris, who's climbed and trekked in the Khumbu Himalaya, showed us a photo of the mountain. A perfect pyramid with a perfect line. It was clear for us that this was going to be our next project. The challenge on Jasemba lies in the increasing technical difficulties combined with the altitude.
When did you choose which line you wanted to climb? What were the difficulties you encountered and, above all, how was the descent?
The line through the steep SSE Face was clear right from the outset. Objectively speaking its also the safest. We climbed up steep ice pitches, followed by very steep and extremely interesting snow ridges. A 150m high rock barrier is located at 7000m, at the end of the ridge and this barrier has vertical sections up to grade V. After the rock pitches the final steep ice pitches sapped our remaining energy, and the rest of the climb along the summit ridge was a tiring trudge through the snow. Time began to run out on the summit so we immediately started our descent down the line of ascent. We had to draw on all our alpine experience to carry out the 25 abseils. We tried to leave as little trace as possible, that's we we mainly used Abalakov abseil threads. Nevertheless we had to leave behind one segment of a telescopic walking stick, one ice axe, some nuts and a peg.
You mentioned the climb was done in alpine style. Tell us more about your pure alpine style on Jasemba?
Our aim was to climb this dream line as clean as possible, that's why we acclimatised on a different mountain. After successfully climbing the 6300m high Dzasampatse we were acclimatised well up to a certain altitude, unfortunately though we could acclimatise any more effectively as there was no other higher mountain in the vicinity. After two rest days we went on a reccie to the base of the mountain and stashed our gear. We were now ready for an on-sight attempt, and we were successful. We used neither fixed ropes nor supplementary oxygen.
Tell us about the adventure of setting off into the unknown, alpine style
A first ascent is always a bigger adventure than a line which has already been climbed. Until you reach the summit you don't ever know if the line is feasible or not. The hardest part of all was finding a bivvy spot, but we were extremely lucky and found a snow mushroom at 6500m and at 6900m another snow mushroom in a crevasse.
Five days on the face. Which was the hardest? Did you ever doubt you would reach the top?
Summit day was certainly the toughest. Our optimism of reaching the top disappeared beneath the rock barrier - the steep rocky slabs with vertical cracks weren't exactly inviting.
Modern alpine style often equates to very little gear. What criteria did you use to decide what gear to take?
The first and most important criteria was: as little weight as possible. We're lucky because our sponsors make first class climbing gear. As Mountain Guides we're well aware that everything has to be efficient and safe at the same time. The name of the game is climbing in these mountains with an ace tucked up your sleeve so that you've always got enough reserves to return to Base Camp safe and sound.
You climbed as a trio...
We know each other since early childhood, so we're a team that works well together.
Some people say the Anthamatten's alpinism is a bit crazy ;-) Have you ever thought about this?
Until now no one has ever said this to us directly. It's always difficult to judge other alpine ascents, since at the end of the day other people aren't there in loco to judge what you're doing. We work both in the winter and summer seasons as mountain guides and as such we're used to placing safety first and foremost.
On Hook or Crook, how close were you to your limit?
With this ascent we had to efficiently implement all the experience we'd gathered in the Alps, Patagonia, Canada and Alaska. One can reach the limit, but one should never overstep the mark.