Hans Kammerlander and Karl Unterkircher have done it! With a final, beautiful and by no means easy 20 hour summit-push the two South Tyrolean mountaineers reached the summit of Jasemba (7350m) at 15,00 on Tuesday 22 May.
This is the first ascent of the South Face of the beautiful peak located in the Solo-Khumbu valley on the Nepalese-Tibetan border between Cho Oyu and Everest. The mountain's south (Nepalese) side was first ascended by a Slovenian team Blagus, Krmelj, Samec, which climbed the SE face and S ridge in October 2004
"Karl is really impressive, I got on with him extremely well" is what Kammerlander told us from Base Camp, quickly adding "this route is really beautiful but also really demanding and very, very dangerous... the hardest in my career." Seeing that this statement comes from someone who has written Himalayan history over the last 20 years, it's definitely worth taking note.
Summit day was one to be remembered for the two Italian mountaineers, all the more so since Hans Kammerlander had waited for three consecutive years for the moment to arrive. He had first set foot on the mountain in 2005, together with Karl Unterkircher. In 2006 he had returned but, as many will remember, the expedition wa tragically cut short with the death of Kammerlander's life-long friend Lois Brugger. 2007 finally proved successful with the summit Hans and Karl had yearned for over the last couple of years.
Their ascent began on 2 May when Kammerlander reached Jasemba Base Camp together with Hartmann Seeber and Ernst Brugger (the brother of Luis Brugger). Karl Unterkircher reached them the next day and on 13 May they had already installed Camp 1 at 6100m, installing fixed ropes along the line of ascent. On 14 May they continued their climb, returning to BC two days later after having fixed the route to last year's highpoint at 6700m.
This highpoint revealed an unwelcome surprise: a problem with the altimeter in 2006 resulted in Hans believing they had originally reached 7100m. This year the altimeter suddenly read 6700m...which meant that 650m were needed to reach the summit. The long, unexplored push to the summit was going to be even longer and harder than expected.
But the road to the top was laid bare and all that was left for the duo to do was to choose the right moment to depart. This arrived on Monday 21 May and the plan was simple: climb to Camp 1, rest and then climb directly to the summit. And that's exactly what they did. After having overcome the first difficult 1000m of ice, rock and mixed terrain the two reached Camp 1 and then set off just after midnight for the second step.
The final 650m proved to be very difficult and uncertain, and Kammerlander describes this section as technically difficult, demanding and dangerous. Further more, "the entire 2000m line is harder and more demanding than the north face of the Eiger..." without even taking into account the altitude of Jasemba...
Finally, after a 2000m ascent (650 without fixed ropes, of which the final 120 on a precarious, razor-edge crest above an immense void) the two reached the summit at 15.00 on 22 May. 14 hours had passed since leaving Camp 1 and in total they had been climbing for 20 hours since leaving Base Camp.
The duo reached the relative safety of Camp 1 at circa 21.00. All seemed perfect but the mountain held another surprise in store - the next morning the two descended 100m and realised that their fixed ropes were no longer in place. Or rather, that a huge section of the wall had been swept away by an enormous avalanche. They immediately realised the obvious: hours had separated them from certain death during the ascent. Their blood froze but there was no time to lose: the way down was as smooth as a bowling alley. Thankfully they had a kevlar cord for emergencies and two ice screws... So after a series of dangerous abseils they reached the safety of Base Camp at circa 14.00 on 23 May.
"I'm exhausted" Kammerlander confided, "Exhausted but serene. You know, we felt that Lois was with us up here, he accompanied us during the ascent. We dedicate this route to him. Lois was in in 2005, last year we all know what happened. Lois was a good friend and a great individual..."
Born in 1965 in the South Tyrol where he currently lives, the last of 6 children. He began climbing at an early age in the Dolomites, then the Alps and then on the highest mountains in the world. He has climbed 13 8000m peaks, all without supplementary oxygen.
Kammerlander is a UIAGM Mountain Guide and director of the mountaineering school ALPINSCHULE SUDTIROL.
Born in 1970 Unterkircher lives in Selva di Val Gardena together with his wife Silke and children Alex and Miriam. He started climbing aged 15, and in 1997 he became a UIAGM Mountain Guide.
Expeditions 2004: Everest and K2 in 2 months without supplementary oxygen. 2005: Jasemba (Pasang Namhu Chuli) attempt with Kammerlander and L. Brugger. 2006: Mt. Genyen, first ascent of N. Face, Sashung