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Mark Synnott
          Climber Mark Synnott


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  From the Field
  Jannu North Face Expedition 2000
Dispatches From a Himalayan First Ascent

In the far northeastern corner of Nepal lies Kumbhakarna (Jannu), 25,295 feet (7,710 meters) of rock and ice. Jannu's north face may be the ultimate challenge to big-wall climbers, but its sheerness and remote setting making it nearly unattainable. As such, it's never seen an ascent. Until now.

Climbers Mark Synnott, Kevin Thaw, and Jared Ogden are attempting what they call "a radical and daring new route up its frozen ice runnels and rock faces." If they succeed, it'll be one of the greatest climbing achievements in recent years.

Map by R.J. Kern and Chris Rodemeyer. Base Map by National Geographic Maps


Message 1: The Jannu Expedition is Underway
September 9, 2000

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Everything is up and running, the sat phone is working perfectly...Our plan is to leave Kathmandu on Tuesday...We want to start acclimatizing right away...all is going well, the Jannu Expedition is underway...

Message 2: Tomorrow we'll be hiking up to basecamp
September 15, 2000

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I'm calling from just outside a yak herder's hut...about four hours walk below basecamp...Jared is in basecamp right now...We stopped here...pretty crazy little place...about five little huts...a neat cultural experience...Tomorrow if all goes well we'll be hiking up to basecamp.

Message 3: We've arrived in basecamp
[from Jared Ogden]
September 16, 2000

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We've arrived in basecamp...We're looking up dramatically at 10,000 feet of elevation gain...there's a lot more snow and ice on the face than we'd anticipated...We've been watching some incredible avalanches across the glacier.

Message 4: It felt good—really good—to get up on the mountain
September 23, 2000

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Yesterday...Jared and I climbed about half of [the buttress] and got it fixed with rope...There's a nice safe camp at the top... It felt good, really good, to get up on the mountain.


Message 5: Two days of snowy weather
[from Kevin Thaw]
October 1, 2000

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We had two days of snowy weather...Mark got up around 1 a.m. and hid under a boulder. Jared and I pretty much weathered it...We went toward the top of Nera peak. We got to within a thousand feet of the summit before the snow conditions deteriorated.

Message 6: We felt like the place was going to slide
October 6, 2000

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There was all sorts of avalanche debris and chunks of seracs that had come off...so it was kind of a spooky place for us to be...[Jared] walks about 10 or 15 steps across the crust...and then there was this big crack...We felt like the place was going to slide. We ended up bailing out on the north face because of snow conditions. We still want to climb the mountain. We need to find a new route...Today is Jared's birthday, so we're going to have a rest day...and a little celebration.

Message 7: The expedition is over
October 24, 2000

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The expedition is over. Last time I talked to you guys...we had bailed off the North Face because of the avalanche danger. When the conditions are really bad, it's not hard to make that kind of decision. We didn't want to give up entirely. We asked our [guide] if he thought it would be o.k.[to] make a lightweight, alpine-style attempt on the French Ridge. We got to the police check post there...They said, "You can't go around to the south side of the mountain. If you do...we're going to throw Dala in jail."


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