'' The greatest climb ever '' in the Himalayas. After years of planning, three Americans scale cliff thousands of meters high.

Three American climbers lay in the dark, sharing a custom-made sleeping bag on a portable ledge dangling from a massive cliff high in the Himalayas.

They were anchored to the north face of Mount Jannu, one of the world's sheerest rock walls.

The world below them was 10,000 feet [ 3,050 meters ] of thin black air. Above them, within reach, was something most people can only imagine.

'' I know we still have to do a lot,'' Alan Rousseau said to his two fellow climbers.

'' Bit I feel like we just did something cool.''

The next day, Rousseau, Matt Cornell and Jackson Marvell - little known outside climbing circles, at the moment - stood at Jannu's summit. Before them were the white-tips of other major peaks including Everest and Kangchenjunga.

They may not have had the full perspective. That has since come from other top mountaineers, who see the group's ascent of Jannu's north face as a monumental achievement.

'' IN MY MIND, it's the greatest climb ever -the greatest Alpine climb,'' said Mark Synnott, a renowned climber and author who was stymied by Jannu's north face in 2,000 and called it the '' last great problem in the Himalayas.''

At 25, 295 feet [ 7,710 meters ], Jannu with its remote location and combination of height, steepness and altitude - is one of the most daunting peaks for climbers.

Its north face, especially, has stirred and vexed mountaineers.

OTHERS had been to the top of Jannu, though not many. None had completed the route while adhering to the minimal ethos of an Alpine-style ascent : no supplemental oxygen, no ropes fixed in advance, no porters beyond base camp.

The three men used only what they could carry on their backs. ''It's the simplest way of doing something,'' Rousseau said. '' You just begin at the bottom and go to the top.''

The World Students Society thanks John Branch.


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