Japanese Score Major Successes in Alaska

Nasty spindrift on the west face of Peak 7,400' in the Ruth Gorge. Photo courtesy of Hiroshi Hagiwara

The line of the 22-pitch Japanese route on Peak 7,400'. The 1989 Bibler-Klewin Route hugs the prow on the left side of the face. Photo courtesy of Hiroshi Hagiwara

6/9/10 - In an Alaska season when many teams have struggled to climb anything but moderate classics, a trio of Japan’s Giri Giri Boys have climbed two new routes in the Ruth Gorge and a major repeat on Denali.

Kazuaki Amano, Ryo Masumoto, and Takaai Nagato completed their first new route, on the west face of Peak 7,400' in the Ruth Gorge, in mid-April. The trio climbed the 3,000-foot route in two days, with a total of 22 pitches: M6 5.9/5.10- R. The unnamed summit rises from the east side of the Ruth Glacier, opposite Mt. Bradley. The Japanese route follows an independent line to the right of the 1989 Bibler-Klewin Route on the left side of the face, possibly sharing pitches with the earlier route near the top.

The Japanese line on the north face of Mt. Church in the Ruth Gorge. Their route followed the first half of Amazing Grace, a climb established last season, then headed straight for the top. Photo courtesy of Hiroshi Hagiwara

One week later, the Japanese climbed a partial new route on the north face of Mt. Church, at the southwest end of the Ruth Glacier. Their line followed the first half of Amazing Grace (Clapham-Pike, 2009), and then headed straight for the summit where the 2009 route branched left. The 17-pitch climb took two days and went at AI4+ M6R. Amano is reportedly planning to name the route in tribute to Yuto Inoue and Tatsuro Yamada, who died on Denali in 2008. The first ascent of Church’s north face was completed in 2007 by Yamada and two other members of the Giri Giri Boys, a loosely affiliated crew of hard-core alpine climbers in Japan.

The Japanese climbers next made a brief attempt on Snow Patrol (Chinnery-Sharpe, 2004) on the south face of Mt. Dickey, but found it out of condition. Moving over to the Kahiltna Glacier, they climbed the West Buttress of Denali over 10 days in early May to acclimatize for their next challenge: a fast ascent of the Denali Diamond route on the 20,320-foot peak’s southwest face.

Beautiful mixed ground on the superb granite of Denali Diamond, on the southwest face of North America’s highest peak. Photo courtesy of Hiroshi Hagiwara

Starting on May 19, the Japanese trio climbed the very hard, 7,800-vertical-foot Denali Diamond in less than four days (total of 80 hours). They free-climbed the crux tension traverse at M7/7+. The Denali Diamond was first climbed in 1983 by Bryan Becker and Rolf Graage, and has been repeated about half a dozen times, notably in two sub-48-hour ascents, by Chris Brazeau and Ian Welsted in 2005, and Colin Haley and Mark Westman in 2007.

With just a few days left before their flight toward home, the Japanese made a quick, 48-hour ascent of the Bibler-Klewin Route on the north buttress of Mt. Hunter (a.k.a., the Moonflower Buttress). It’s not known if they climbed to Hunter’s summit.

Masumoto and Nagato are new members of the Giri Giri Boys, but Amano has had several very successful expeditions. In 2008, he and Fumitaka Ichimura and Yusuke Sato made the first ascent of the north face of Kalanka in India, an ascent that won a Piolet d’Or. He’s also climbed half a dozen 8,000-meter peaks.

Dates of Ascents: April-May 2010

Sources: Hiroshi Hagiwara, American Alpine Journal, ExplorersWeb.com, Alpinist.com


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