Japanese "Warmed Up" on New Alaskan Testpiece

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The northeast face of Bear Tooth (10,070 feet), above the Buckskin Glacier in Alaska. The Giri-Giri Boys made the first ascent in two days. Courtesy of Yusuke Sato.

The northeast face of Bear Tooth (10,070 feet), above the Buckskin Glacier in Alaska. The Giri-Giri Boys made the first ascent in two days. Courtesy of Yusuke Sato.

The route was characterized by a thin covering of ice and snow over compact granite. Courtesy of Yusuke Sato.

The route was characterized by a thin covering of ice and snow over compact granite. Courtesy of Yusuke Sato.

Before completing their superb link-up of the Isis Face and Slovak Route on Denali in May, Japanese climbers Fumitaka Ichimura, Yusuke Sato, and Katsutaka Yokoyama completed the first ascent of the intimidating northeast face of Bear Tooth. This 10,070-foot peak rises just to the south of the Moose’s Tooth. Yokoyama, a prolific first ascensionist in Alaska in recent years, along with the other self-described Giri-Giri Boys, said, “I think it could be one of the most technical routes in Alaska.”

The Japanese encountered rock climbing up to 5.10a and M7, often with sparse protection. Courtesy of Yusuke Sato.

The Japanese encountered rock climbing up to 5.10a and M7, often with sparse protection. Courtesy of Yusuke Sato.

Starting on the Buckskin Glacier, the three Japanese climbed about 1,000 feet up the east gully between the Bear Tooth and Moose’s Tooth, and then another 3,100 feet up the extremely steep northeast face, finding rock, ice, and mixed climbing. The grade indicates a little of everything, adding up to a whole lot of difficult climbing: Alaska 6 (ED4) 5.10a AI5 M7R A1+. They completed the route in just two days.

After their success on Beartooth, the Japanese flew to the Kahiltna Glacier, where they made a rapid ascent of the classic Moonflower Buttress (Alaska 6 AI6 M5 5.8 A2) on Mt. Hunter and acclimatized on the West Buttress of Denali.

Returning to the base of the mountain, they flew to the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier and began their 16,000-vertical-foot enchainment of the Isis and Slovak routes. The climbers spent three days on the Isis Face, including one day sitting out a storm, and simulclimbed the entire route. On the fourth day they downclimbed the Ramp Route on the south buttress to reach the base of Denali’s south face. Then they spent three days climbing the Slovak Route to its intersection with the Cassin Ridge. “The Slovak was really fun, Yokoyama said, even though I had snow blindness a little, and my crampon broke on the upper part of the wall.” On the eighth day of their outing, they tagged Denali’s 20,320-foot summit and descended all the way to Kahiltna base camp.

The Giri-Giri Boys (from left): Yusuke Sato, Fumitaka Ichimura, and Katsutaka “Jumbo” Yokoyama. Courtesy of Yusuke Sato.

The Giri-Giri Boys (from left): Yusuke Sato, Fumitaka Ichimura, and Katsutaka “Jumbo” Yokoyama. Courtesy of Yusuke Sato.

“We are not so fast climbers,” Yokoyama said modestly. “If much stronger climbers try just the same route, it would be done within five days.”

Dates of Ascent (Bear Tooth): April 18-19, 2008

Sources: Yusuke Sato, Katsutaka Yokoyama, Alaska Climbing

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