5/14/10 - Japanese climbers Yasushi Okada and Katsutaka “Jumbo” Yokoyama have completed one of the great unclimbed walls in North America: the south face of Mt. Logan, Canada’s highest peak. In early May, the two men climbed the 2,500-meter (8,200') wall alpine-style over three long days, and then continued to the east summit of Logan at 5,900 meters (19,357'), before descending via the extremely long east ridge.
The Japanese route climbs the steepest wall on Logan’s broad south face, to the right of the Warbler Ridge. The face had attracted many suitors over the past two decades, including the Alaska-Yukon ace Jack Tackle, who attempted the route twice over a 10-year span, getting about 3,000 feet up the wall both times.
“I’m so happy to get such a nice route with great history,” Yokoyama said. “I had heard some stories about it from Jack and Jay [Smith], and it sounded pretty different from other places like the Alaska Range. [They described] bad weather, remoteness, a lot of hazards like avalanches, and hugeness itself. So, I thought that we [would] have to struggle with huge nature—this is the very climbing that I demand.
“The past several years, I had been to the Alaska Range, and it was great experiences for me. On the other hand, I had started to feel that freshness was getting lost; we could get any beta if we wanted,” Yokoyama continued. “I imagined Logan would be totally different.”
Arriving on the glacier in mid-April, the climbers’ first challenge was acclimatization. Finding no safe place to acclimatize near the south face, they decided to climb Logan’s very long east ridge. The round-trip took eight days and covered about 60 kilometers (37 miles). Based on that effort, Okada and Yokoyama concluded there was no way they would descend from their new route by the east ridge.
On May 4, in good weather, they started up the south wall, climbing the right-hand rib on the face, the only line not threatened by hanging glaciers. Above the steep ice and snow of the lower wall, they found a cache left in 2007 by Tackle, Smith, and Fabrizio Zangrilli, and then continued up and left into the steepest section of the face. Yokoyama said the crux was a 200-meter stretch of climbing with thin ice, loose rock, and M6 dry tooling.
Above this, the technical difficulty eased but the psychological pressure grew, despite mostly good weather. “The higher we climbed, the more confidence [we had] that rappelling on the same route is out of the question,” Yokoyama said, “because there were a lot of traverses, loose rock, and it’s simply big.”
The pair reached the east ridge at nearly 11 p.m. on their third day of climbing, and the following day they trudged up to the east summit, where, considering the alternatives, “we decided to descend via the east ridge without hesitation,” Yokoyama said. Two other climbers had left fresh tracks along the ridge, which made the descent much easier than expected, but it was still a 30-kilometer walk back to base camp.
Katsutaka, a founding member of the so-called Giri-Giri Boys, is well-knownto North Americans for many hard first ascents in the Alaska Range,including a massive link-up of the Isis and Slovak Direct routes on Denaliin 2008. He and Okada are close friends but had never done a major mountainroute before. However, Okada has had significant successes in the Himalaya,including an ascent of Meru Shark's Fin in India and a new route onTengkangpoche in Nepal.
In an email to Jack Tackle, who considered this line on Logan to be his “last great project” yet still helped the Japanese climbers with photos and advice, Yokoyama wrote, “It’s too much honor for me to get such a great line and share this route with you. We named the route I-TO, which means thread, line, relationship, etc.”
Dates of Ascent: May 4–8, 2010
Sources: Katsutaka Yokoyama, Jack Tackle, American Alpine Journal