JAPANESE ALPINISTS FIRE ALASKAN TESTPIECES

Posted on: May 18, 2007


Fumitaka Ichimura, Yusuke Sato and Tatsuro Yamada of Japan climbed three new routes in Ruth Gorge during April. The Japanese attempted this gully on the north face of Mt. Church (8,233') twice, finishing Memorial Gate (V AI4+R/X, 3,600') on April 26 after heavy spindrift forced them back two weeks before. [Photo] Yusuke Sato

In 2005, Fumitaka Ichimura and Katsutaka Yokoyama established Shi-Shi, a new route on Mt. Huntington, in alpine style. Last year, the pair also put up a new route on the north face of the Broken Tooth (9,050'). This April, three of the so-called Giri-Giri Boys—Ichimura, Yusuke Sato and Tatsuro Yamada—returned to Alaska's Ruth Gorge and climbed three more new routes, all in alpine style.

Most recently Ichimura, Sato and Yamada established three climbs in Ruth Gorge during April. Their first ascent of the season was Season of the Sun (V WI4R M6R, 4,500'), on the southeast face of Mt. Bradley (9,100'). It took the Japanese fifteen hours to climb from base to summit.

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The first major ascent of the trip: Season of the Sun (V WI4R M6R, 4,500), southeast face of Mt. Bradley (9,100), Ruth Gorge, Alaska Range. The climb took the Japanese fifteen hours from base to summit on April 20. [Photo] Yusuke Sato

A week before, they had attempted a gully on Mt. Church's (8,233') north face and a line on the west face of Peak 7,400'. Both failed as a result of wild spindrift. But on April 26, the three returned to Mt. Church and completed, in nineteen hours round-trip, both sections of the climb: steep and technical snow followed by a 1,400-foot snow-layered rock slab. They tunneled through the summit cornice to finish Memorial Gate (V AI4+R/X, 3,600').

To complete their trip the trio hoped to squeeze in The Elevator Shaft (Alaska Grade 6: 5.7 A3 AI5+), which the 1996 American Alpine Journal touts as "a wild ride to the summit of Mt. Johnson" (8,460'). Upon arrival, they spied a line to the right of the Shaft. Finding "perfect alpine ice", the three climbed to the col, from which they traversed to join The Elevator Shaft's cruxy upper section. After a bivy and 1,300 feet of easy ridge climbing, they established The Ladder Tube (V 5.10R A3 WI4+R M5, 3,000') on May 1. It took the rest of the day to descend.

The Giri-Giri Boys are a Japanese cadre quietly pursuing some of the great remaining mountaineering objectives across the globe. Not since Yasushi and Taeko Yamanoi, less prolific since their disastrous expedition to Tibet in 2002, has such a wave of high-level alpine-style climbs come out of Japan. In addition to Before the Dawn (Alaska Grade 5: 5.9 WI4+ M6, 23 pitches, 1000m) on Broken Tooth and Shi Shi (Alaska Grade 4: M5 AI5, 5,900') on the west face of Mt. Huntington (12,240')—a climb that is featured in Issue 20's Mountain Profile—the Boys have established new routes in Bolivia as well.

Sources: Tatsuro Yamada, American Alpine Journal (Vol. 38: 1996)

The Ladder Tube (V 5.10R A3 WI4+R M5, 3,000'), just right of Mt. Johnson's (8,460') classic: The Elevator Shaft (Alaska Grade 6: 5.7 A3 AI5+), Ruth Gorge, Alaska Range. The trio had planned to climb The Elevator Shaft, until they spied this unclimbed line nearby. The top of the new climb links into the Shaft. [Photo] Yusuke Sato



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