by Lorien Nettleton ~ December 14th, 2011
Mountaineer Masatoshi Kuriaki is back in the Alaska Range in his bid climb Mount Hunter in Winter alone. This will be the Japanese climber’s sixth attempt to be the first person to climb Mt. Hunter solo in winter. His previous attempts have been thwarted by weather, and his last try in 2010 saw him spend an astounding eighty-three days on the mountain, including 53 days spent hunkered down snowcaves, waiting for weather to clear. This time he says he’s brought enough supplies to stay on the mountain for 100 days, if that is what it takes.
On his sixth attempt he will us a similar approach as in previous attempts, Kuriaki says. He plans to approach the mountain by the West Ridge, which is the least difficult rout to the summit, but is a long and technical climb nonetheless, with many miles of corniced ridges, exposed faces and avalanche dangers. As an expedition of one, Kuriaki will be making several trips between each camp as he ferries supplies up the mountain with him. Kuriaki says he anticipates as many as ten trips between the Kahiltna Glacier and base camp. After his previous experiences where he spent nearly two days chopping out an ice cave for his high camp at eleven-thousand feet, Kuriaki says he plans on establishing his high camp in a different location. This time around, he says he will push a little further into an area that is more likely to have softer snow to build snow caves.
While only the third tallest mountain in the Alaska range, the fourteen-thousand, five-hundred, seventy-three foot peak offers technical challenges such as sheer walls of ice and cornices that require special discipline and good judgement. Mountaineering Ranger Roger Robinson says that even in summer it demands the most from climbers seeking the summit. Robinson says that some seasons no one makes it to the top of Mt. Hunter at all.
Kuriaki says his goal is not to attain the summit, but to make the summit and return to base camp in one piece. It is this commitment to safety that has seen him turn back during his five previous attempts on the summit.