Climber Masatoshi Kuriaki flew into the Alaska Range last Friday to begin his attempt to be the first person to complete a solo winter climb of Mt. Hunter. KTNA’s Phillip Manning spoke with him last week about his current attempt.
This winter, the Alaska Range has already seen two of its regular visitors arrive. Lonnie Dupre and Norio Matsumoto once again arrived Talkeetna in order to begin their respective journeys. They are now joined by climber Masatoshi Kuriaki, who is here to make his seventh attempt to be the first climber solo Mt. Hunter in the winter. Overall, this is Kuriaki’s thirteenth attempt to solo one of the three largest peaks in the Alaska Range during the winter. He summited Denali on March 8, 1998 after one unsuccessful attempt in 1997, and after multiple tries where he summited just after the Spring Equinox, summited Mt. Foraker on his fourth attempt. I asked Kuriaki what makes Hunter the most difficult of the three to do solo.
Given the intensity of the winter hazards of the Alaska Range, I asked Kuriaki what made a winter climb special. He responded that the challenge was definitely part of the draw to climbing in winter, but also mentioned what makes the experience different on an aesthetic level.
For the climb itself, Kuriaki will be traveling in somewhat similar fashion to Lonnie Dupre’s Denali attempt. He will have five to seven hours a day to travel per day, assuming good weather, and he will be constructing snow caves on the trip. According to his measurements, the snow caves generally stay about fifteen degrees Centigrade warmer than the outside air, as well as the safety they provide from the wind. The trip could take up to seventy days, so Kuriaki is packing hundreds of pounds of supplies, including a supply of mochi, his favorite dessert from Japan.
Kuriaki is often asked, both in his home country and here in Alaska, why he chooses to make such difficult and challenging climbs.
The love of climbing runs deep in Kuriaki, who first got into mountaineering as a teenager. He says that, if necessary, he will continue to make his winter attempts as long as his body and his family will permit. He says he is fortunate in that his wife and children “Understand [his] spirit,” when it comes to making the most difficult winter climbs Alaska has to offer.
Kuriaki made it to the Alaska Range during last weekend’s breaks in the weather, and has once again begun his journey to attempt to be the first climber to summit all three of the Alaska Range’s largest peaks before the Spring Equinox.