Nobukazu Kuriki, Japanese Solo climber, Dies on Eighth Everest Attempt

Climbing alone and without oxygen, the Japanese alpinist Nobukazu Kuriki was found dead at Camp 2 on Everest.

By Ash Routen | May 21st, 2018

Nobukazu Kuriki.

Nobukazu Kuriki is the latest victim of the 2018 Everest season. The Japanese climber was found dead in his tent on May 21 at Camp 2, around 1,400 meters below the summit.

This was the 36-year-old Kuriki’s eighth time on Everest and 13th on an 8,000-meter peak—all attempted without supplemental oxygen.

Before trying to push for the summit via the South Col Route, Kuriki had written on May 20 that he was in some pain, but would be continuing upward:”Namaste, gentlemen. I’m here at 7400m now. Now, I feel the pain and difficulty in this mountain. I want to make it very carefully. Thank you all for your support…I think I’m going to be up with you.”

He appears to have struggled with a fever and cough, but cause of death is yet to be confirmed.

Kuriki hailed from the Japanese Island of Hokkaido and was highly revered in his home country. He was featured in various TV programs for his climbing exploits and was a regular on the professional speaking circuit. But what appears to define this ambitious climber’s life was incredible determination, and an ethic of climbing solo, without Sherpa support and without supplemental oxygen.

Kuriki started climbing while at University, and later went to to scale six of the Seven Summits, as well as the 8,000-meter peaks Cho Oyu, Broad Peak and Dhaulagiri. But it was his eight, unsuccessful attempts on Everest which attracted attention.

Kurkiki climbing.

He first tackled Everest in 2009 aged 27, and returned for further tries in 2010, 2011 and 201. Notably, in 2012, he lost nine fingers to frostbite while attempting the West Ridge. He returned to the mountain in 2015, and was one of the the first climbers on Everest after the large earthquake that rocked Nepal. That year he was stopped short some 700 meters from the summit.  Kuriki tried to summit the mountain again in 2016, 2017 and now, fatally, in 2018. Remarkably, a number of his eight attempts were made in autumn, the “off- season.”

Many words will be written about Kuriki worldwide, some disparaging his ill-fated climbs, others perhaps lauding his purism, courage and determination. This was a man, however, who summited Cho Oyu at only 24, and who tried hard routes—such as Everest’s North Face and the Hornbein Colouir—alone and without oxygen. In an age when Everest is besieged by commercial climbing, his legacy should stand as an example to all those who truly wish to call themselves Himalayan alpinists.

The climber and Everest chronicler Alan Arnette perhaps sums it up best:

“Kuriki-san was an alpinist purist – always alone, no supplemental oxygen and in the off-seasons. He set a standard for his climbs that seemed impossible even for himself. Only a few teams attempt Everest in the autumn season each year due to shortening, cold days and the quickly approaching winter snows. But his determination and commitment was impressive regardless of the results…He dreamed of summiting Everest in the autumn – rarely accomplished by any climber – in his unique style of strictly alone and without supplemental oxygen. This was his dream and he never let it go”.


 

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Weekend Whipper: Crevasse Chaos on Everest [Filmed by Nobukazu Kuriki]

 

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