People climb mountains largely because of the challenge they represent, and many times the challenge is too great, or downright overwhelming.
One needs only to look at the accompanying image (top, right)–which is not for the feint of heart–to realize that the challenge was too great for Kuriki Nobukazu.
The Japanese mountaineer was attempting to become the first person to solo-climb Mt. Everest via the exceedingly dangerous West Ridge/Hornbein Couloir route. He turned back amid a ferocious wind storm and was fortunate to have only suffered severe frostbite on his fingers and the tip of his nose.
Precise details of the climb will become known after Kuriki returns to Japan to complete his recovery. Some of what is known has been posted on the mountaineer’s Facebook page.
On Monday morning he stated that he was being transported from a hospital in Katmandu for one in Japan.
“Feeling my head refreshed, because on the flat ground with sufficient oxygen,” Kuriki stated. “My frostbite is very serious.”
Last week his page was updated with news that, after advancing past high camps to the West Ridge, he was beginning a descent because of a ferocious wind storm. He was airlifted from Camp 2 to Katmandu.
The wisdom of attempting this route can be called into question. According to Explorersweb.com, there have been five successful summits via the West Ridge/Hornbein Couloir, and nine fatalities. Nobody has completed this route up Everest’s North Face solo.
It’s said to be the deadliest line on the world’s tallest peak (29,035 feet), exceedingly steep and exposed, with no fixed ropes. Kuriki climbs unassisted and without bottled oxygen, making such an attempt even more challenging.
While other climbers and adventurers have expressed relief that Kuriki was not killed, at least one also has expressed criticism and suspicion.
Renowned polar explorer Eric Larsen, while sharing the image of Kuriki’s frostbitten hands, stated Sunday night on Facebook:
“I met Kuriki Nobukazu on Everest in 2010. He stated he was climbing ‘solo’ although there were four or five Sherpas carrying gear. He then aborted his climb shortly after reaching Camp 3.
“This year, he attempted the very difficult West Ridge/Hornbein Couloir route ‘solo’ and was unsuccessful. I am very glad he is back and safe; however in my opinion, his condition only underscores the need for responsible decision-making while on an expedition. Best wishes for a speedy recovery!”
Before the summit attempt was aborted, Tina Sjogren of Explorers Web labeled Kuriki’s expedition as “one of the boldest and most dangerous high-altitude climbs of the last decade.”
Given the danger and extreme conditions, despite the failed summit bid and the severe frostbite, the expedition could be said to have a happy ending, merely because Kuriki made it back alive.
–Images showing Kuriki Nobukazu after and during his expedition are via the climber’s Facebook page