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The Japanese Caribou and Mount Hunter in Winter Solo

One of the most accomplished Alaskan winter climbers is Masatoshi Kuriaki, who is nicknamed the Japanese Caribou. In 1998, he soloed Denali in winter and in 2006 spent 58 days alone trying to solo the South Buttress of Denali. In 2007, he made the first solo winter ascent of Mount Foraker.

Over the past 15 years, Kuriaki has made at least 10 attempts to solo Mount Hunter in winter. Mount Hunter is a 4,442-metre peak with a number of classic alpine lines, such as the West Ridge and Moonflower Buttress.

Masatoshi Kuriaki, the Japanese Caribou. Photo Masatoshi Kuriaki
Masatoshi Kuriaki, the Japanese Caribou. Photo Masatoshi Kuriaki

In total, Kuriaki has spent nearly 800 days alone trying to climb mountains in Alaska alone in winter. Kuriaki attempted Hunter solo and spent X-number of days: in 2003 for 48, 2004 for 34, 2005 for 41, 2009 for 49, 2010 for 83 (waiting 16 days near the summit for a storm to break), 2012 for 47, 2014 for 66 and 2016 and in 2016 for 75 days (read the rescue report here).

“He really doesn’t care sometimes if he gets to the top, as long as he has that five, six or seven week span in the wilderness by himself, the solitude,” said Denali National Park south district ranger Daryl Miller about Kuriaki. “And so that’s what really sets him apart. He’s not driven so much by summits as much as he’s driven by the solitude and just being in the winter by himself.” Follow Kuriaki on Facebook here and be sure to check out his website here.

To put in perspective how committed the Japanese Caribou is, American Lonnie Dupre attempted to solo Hunter during the first two weeks of 2017. After an attempt, he began to descend and fell into a crevasse in -25C conditions. Less than a few days on the mountain and he called for an airlift out noting that if he were to return, he would be more prepared.

Mount Hunter. Photo
Mount Hunter. Photo Masatoshi Kuriaki