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with Stefan Nestler

Kuriki turns around on Everest

Nobukazu Kuriki

Nobukazu Kuriki

It would have been a real bang. And probably the headline was already prepared: “Historical Everest climb with only one complete finger”. But this headline will be put away in a drawer until further notice. Nobukazu Kuriki has abandoned his first summit attempt on Everest. “I tried hard taking all my energy, but it took too much time to move in the deep snow”, the 33-year-old Japanese tweeted. “I realised if I kept going, I wouldn’t be able to come back alive.” It is still unclear how high exactly he climbed. According to his GPS signal messenger, he did not reach the South Col. Kuriki had made his “last Camp”, as he wrote, at about 7,700 meters, at about the level of the Geneva Spur, 200 meters below the South Col. From there, it would have been a real marathon stage up to the 8,850-meter-high summit – in particular because the Japanese was climbing solo above Camp 2, not using bottled oxygen, and the route was neither prepared nor secured with fixed ropes.

Solo above 6,400 meters 

South side of Everest

South side of Everest

Strictly speaking, it would not have been an Everest solo climb anyway because Kuriki had climbed on the route through the Khumbu Icefall that had been prepared by the “Icefall Doctors”, and he had been accompanied up to an altitude of 6,400 meters. But when at all is a climber truly alone on Everest, especially on the normal route? So Kuriki’s attempt was really quite close to a solo climb. The only pure one in Everest climbing history, that was successfully finished without breathing mask, was made by Reinhold Messner. The South Tyrolean scaled the highest mountain on earth in August 1980, in the midst of monsoon, thus outside of the climbing season, solo and on a new route from the north side. 

Only one complete finger

Kuriki after his Everest attempt in fall 2012

Kuriki after his Everest attempt in fall 2012

It was already Kuriki’s fifth attempt to climb Mount Everest in fall. In October 2012, the Japanese had made headlines worldwide when he had tried to reach the summit via the rarely tried West Ridge. The then 30-year-old said that he had to turn back at about 8,000 meters because of a storm. On his descent, Kuriki sent an emergency call. Sherpas climbed up to him, and the Japanese was flown by rescue helicopter from Camp 2 at 6,400 meters to a hospital in Kathmandu. Kuriki suffered severe frostbite. Nine fingers had to be amputated; only stumps were left – and only one complete finger.

One more try?

Will Kuriki dare another attempt? He would have enough time for it. But the question arises, whether he is able to recover sufficiently for a second attempt and to build up the necessary tension and concentration for a new start. The last Everest ascent in fall without bottled oxygen took place 22 years ago. On 9 October 1993, the Frenchman Hubert Giot succeeded. The first climber ever who reached the summit of Everest in the post-monsoon-period without breathing mask was a German: Hans Engl on 14 October 1978.

Update 28 September: Kuriki reportedly wants to try it again. He is staying at base camp for a few days but will try again for the summit starting 1 October, Tikaram Gurung, managing director of Bochi-Bochi Trek, which is handling Kuriki’s expedition told AFP. He is in good physical condition and experienced no major problems on the climb.


27. September 2015 | 15:40