Boldest Ascent in Alaska: No. 1

2008 Giri Giri Linkup on Denali

After warm ups on the Bear Tooth and Mount Hunter’s Moonflower Buttress, Katsutaka Yokoyama, Yusuke Sato, and Fumi- taka Ichimura turned to Denali two properly finish a route and make a linkup of two very difficult routes.

These three Japanese alpinists were members of an unofficial group that called themselves the Giri-Giri Boys that traveled the world to attempt some of the biggest, most challenging mountaineering obstacles. On Denali, they set their sites on a linking up the Isis Face, which had only been climbed twice before, and the Slovak Direct and connecting the summit. Combined, they would ascend 16,000 vertical feet on very steep, tiring routes.

Over eight days, including one spent in a snow cave during a storm. They simul-climbed (climbing with a rope between them but no anchors) the whole Isis Face. They’re attitudes throughout their climbs, as on other ascents, were extremely positive. They recognize the danger of a route, but quickly shifted their focus to note how beautiful everything around them was.

The most dangerous aspect of the ascent, according to Yokoyama in Alpinist, was the descent after the Isis Face via the “Ramp” on Denali. It is a wide feature and maintaining direction can be reasonably difficult.

Through this linkup, this ascent made the first “complete first ascent” of the Isis Face. Jack Tackle and David Stutzman climbed the line in 1982 but did not continue to the summit, rather they stopped at the South Buttress and descended.

Unfortunately, the entry in the 2009 American Alpine Journal was minor compared to the significance of this accomplishment, but there is more information in Newswire from Alpinist magazine.

Arguably this linkup ascent had tangible impact; these same climbers visited Mount Logan in Canada two years later and made an even bolder ascent. This linkup also involved the great dangers of both of these well-known and challenging routes, and incorporated impeccable alpine style. For these reasons, it stands out above all other climbs as the boldest ascent in Alaskan mountaineering history.

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