[Photo] Giulio Malfer

Naoe Sakashita

Posted on: December 1, 2005

November 1980—the first year the Himalaya was opened for winter climbing—four parties gathered in the office of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. They were the Japanese Everest Southeast Ridge expedition, led by Naomi Uemura; the British Everest West Ridge expedition, led by Alan Rouse; the Italian Makalu Northwest Ridge expedition, led by Renato Casarotto; and myself. I wanted to solo Annapurna I. None of us reached our summits. Four years later Uemura disappeared as he descended from a winter solo ascent of Denali. In 1986 Rouse and Casarotto died on K2. I'm the only one who is still alive.

I've experienced many crises in climbing: cerebral edema on Noshaq; a thirty-meter fall into a hidden crevasse while soloing on Annapurna I; an open bivouac on steep slopes at 8300 meters without food, water, fuel or a sleeping bag, after making the first ascent of K2's North Ridge; hundreds of spindrift avalanches on the north face of the Eiger; forty-six hours of nonstop climbing on Mt. Hunter without food or water; a retreat close to the summit of Fitz Roy during a blizzard with violent winds. I've been lucky to survive.

The Japanese calendar system, based on twelve zodiacs, resets the new calendar after sixty years when the twelve zodiacs turn five times. I'll start my new life in eighteen months. This new life won't be assured the same good luck as my old one, but I'll continue to climb because I wish to carry on the dreams of my friends who have died in the mountains. Next summer I'll return to the north face of the Eiger to climb Le Chant du Cygne for my graduation exam from my first life. In summer 2007 I plan to climb the Nose in a day for my entrance exam into my second life. On the summit I'll make a toast, celebrating those of us who have survived.

Naoe Sakashita: curriculum vitae

1966: Mt. Houou-sanzan (2844m), Japanese Alps, first climb.

1970: Joins Sangaku-Doshikai Alpine Club.

1973: Graduates from Waseda University. Annapurna II (7937m), Himalaya, Nepal, attempt, to 7700 meters.

1973-79: Studies at Waseda University, Literature Department.

1976: Wall of Shadows (ED+, ca. 3200m), north face, Jannu (7710m), Himalaya, Nepal, first ascent, with Nobuyuki Ogawa and Shomi Suzuki. Noshaq (7492m), Hindu-Kush, Afghanistan, ascent, with Dr. Toshitaka Sakano and Koji Takeda.

1978: Tokyo Speed Climbing Competition, first place. Japan National Climbing Competition, second place. International Speed Climbing Competition, Yalta, Russia, fourteenth place. American Direct (ED1: 5.10+, 1100m), west face, Petit Dru (3733m), Mont Blanc massif, France, ascent, with Shohei Wada.

1979: Translates Climbing Ice, by Yvon Chouinard.

1980: North Face Direct, Kanchenjunga (8598m), Himalaya, Nepal, first ascent, with Ryohei Fukada, Haruichi Kawamura and Shomi Suzuki. British Mountaineering Council annual meeting, lecturer. Annapurna I (8091m), Himalaya, Nepal, first winter attempt (solo; reaches 6700m).

1981: Teton Range, Wyoming, and Yosemite Valley, California, various ascents. North ridge, K2 (8611m), Karakoram, China, reconnaissance.

1982: Leads Japanese team on a Scottish winter climbing exchange. North Ridge, K2, first ascent, with Yukihiro Yanagisawa. Establishes Chouinard Japan, a distributor of climbing equipment.

1984: East face, Tawoche (6501m), reconnaissance, with John Roskelley and Jim Bridwell. Southwest Ridge (VI 5.9 60 degrees, 1500m), Ama Dablam (6812m), solo ascent. Founds Lost Arrow, Ltd.

1985: Southeast Face, Tawoche (6501m), Himalaya, Nepal, second ascent, with Kazuhiro Onomura, Haruo Toyoda and Kazuo Yagi. Ariaki-Sakashita (VI 5.7 65 degrees, 1400m), west face, Ama Dablam (6812m), first ascent.

1988: Marries Mutsuko Matsuki. Daughter, Mariko, born.

1989-2005 Board Member, Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd.

1990: Son, Lynn, born. Translates Himalayan Climber, by Doug Scott.

1991: The Nose (VI 5.9 A2, 2,900'), Salathe (5.9 C2, 2,900'), The Shield (VI 5.9 A3, 2,900'), El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, California, ascents. Northeast Face (V 5.9 C1, 2,000'), Half Dome, ascent.

1993: West Face (Alaska Grade 5: VI 5.9 A2), Mt. Huntington (12,240'), Alaska Range, Alaska, forty-three-hour round-trip, with Hideaki Shibuya. Lowe-Kennedy (Alaska Grade 4: 80 degrees, 6,700'), north face, Mt. Hunter (14,570'), Alaska Range, Alaska, sixty-three-hour push (descent via the 8,000-foot West Ridge), with Hideaki Shibuya. Daughter, Hanako, born.

1994: Original Route (ED2, 1800m) north face, Eiger (3970m), Switzerland, ascent, with Fumio Yoneyama.

1996: Californian Route (TD+: 5.11 55 degrees, 650m), Fitz Roy (3405m), Patagonia, Argentina, ascent, with Hideaki Shibuya.

1997: Schmid Route (ED1, 1000m), north face, Matterhorn (4478m), Switzerland, winter ascent, with Bruce Normand. Guest speaker at The American Alpine Club annual meeting.

1998: Melungtse (7181m) and Gaurishankar (7145m), Himalaya, Nepal, attempts.

2005: Millenium Falcon (V 11b, 14 pitches) and Ultimate Everything (IV 11a, 10 pitches) in a day, Squamish, Canada, with Greg Foweraker.

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