Since Hillary’s first ascent almost 60 years ago, 3,755 other climbers have reached the top Everest. And while there’s no doubt that the climb is extremely challenging, the sheer number of successful summit bids, if nothing else, has muted the sense of adventure, danger and mystique once associated with the the world's highest peak.
But there are a few ways to make Everest much, much more difficult. You can forego supplemental oxygen, or attempt to climb it solo. (To date, there has only been one true oxygenless solo summit of Everest. It was done by Reinhold Messner, arguably the greatest mountaineer of all time, in 1980.) Or you can try to summit via the notorious West Ridge.
When Japanese climber Nobukazu Kuriki tweeted recently that he was about to attempt all three simultaneously, the climbing world took notice. Although Kuriki had some Sherpa support up to Camp IV, according to Kraig Becker, he plans to make the final push to the summit alone.
The West Ridge became famous in 1963, when Tom Hornbein published “Everest: The West Ridge,” about his experience on the previously-unclimbed route. Only three others have succeeded since then, and the route has thwarted some of the most accomplished mountaineers in the world, including Conrad Anker. The route is very technical, more exposed than other routes, and if something goes wrong, there are no other climbers nearby to help. To make things more difficult, weather conditions can quickly turn the route into frozen scree that doesn’t allow climbers to place protection.
If Kuriki succeeds, his accomplishment will mark one of the most impressive climbs in recent history.
While the attempt may seem like a suicide mission, Kuriki is no greenhorn on the mountain. The 30-year-old climber has completed solo ascents of three 8,000-meter peaks–Manaslu, Cho Oyu and Dhaulagiri—without supplemental oxygen. His laundry list of other peaks includes Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro and the Carstensz Pyramid. This will be his fourth attempt to summit Everest.
Stay tuned. If the weather is good, Kuriki may make a summit attempt in the next few days.