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ExWeb interview - Hirotaka: Everest Supercouloir without oxygen
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Apr 10, 2005 16: 14 EST
Previously published Apr 7, 2005 09: 31 EST

The coolest Everest expedition this season is the Supercouloir attempt in Alpine style and without oxygen, by two guys - and a woman!

The daring trio of German climber Ralf Dujmovits, Austrian Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, and Japanese climber Hirotaka Takeuchi are making a lot of waves this season tackling the exposed and highly difficult Supercouloir (the combination route that follows the West Ridge and the Hornbein Couloir on the North Face of the mountain).

As a preparatory climb, they’ll climb Shisha Pangma’s south face… also in alpine style, of course. ExWeb caught up with the climbers just before their departure a few days back, for a kick-off chat before their awesome attempt. Today, the final part in the interview series: Hirotaka Takeuchi.

ExWeb: How did you guys meet?

Hirotaka: I met Ralf on the Nanga Parbat commercial expedition in 2001. He was the host of the expedition, and I was one of his clients. In 2003, Ralf invited me to climb Kangchenjunga together. That was the first time I climbed with him as a partner. Gerlinde was with us at that time as well.

ExWeb: Are you a well known climber in Japan?

Hirotaka: I don’t think I am very well known in Japan. Large climbing teams are usually more highly regarded in Japan than individual climbing projects like mine, which usually do not attract much media attention.

ExWeb: Your own climbing style, just the three of you in alpine style, seems pretty different from the huge Japanese teams in the Himalayas. How come you so often choose to climb with this couple?

Hirotaka: I used to climb mountains as a member of large Japanese teams in the past. Participating in such teams has advantages, and it is also fun to be a part of a big team. However, the larger the team is, the greater the expenses and equipment needed. It is a quite burden to take care of these issues while I still have many mountains I’d like to climb. Ralf and Gerlinde are outstanding climbers, and climbing mountains with them have provided great opportunities for me to improve my skills and ability. I learn something new each time I climb with them.

ExWeb: The Supecouloir is a very cool route: What is you main worry about it?

Hirotaka: I believe the key to our success is to climb fast.

ExWeb: The pioneer of the lower part was another legendary Japanese climber. How does it feel to climb in his footsteps? Who is your favorite Japanese climber?

Hirotaka: Even in Japan, the Japanese Culoir climb is legendary. I don’t think I could get to the summit with the information and equipment of those pioneering days. How incredible our predecessors were! Since we chose to climb by using the same route - but with more updated information and modern, state-of-the-art equipment - I believe that it is fair for us to climb in an alpine style to honor our predecessors. My favorite Japanese climbers are Mr. Tuneo Sigehiro, Mr. Naoki Sakashita and Mr. Kunihiko Kondou.

ExWeb: German and Japanese cuisine is pretty different from each other. What will win in BC: Pork or Sushi :)

Hirotaka: Many Japanese like to stick to Japanese cuisine. Therefore, most Japanese climbing teams take all their provisions with them from Japan. That could be one of the reasons why the Japanese climbing team projects tend to be one the large and expensive side. As for me, going without Japanese food for several months is not a problem. Ralf and Gerlinde don’t really like Japanese cuisine. I like German food and have no problem with it, so German cuisine will probably win at BC.

ExWeb: Are you interested in climbing all 14 8000ers?

Hirotaka: Reaching the summit of all of all 14 8000ers is not my major goal. I am interested in climbing my favorite mountains, and I may climb all 14, 8000ers in the process, but again, it is not my major priority.

ExWeb: After climbing together so many times… Would you join a team of people
you don’t know so well, if the goal was interesting for you?


Hirotaka: I like to climb with different minds, and different climbers when I get the chance.

ExWeb: You climbed Annapurna last year. What are your impressions of that mountain?

Hirotaka: Annapurna was an extremely difficult mountain to climb. We constantly had to face unavoidable danger. At the summit, I was very anxious to return to BC. When we finally did, I was overjoyed that our team was able to make the summit and return safely. I was grateful for our success and appreciated having Ralf and Gerlinde as climbing partners.

The Japanese Couloir/Hornbein Couloir combination route is one of the most difficult and dangerous routes on Everest. Few have attempted it, and fewer succeeded. Only Erhard Loretan and Jean Troillet summited it without O2 in 1986. The latest attempt took place in 2004, by an American climbing/snowboarding expedition led by Stephen Koch.

Japanese climber Hirotaka has summited Makalu, Everest, K2, Nanga Parbat, and in 2004, he summited Annapurna and GI. He summited Everest and K2 back to back in 1996 and, at the age of 25, became the youngest climber to summit the world's two highest mountains. He now has six 8,000ers.

Image of Hirotaka in BC right back from the summit of Gasherbrum I courtesy of Amical.de.
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