BD athlete Katsutaka "Jumbo" Yokoyama makes first ascent of southeast face of Mount Logan
Black Diamond athlete Katsutaka “Jumbo” Yokoyama recently finished up his 18 month roadtrip around North America by making the first ascent of one of the last great unclimbed walls on the continent: the southeast face of Mount Logan. Below is Jumbo’s report and pictures from his stunning ascent with Yasushi Okada.
The south face of Mt. Logan. Lots of climbers (like BD Sales Rep Jack Tackle), had tried it but couldn't. When I first saw a photo of this face, I was excited by the simple phrase: “the biggest unclimbed wall in North America”. But the actual climbing was not so simple. There are lots of difficulties that can't be explained as a grade. Bad weather, remoteness; these are the biggest problems for climbing on this mountain. We—Yasushi Okada, Genki Narumi and I—had to face these negative factors. Keep our safety for surviving; this was a priority. We started off with a long trip for acclimatization, made a big snow cave for the bad weather, enjoyed perfect whiteout on the vast glacier, etc... It was a big journey, and we identified with sailors leaving for big voyage.
At the last moment, Genki decided not to go climbing. He was overwhelmed by Logan's hugeness; not only by size itself, but also the difficulties and atmosphere. Sure, it was the same feeling for Yasushi and me, but we had certain confidence that we could do it. After Genki decided not to go, it was really pity, but we couldn't help it. He just followed his mind.
After four hours approach, Yasushi and I started climbing. We ran up the lower snow slope smoothly. “Should do it by one day!” Yasushi joked at the bottom of the wall. The face was bigger than weexpected—this is a true fact of big climbing, but it was much, much bigger than expected.
The wall was too complicated to find exact way easily. After climbing on day two, we were astonished to know how much we climbed. Our speed was much slower than expected. On day three, we rushed out of our miserable bivy site. Yasushi said hopefully, “We are going make to the east ridge today!” But the ridge never came up to us. We had to keep climbing on hard ice with agony. At 11 pm, we finally reached to the east ridge and could build a big snow cave. “All right, now we can sleep well,” we told ourselves even though our socks were frozen in our boots and it was too cold to sleep.
In spite of good weather, we got nervous every morning, anxious that it was time for the bad weatehr to arrive. At the morning of day four, the sky was still perfect blue. We started to think about going to the summit though we were totally satisfied with climbing. We decided to go to the east peak, thinking that it could be reached by several hours easy walking. But thin air was merciless to our sinking bodies. When we reached to the col just below of the summit, nearly four hours had passed since we started walking. There were still over 600m uphill to the summit. It was perfect blue sky. But, we still had anxiety about the weather. Even if it was still sunny, we knew it could turn bad immediately. We discussed what we should do, then decided to retreat. At the moment we started to return, I said “Ahh...”in spite of myself. As soon as heard it, Okada told me, “OK, let's go to the summit.” After a couple of hours later, we finally reached the summit. Our joy at the moment was beyond description.
If the weather stayed good we could rappel our route, but we were worried about getting caught in a storm. We would get lots of avalanche, for sure. And, above all, we (at least I) was worried about keeping our strength on the descent on this kind of huge wall. Loose rock and lots of traversing would make it much more difficult. And, the more we thought, the more confidence we had that the east ridge will be the safest and fastest way for descent even though it was going be an extremely long way.
The descent was brilliant—even if it was just long, boring walking. We were totally satisfied with our climbing, and felt this long way would be appropriate for big climbing on Mt. Logan! What kind of feeling had a sailor had when he (she) left home? And how was coming back after the long voyage? It might be a feeling like ours. When we came back to our sweet home, it was just five minutes to midnight...
The southeast face of Mt. Logan—nobody had climbed it; why were we able to do it? There was no esepcially high skill or technique required. The only thing we needed for this project was to just be safe, survive. I can imagine few people like this kind of climbing. And there is another big key: luck. The sky was perfect blue while our climbing. Unexpectedly, we got this fortune.
This last year, my girlfriend Chihiro and I were traveling and rock climbing in North America, and met lots of climbers everywhere we went. We had encounters with lots of great guys, and they gave us huge amounts of hospitality. I totally enjoyed the trip and believe our success on Mt. Logan is a result of all climbers we met during our trip. That's why we name our route I-TO, which means “thread, line, and good relationship,” as a mark of gratitude for all climbers we met.