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Interview: Keita Kurakami on Freeing the Nose

Rock and Ice caught up with the Japanese climber to talk about his free ascent of the Nose, in Yosemite, earlier this week.

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[UPDATE: Kurakami has clarified the original statements he made to RI and in social media posts, explaining that, based on the style in which he climbed, he does not think he has any claim to the fifth free ascent. For more, see Keita Kurakami Says He Did Not Do Fifth Free Ascent of Nose.]

On November 13, Keita Kurakami became just the fifth person to free climb the Nose, following Lynn Hill, Tommy Caldwell, Beth Rodden and Jorg Verhoeven. Rock and Ice caught up with Kurakami via email to find out a bit more about his experience. To read more about his ascent, see It goes (again): Keita Kurakami Makes Fifth Free Ascent of the Nose.

Keita Kurakami on the Nose, El Capitan, Yosemite. Photo: Courtesy of Keita Kurakami.
Keita Kurakami on the Nose, El Capitan, Yosemite. Photo: Courtesy of Keita Kurakami.

How long were you working on the Nose to prepare a free ascent?

It was over 20 days from last year. Mostly I spent it for crux pitches, Great roof and Changing corners. [For] other pitches, I mostly onsighted. [Ultimately], I climbed the Nose four times from the ground. [For] Changing Corners, I fixed a rope to the top of El Cap so that I could rest after working it and trying it.

The ascent itself – how long did it take you? How many tries for the crux pitches?

I took two days in Great roof, and a day in Changing corners on my redpoint attempt. But I spent many days and times working them on top rope.

Kurakami on the Changing Corners pitch. Photo: Courtesy of Keita Kurakami.
Kurakami on the Changing Corners pitch. Photo: Courtesy of Keita Kurakami.

What was the most difficult part of the process for you?

Just hauling over 50 kilograms of stuff!

How did the Nose compare to some of your other hardest climbs, like The Votive Light (5.13d/14a R) and Senjitsu-no Ruri (5.14a R/X)?  

That’s a very difficult question. I can’t compare it. Because those routes are so bold but the Nose isn’t so bold.  Changing corners is like a hard, high boulder. It’s just my style.

I enjoyed some interesting experiences from each [of these] routes. It’s one of the most charming things about climbing, I think.

Was Yusuke Sato, your partner on the Nose, close to freeing the route as well?

Yeah! I will go back there to belay him after the rain! You [might] see the 6th ascent soon!

Yusuke Sato sending the Great Roof pitch. Photo: Courtesy of Keita Kurakami.
Yusuke Sato sending the Great Roof pitch. Photo: Courtesy of Keita Kurakami.

Do you have any plans to try other El Cap free climbs in the future?

Of course! I hope to do the Nose free in a day like legendary climbers Lynn hill and Tommy caldwell. And I want to try more hard routes on the big stone, because I only concentrated on the Nose in my Yosemite visits…

How did it feel to finally send the route?

This route is known as the most famous big wall route in the world. Therefore, there are some [unusual] difficulties to climbing it free. There are so many other climbers, gear falling and pee showers… Actually, I [wasn’t really looking forward] to trying it again after my time in Yosemite last year.

But I realized that if really wanted to climb it, I could find a solution [to these things]. This year I decided to visit in the cold season, I chose a bivy spot that deviated from the route a little, and of course I trained for crux pitches during the year.

So it just needed effort and patience. That’s the most important thing for  this route. I learned many things from the Nose.

Kurakami shredded his pinky finger while working the crux pitches not long before his final redpoint attempt. Photo: Courtesy of Keita Kurakami.
Kurakami shredded his pinky finger while working the crux pitches not long before his final redpoint attempt. Photo: Courtesy of Keita Kurakami.

 

Also read It goes (again): Keita Kurakami Makes Fifth Free Ascent of the Nose