Japanese climber Keita Kurakami has clarified former statements made to Rock and Ice and posts on social media, explaining that he does not believe he free climbed the Nose in Yosemite in the style required for him to claim the fifth free ascent of the route.
In his original Instagram post on November 15, Kurakami wrote, “Wooooow!! My mission has done!!! I grabbed the 5th free ascent of the Nose 5.14a! So I freeclimbed all pitches!!!”
However, in a follow-up post on November 23, after Rock and Ice and other climbing publications reported variously on his fifth or sixth free-ascent (depending on whether Scott Burke’s 1998 ascent is included), Kurakami wrote, “I have to say that it wasn’t completely 5th ascent. Because I left from the wall to take a rest in the top of the wall, so my ascent is not completely [continuous] push. It’s an easier style than previous ascent it is not able to be official record I think. If someone says my ascent can be accepted free ascent, even so, I have doubts myself, I can’t agree [with] it. My name should be deleted from the record of the Nose free ascent.”
Past free ascentionists of the Nose—Lynn Hill, Tommy Caldwell, Beth Rodden and Jorg Verhoeven—all adhered to an unwritten rule of Yosemite big-wall free-climbing that a free ascent should be done in a single push without returning to the ground. While Kurakami did not follow this tenet, by many standards he did still complete a free ascent of the route, just not in as pure of a style. In an article on the nuances of style in our sport, Rock and Ice’s editor Francis Sanzaro probes the history of free climbing the Nose: “In 1998 Scott Burke nearly freed the Nose, an attempt that took 12 days, and he toproped the Great Roof pitch because of impending storms. Tommy and Beth made a team ascent in 2005, and then Tommy made an individual free ascent in the same year, leading every pitch himself, in a single push, in 12 hours. Technically, in 2005, that means the only people to have sent the Nose individually were Lynn and Tommy.”
Rock and Ice conducted an email interview with Kurakami on November 16. He asked that the interview be via email because he struggles with English. While he never suggested that his climb was lesser than the ascentionists in his responses, Kurakami’s intention was not to mislead or claim credit for something he did not accomplish. The new information should not be seen as him backtracking, but rather a clarification of lost-in-translation statements. In his latest Instagram post he continued, “I don’t give up this challenge, I will be back again there to finish it with completely or harder climbing style in a push from ground. See you again next year!!”