JAC-Tokai Environmental Research K2 Expedition 1997

Osamu Tanabe (Leader)

Summary of Expedition

 In 1994, the Tokai Branch of the Japanese Alpine Club started its exploration of new routes to the summit of K2. After the long exploration, we came to the conclusion that, taking the West ridge course of the 1981 Waseda University party up to the 7,800 meter point, then climbing up toward the left, we would turn round onto the West Wall at the altitude of 8,000 meters. We expected the greatest difficulty in this turning-round point. We calculated that, once we got on to the upper part of the West Wall, we would be able to reach the North Ridge, just beneath the summit, by climbing on one snow wall, then to the next. The new route vas estimated to be about 800 meters in altitude difference, about the 7,800 meter point.

 On May 5th, only ten days before our departure from Japan, Kazuo Tokushima who had been preparing for the expedition as our leader, was killed in an avalanche while walking along the Karasawa Valley of Mt Hotaka in the Japan Alps. It was then decided that Tanabe should take his place and become a leader.

 On May 16th, our party left Japan as scheduled, and on June 4th, our caravan started from Tongal.
On our way, in Paiju, we stopped to help the Himalayan Green Club members with their afforestation activities. On June 10th, we set up our BC at the 5,150 meter point on the K2 normal route. It had been our plan to make our BC site at the 5,500 meter point on Savoir Glacier, but the change was compelled by troubles with our porters.
 On June 14th, we set up ABC at the 5,500 meter point, and began to make a reconnaissance to find a route to move up the mountain. We were soon forced to halt our reconnaissance, however, when we received a call for help from the Shizuoka Broad Peak Expedition team, which had met with an avalanche on June 16th. We aided them in their search for those in distress, and were able to recover two bodies on June 18th.
 On June 20th, we resumed our climbing, but were unable to advance very far due to inclement weather. With the beginning of July, however, the bad weather changed and the Baltro Area was blessed with what many felt to be the finest weather in 20 years. Taking advantage of this, we were able to advance at a faster pace. We proceeded up to the 7,800 meter point, taking the Waseda University West Ridge route, except for the rock wall around 6,900 meters. There we chose to take a right-hand course since we thought it would be easier to carry up our baggage along this way. On July 16th, we managed to pass the tunnel-like gully, less than 50 centimeters wide, in the 'Snow and Ice Fall Area'. From there we climbed along an unknown route. Referring to Mr. Saburo Hiroshima's aerial photographs, we stretched our route towards the left, and found an ideal C5 site on the shoulder of the West Ridge pinnacle area at a height of 8,000 meters. From the shoulder, it was possible to dangle down onto the snow-covered West Wall, by two pitches.
 On July 18th, the first advance party, Tanabe, Suzuki, and Nakagawa, set up C5, and on July 19th, started for the summit. Climbing leftward from one unstable wall to the next on the West Wall, we reached a col on the North-West Rldge at the altitude of about 8,000 meters. Fear of avalanches would have made this area the most dangerous leg of our climb if we had had bad weather, as is often the case in this region. From the col up to the uppermost point on the North Ridge, we climbed about 200 meters across a slope which was covered with unstable, loose rocks. One more careful pitch of traverse brought us to the round snow dome, and to the summit. Thus, we were able to lay to rest the ashes of two mountaineers, who had been most eager to stand on this summit: the late Tokushima, who was to have been our leader, and the late Yamazaki, who was an earnest climber of our club and passed away on Ultal II after reaching the summit
 After 20 consecutive days of fine weather, bad weather arrived on July 21st. This prevented the second advance party from reaching the summit. On July 28th, however, eight members, Takine, Nakajima, Yamada, Kobayashi, Dawatasl, Gyarbu, Mimma, and Pembadolge, stood on the top. Thus, our expedition ended successfully.

 For our climb, we took the 'Polar Method'

General leader: Noboru Onoe (54)
Leader: Osamu Tanabe (36)
BC manager: Hiroaki Kanada (49)
Other members: Masamiki Takine (46)
      Akira Nakajima (35)
      Ryoji Yamada (34)
      Masami Kobayashi (32)
      Manabu Miyosi (31)
      Mikio Suzuki (30)
      Kunihito Nakagawa (28)
      Shouichi Yamabe (34)
Asahi Shlmbun News Reporter
10 high altitude porters from Nepal

Summary of climbing activities
      BC (5,150 meters) Established on June 10th
      ABC (5,500 meters) Established on June 14th
      C2 (6,400 meters) Established on June 27th
      C3 (7,000 meters) Established on July 6th
      C4 (7,500 meters) Established on July 15th
      C5 (8,000 meters) Established on July 18th
      First ascent: Reached the summit on July 19th
     Second ascent: Reached the summit on July 28th
C1 was not set up, as we wanted to avoid the danger of falling rocks and avalanches.