Yesterday, I was asked the question „Do you have any role models?“. Well, as a teenager certainly there were rock stars, athletes, my parents and friends I looked up to. Today? I had to think. Then there were two gentlemen that came to my mind. Not that I want to be like them, but there is a common quality in both of them that I admire.
First, Masatoshi Kuriaki, also known as the Japanese Caribou, walked once from Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay. He summited Denali in the summer, he soloed the same mountain in the winter, as well as his neighbor Mt Foraker. Then he set his eyes on Mt Hunter. In eight attempts he spent months on time on the mountain in the deepest of winter. I am not sure where Masa is today, as he is going quietly about his business. In 2014 he reached the 12,000 ft level only to be turned around by ice conditions and high winds, typical Alaska winter mountain weather. Eight times he made the incredible hard, but safe decision to turn back and go home to be with his family.
Second, Lonnie Dupre, an adventurer, who completed the Northwest Passage on dog sled, circumnavigated Greenland under his own power, and reached the North Pole twice, once by sled and canoe, and a second time as part of the unsupported human-powered Peary-Henson Centennial Expedition. Recently, Lonnie reached the summit of Denali in January in a solo climb, a first for the month of January. Lonnie had attempted this feat three times before.
I don’t have the ambition to climb a difficult mountain in the winter by myself, but I admire the strong desire to follow a dream and stick to it, even after rejection. In contrast to many other extreme sports, winter solo climbers are on their own. There is no reality TV camera team around, no spectators, and no backup or rewind button in case of a mishap. Even the 10 foot spruce pole strapped to the backpack is no guarantee that you don’t fall into a hidden crevasse. There is no guarantee, period. Taking responsibility for their own actions, that’s what I like about these men.
In the end, it’s not the extreme activity that I find attractive, but the style and the environment in which both athletes follow their dreams.