MAKALU, 1970




It was in 1965 that this Makalu Expedition was planned for the first time. This project, however, was destined to be cancelled because the Government of Nepal banned the mountaineering to the Himalayas. The people who then were the core of the project turned their direction to Mt. Aconcagua, South America, and successfully ascended the South face in 1966. Since then, volunteers in J.A.C.-Tokai waited for the reopening of the Himalayas, and three years passed by.

In January 1968 the news came through the Foreign Ministry that the Nepalese Government would soon open their mountains for foreign climbers. Our Makalu plan was immediately reorganized to be carried out in the following year, 1969. Our Makalu committee was formed at the general meeting of the club in April. However, the Nepalese Government did not seem to announce the opening promptly enough. We therefore had to give up the 1969 plan. It was decided, instead, that we send out a reconnaissance party with a mission to acquire the mountaineering permit from the Nepalese Government.

The reconnaissance party, consisting of five club members led by M. Matsuura, took off from Japan on 23 February 1969 and arrived in Kathmandu the following day. Matsuura spent full 20 days to persuade the Nepalese Government and got the long- expected permit on 13 March. It was simultaneously when the Government officially announced their new mountaineering code. Our climbing permit was not only the first granted to Japanese applicants but also the first in the world granted according to the new mountaineering code.

The party, departing from Dharan Bazar on 19 March, headed for Makalu. After checking on the conditions of the Shipton Pass in the middle of the long caravan trail, the party arrived at Barun Pokhari Base Camp on 6 April. Staying there until 9 May, they climbed 6,500 metres up to the South col for reconnaissance purposes and got back to Japan with all necessary information.

The main expedition party organized in 1970 was a powerful team made up of both the best members of J.A.C.-Tokai and several apable climbers recruited throughout the country. The financial circles in Nagoya strongly backed us up with the necessary funds.

Makalu and its vicinity

Makalu and its vicinity

Approach march route

Approach march route

Climbing route of Makalu by the south-East ridge

Climbing route of Makalu by the south-East ridge

The official name of the party became The Japanese Makalu Expedition, 1970' and this expedition had multiple scientific purposes beside mountaineering, such as researches into high-altitude medicine, geological science and serology. The party was divided into two groups, and the mountaineering group was sent out in spring while the other geological survey group in the following autumn. The Commander-General of this scientific expedition was Dr. Masao Kumazawa (President of J.A.C.-Tokai) and the leader, Dr. Yohei Itoh (Vice-President of J.A.C.-Tokai). They both joined us partly in the approach march to Makalu.

Makoto Hara was appointed the Mountaineering leader (acting leader) and Yukihiro Ichikawa assisted him as the leader of summit attackers. The total number of members of this mountaineering group was 18 consisting of 16 climbers, 1 photographer and 1 reporter of the Asahi (he came late on 26 April), and locally employed were 25 high-altitude porters.

The total amount of expenses came up to 38,400,000 Japanese Yen, the cargo weighed 11-6 tons and we went with 440 porters (when departing from Dharan Bazar) while returning with 70 (when leaving Base Camp).


Masao Kumazawa (aged 65)Commander-General

Yohei Itoh (aged 46)Leader

Makoto Hara (aged 33)Mountaineering leader (acting leader)

Yukihiro Ichikawa (aged 33)Summit attack leader

Hajime Tanaka (aged 32)

Yuichi Ozaki (aged 30)

Masaji Matsuura (aged 29)

Noboru Onoe (aged 26)

Yonosuke Kawaguchi (aged 26)

Toshihiro Goto (aged 26)

Masakatsu Yoshihara (aged 26)

Masaru Hasegawa (aged 26)

Atsutaka Hashimoto (aged 25)

Masao Koshiyama (aged 24)

Hiroshi Ikuta (aged 24)

Masao Asami (aged 21)

Naoko Nakaseko, Mrs. (aged 32)

Yoko Ashiya, Miss (aged 25)

Shiro Shirahata (aged 36)Photographer

Hisamitsu Tani (aged 36)Asahi reporter



* Mingma Tshering (Thame)Sirdar

Aug Tshering (Namche)Chief cook

Pasang Nirna (Thame)Assistant cook

* Karma (Taktod)High-altitude porter

* Dorje (Wallungcheng),,

* Lhakpa Tenzing (Namche),,

* Ang Nima (Thame),,

* Dawa Tenzing (Namche),,

* Lhakpa Tshering (Namche),,

* Ang Norbu (Namche),,

* Pemba Norbu (Lomjo),,

* Dawa Thundup (Namche),,

* Lhakpa Gelbu (Namche),,

* Da Nu (Chaurikharka),,

* Finzo (Thame),,

Pasang Dorje (Namche),,

Phijo (Namche),,

Gyaltsen (Thame),,

Furba Tenzing (Thame),,

Dawa Norbu (Phorte),,

Lhakpa Dorje (Thame),,

Pemba Gyaltsen (Chaurikharka),,

Ngati (Taktod),,

Pasang Dawa (Pangboche),,

Nawang Tenzing (Namche),,

Pasang Ilia (Pangboche)Mail runner

Dawa Norbu (Thame),,

Dorje SherkiKitchen boy

Ang Tshering,,


Dawa Norbo,,

Liaison Officer

G. C. Thakur

Note: The high-altitude porters marked are all excellent Sherpas who showed the best of their abilities on the upper part of the mountain. Lhakpa Tshering, however, fell to his death on Peak 29 in the post-monsoon.

Summary of the Expedition

The main party of 15 members, having left Tokyo on 14 February, arrived in Kathmandu the following day. In Nepal, they got together with three other members who had come earlier.

On 20 February, we flew from Kathmandu to Biratnagar and drove into Dharan Bazar within the day. Our approach march started on 22 February but, because of the unexpected shortage of porters, the party had to be divided into two groups. The main group went ahead with 380 porters while the other caravan of 60 porters followed the first group three days after.

On the long and hot approach march along the Arun river, we made several replacements of porters when necessary. The first group arrived at Sedoa, the last village, on 4 March, and the next day joined the second group.

The mountains in the direction of the Shipton Pass viewed from this village were still covered with heavy snow. Both American (1954) and French (1955) parties crossed over this pass in late March, and yet reportedly had a hard time. We were trying to get over it in early March. A great deal of hardship was naturally expected.

The first preparation for crossing the pass was to recruit porters in Sedoa district. Persuaded by the members and Sherpas, the porters started showing up one by one. For the second, there came up a need for a supply of shoes for those porters who would walk in the snow. Fortunately, we were able to buy 300 pairs in a large village (Khandbari) alongside the caravan trail. They were canvas shoes with rubber soles.

On 9 March, the main group departed from Sedoa with 160 porters, leaving behind 4 members and 5 Sherpas to continue the recruitment of porters.

The main group hiked up to the ridge at 3,400 metres on 10 March, but found themselves in a blizzard around midnight. This blizzard continued all next day and we started worrying about the porters stuck in the face of danger. On 12 March, the weather improved a little to show a lull for some time, but all the porters fled back to their village, leaving us and the Sherpas with the loads in the stormy mountains. The snow-storm calmed down after four days.

On 14 March, the second attempt was made to the Shipton Pass. Ropes were fixed here and there on the snow-covered ridge for the porters. First, we had the porters move over the pass to the other side, the forest area, with empty hands, leaving all the loads behind at a depot near the pass, and then had them come back to the depot to fetch the loads over. The members also did carries with the porters. It was 17 March by the time the main party finally crossed over the pass. Approximately one-third of the loads was left alongside the trail in the hands of the second group following up. It was essential for the main party to reach Base Camp and commence mountaineering activities at the earliest. Matsuura and Asami were in charge of the transportation of the left-over cargo.

On 20 March, Onoe and three other members were assigned to go head with a Sherpa and four porters. They, reaching the Barun glacier on 22 March, established Base Camp there at the altitude of 4,700 metres. On 24 March, the main party arrived and all but two members coming up at the end were present at Base Camp. After all, it took us as long as 30 days for this approach march. Base Camp was located in a bright valley which commanded a whole view of the South face of Makalu.

We immediately proceeded with the reconnaissance of the ice- fall, and the safest route from avalanches was explored in the middle of it.

On 27 March, Camp I was placed at 5,300 metres in the ice- fall. On 30 March, Camp II was set up at 5,900 metres where the ice-fall ended. On 1 April, Camp III (Advance Base Camp) was established at 6,500 metres right under the South col.

The work up to Camp III had been done so smoothly and fast that it was just natural that some of the members started thinking of a possible ascent to the summit by the end of April. However, route exploration turned to be suddenly difficult right above Camp III. The steep slope running up to the ridge was located just about the height where people would normally get high-altitude sickness. Many of the members, afflicted with this altitude sickness on the slope, had to retreat. Finding it impossible to climb straight up to the rocky ridge, we opened a route traversing to the left up to the ridge. Ropes were fixed on all the slopes, and from there we started the use of Jumar ascenders.

On 18 April, trial climbs were attempted to the ridge by the six members from Camp III. They tried both rock-wall and the snow-wall in two teams, and the snow-wall team got up on the ridge successfully. On 19 April, two members went up to the ridge by the previous day's route, and discovered a fairly spacious site for tents on the dome. That was the only flat place on the south-east ridge where we could pitch almost 10 tents, but it was forming a steep snow-cliff on the north side (Tibet).

On 24 April, Camp IV was established on the dome at a height of 7,100 metres. It was the 23rd day since Camp III was set up. The reasons why it took so many days for Camp IV were that (1) many members badly suffered from altitude sickness, (2) the route opening was extremely difficult, (3) the Sherpas were not willing to move because of a strong west wind and (4) the ability of carrying loads up was not sufficient. Up to Camp III (Advance Base Camp), it is essential to carry a large portion of cargo in a short period of time, but we were short of Sherpas. It was about this time that we, at Base Camp, examined our supply system basically and reorganized it more rigidly in order to improve the efficiency.

The snow ridge upward from Camp IV starts with an easy smooth slope first, and then runs into a difficult knife-edged ridge, and farther up, the rock-wall of the Black Gendarme stands against us, the worst obstacle we had ever encountered.

At first Camp IV reported that it would not be too hard to climb over this wall, but actually we barely made it over this obstacle after a full 17 days of desperate attack, in strong gusts of wind.

On 11 May, the pair, Tanaka and Ozaki, who went over the Black Gendarme for the first time in a windless sunny weather, discovered a small rock-cave on the ridge and set up Camp V in there at a height of 7,500 metres. Ropes were firmly fixed even inside the cave. The next day, they climbed up to the saddle over a peak of 8,000 metres. They decided to site Camp VI there.

The route from Camp IV to the saddle was not only difficult but so long that most of the Sherpas got stuck at the Black Gendarme. The two members who reached the saddle further discovered an easier route coming from the glacier on the north side up to the saddle. Hara, acting leader, ordered Kawaguchi and Goto at Camp IV to investigate the northern glacier. They started downward from the point where the snow ridge above Camp IV ran up to meet the knife-edged ridge, and explored a new route down to the northern glacier. Their reconnaissance of the glacier brought about two facts: (1) it would be far easier to go to the saddle through the glacier than to go over the Black Gendarme ; (2) it also looked easy to climb from the glacier up to the east ridge on the opposite side, and so, if a switch of route could be made to the east ridge, there would be a good possibility of a far easier ascent by this route than the south-east ridge, however, this was nothing but a guess.

Now, a question arose as to whether or not we should make a change of our attack route. On 13 May, we discussed it over the walkie-talkies among Base Camp, Camp IV and Camp V. Some members insisted on a change while others suggested not to do so, and both argued! The weather had been fine and windless since 8 May, and the monsoon was just about setting in. Sticking to the south-east ridge route might possibly result in a failure, but nobody had any positive assurance of the east ridge route, either. Acting leader Hara made a final decision that we should ascend by the south-east ridge as originally scheduled without any change, and that the new route on the glacier should be used to carry loads instead of the route over the Black Gendarme.

On 15 May, Camp V was placed on the glacier at 7,300 metres.

On 18 May, Kawaguchi and Goto along with two Sherpas, having stopped over at Camp V, went up onto the saddle from the side of the glacier and established Camp VI at a place about 100 metres up from there along the ridge. The altitude was 7,850 metres.

However, there occurred an unexpected accident in that their walkie-talkie broke down and was useless. During the two days of 19 and 20 May, they explored a route on the rock-wall from Camp VI toward the summit and fixed ropes up to approximately 8,100 metres, but we had no way to communicate with them. On 19 May, another pair of members, who had left Camp V' for Camp VI, had to turn back on account of altitude sickness. The Kawaguchi team, without having any support from Camp V', went on a trial climb and fixed rope above Camp VI continuously for the next two days. Food stock got low, and yet nobody came up to Camp VI on 20 May. The monsoon had already been in for 12 days, and it was heavily snowing every day. Being unable to contact Base Camp, Kawaguchi, on his own judgement, decided to attack the summit the next day.

On 21 May, the pair started up from Camp VI at 4.30 a.m. and headed up for the summit with an oxygen bottle on each of their backs. Their oxygen ran out completely at 8.30 a.m., but they kept climbing without it. The weather got worse in the afternoon, and on the ridge toward the summit it was blowing hard and snowing heavily. Although they had been climbing until 6.45 p.m. and actually got pretty close to the summit, their accumulated fatigue came to its limit. Kawaguchi saw a summit-looking peak approximately 300 metres ahead of him, but he, having been deceived by peak after peak, could not tell for sure that it was the summit. Consequently, he decided to turn back, giving up thoughts of a further move forward. This point where the Kawaguchi team turned back was well over 8,400 metres and, in fact, what they saw ahead was the summit.

The pair came down to 8,300 metres and made a bivouac in a snow-cave dug out on the ridge. On the same day, the pair, Tanaka and Ozaki, departing from Camp V in piercing wind, arrived at Camp VI in the evening, and informed Base Camp that Kawaguchi and Goto were missing. By the night of 21 May, they had not returned to Camp VI. At Base Camp we thought quite positively that they had had a fatal accident. We all felt depressed at all the camps throughout the night.

On 22 May, Tanaka and Ozaki went up the ridge in order to check on the firmness of the ropes fixed above Camp VI by the Kawaguchi team and to search for the two missing members. And they soon found the fellow members staggering down. At 6.30 p.m. Kawaguchi and Goto were rescued back to Camp VI by Tanaka and Ozaki.

On the same day, Ichikawa and Asami, going over the Black Gendarme, were moving from Camp V to Camp VI. They were not passing through Camp V', on the glacier side, because their purpose was to climb up to the summit all the way over the south-east ridge. They toiled up through the heavy snow-fall, and got into Camp VI by night time.

All oxygen we had at Camp VI then were three bottles (A.M.P.), and, since the exhausted Kawaguchi and Goto consumed one of the three for their recuperation, two bottles were actually all we had available for our next day's use. The Sherpas who got down to Camp III were all so exhausted that we could not expect them to climb back to Camp VI with the supplies. There was little food and fuel left either at Camp V' or Camp IV. According to the opinion at Base Camp, the next day would become the last chance for us to attack the summit. All the members prayed for good weather for the day.

On 23 May, Tanaka and Ozaki, after a short nap for about 1 hour, left Camp VI at 2.30 a.m. with an oxygen bottle on each of their backs ; Ichikawa and Asami helped them to prepare for the departure. Fortunately, the weather turned out to be fine and Makalu was covered with a star-spangled sky. This day, while the pair was making the attempt to the summit, we started our rescue operation for Kawaguchi and Goto who had gone snow- blind. Ikuta, Mingma Tshering and Lhakpa Tshering were sent up from Camp V'. Koshiyama along with Ang Nima, starting up from Camp IV, made it to Camp VI within the day, and supplied two oxygen bottles and a small portion of food. From Camp III, Yoshihara, Karma and Dorje moved up into Camp IV for the purpose of rescue.

The pair heading for the summit came near the last part of the rock-wall at 8,300 metres at 5 p.m., and there their oxygen ran out completely. Both men had been consuming approximately 1-5 litres of oxygen per minute. They kept on climbing without oxygen and stood on the summit of Makalu at 7.10 p.m. They came down through the moonlight and got back to Camp VI at 3.30 a.m. the following day, 24 May. Ichikawa and Koshiyama had been standing by for the third attempt to the summit, but little stock was left in the lower camp line. The weather began to deteriorate. Base Camp ordered all members to evacuate the mountain.


It took as long as 69 days for our ascent from the establishment of Base Camp to the evacuation. This ascent was attained 23 days later than our original schedule. We had planned to have 6 or 8 summit-ascenders, but had only two actually. After all, this was a long toilsome traverse of a Himalayan ridge running over a 8,000-metre peak, then going down, and again up to the summit of 8,481 metres. In addition to this difficult route, the south-east ridge had a distance of over 10 kilometres altogether, and this slowed down our supply speed. At Base Camp, a great deal of our labour was consumed in the supervision of this supply operation, and Matsuura and Onoe were in charge, giving up their parts in mountaineering.

There was a spell of fine windless weather for six days from 8 May, but we were not able to make it to the summit during this period. The ascent to the summit was done in a lucky break of fine weather after the monsoon had started.

The fixed rope used was 5,000 metres in total, and the Jumar ascenders did a good job in carrying loads up.

We used the triple-shoes made in West Germany.

The total number of oxygen bottles was 100, mainly used for sleeping.

The team of 25 Sherpas was a little too small for this scale of - expedition, and we should have had at least 35 of them.

On the other hand, the 16 expedition members were too many- the number should have been 10 to 12. This success in the ascent was brought about as the result of many superhuman efforts, the iron-solid unity of the members and good luck.

(Photo: Shirahata) The upper part of South East ridge viewed from base camp

Photo: Shirahata

The upper part of South East ridge viewed from base camp

(Photo: Asami) Makalu Summit viewed from the ridge running up to Saddle

Photo: Asami

Makalu Summit viewed from the ridge running up to Saddle

(Photo: Shirahata) Climbing up the snow face (7,200 m.) above camp IV

Photo: Shirahata

Climbing up the snow face (7,200 m.) above camp IV

(Photo: Shirahata) Makalu viewed from base camp (4,700 m.)

Photo: Shirahata

Makalu viewed from base camp (4,700 m.)

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