Hirotaka Takeuchi is set to become the first Japanese mountain climber to conquer the world's 14 highest mountain peaks above 8,000 meters. The 41-year-old Takeuchi will climb Dhaulagiri I--a 8,167-meter mountain in Nepal--this spring.
Takeuchi plans to climb the mountain, the seventh-highest in the world, with Kenro Nakajima, a 27-year-old photographer. They will travel to Nepal on March 31 and climb a 6,000-meter mountain in April to acclimatize their bodies to high altitude. In early May, they will enter the 4,800-meter base camp and wait for a good weather to conquer the peak. They plan to reach the pinnacle in late May.
Takeuchi first climbed an 8,000-meter mountain in 1995, when he successfully climbed the world’s fifth highest--8,481-meter Makalu. While climbing the 8,035-meter mountain Gasherbrum II in 2007, he got caught in an avalanche, but miraculously survived. Last fall, he climbed his 13th 8,000-meter peak--the 8,201-meter mountain Cho Oyu--and put himself on the map as potentially Japan’s first mountain climber to conquer all 14 highest peaks.
Mountains surpassing 8,000 meters are called the "death zone." The amount of oxygen in the air is one-third of the amount at sea level. To conquer all 14 highest peaks, climbers have to overcome avalanches and bad weather. Italian climber Reinhold Messner was the first person to climb the world's 14 highest mountain peaks. Park Young-seok was the first Asian to accomplish the feat.
Until now, Japanese climbers have been unable to pass the 10-peak milestone. Noboru Yamada, Hideji Nazuka, and Osamu Tanabe all died in mountain-climbing accidents after scaling nine of the highest peaks. Takeuchi is the only Japanese who has climbed 10 of the world’s highest mountains.
“I am going to conquer the 14 peaks no matter what--for the sake of people who helped me when I got into accidents," Takeuchi says. "That’s what I feel I need to do in order to call myself a professional climber."
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