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Naomi Uemura

known for his solo adventures

Naomi Uemura

Naomi Uemura was born in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, on February 12, 1941. Shy by nature, he joined his university alpine club hoping that mountaineering would increase his self-confidence. It worked.

In 1970 Uemura was the first member of a Japanese team of 39 climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He followed that accomplishment by making solo ascents of Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mount Aconcagua (South America), Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn (Europe), and Mount McKinley (North America).

Now full of confidence, Uemura "gave up" mountaineering to raft solo some 4,000 miles down the Amazon River. He then decided to "try his hand" at Arctic exploration, beginning with a 7,500-mile solo sled-dog trek from Greenland to Alaska, in 1976. On May 1, 1978, he completed the first ever solo dog-sled trek to the North Pole. He faced potentially fatal danger twice during the 57-day, 500-mile trek from Ellesmere Island, first when a polar bear invaded his camp and ate his supplies, and then when the ice floe he was camping on broke up. The first incident ended with Uemura killing the bear, while he escaped the second thanks to a fortuitous meter-wide bridge of ice that provided an escape route. After planting the Japanese flag at the Pole and resting for three days, he was airlifted to the northern tip of Greenland to begin a solo North-south crossing of the largest island in the world. This 1,600-mile trek ended at Narsarssuak on August 24.

Uemura at the North Pole
Naomi Uemura at the North Pole

In February 1984 Uemura began a solo winter climb of Mount McKinley. On February 13 he spoke by radio with Japanese photographers who were flying over Denali, saying that he had made the top and descended back to 18,000 feet. He planned to reach base camp in another two days, but never made it. His diary was found in a snow cave by a search party, but Uemura's body has never been recovered.

Mount McKinley

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This page was last updated on 02/11/2018.