Kazu Ishidera is 51 years old and the store manager at REI San Carlos, in California. In June 2022, he and his longtime friend and mentor Hikari Mori (Mori-San), 59, summited Denali (20,310 feet) in good style, pulling off their ascent of the West Buttress during a stable weather window. The two have been climbing partners since 2000, when they met as part of the team that opened REI’s first—and only—international store, in Tokyo, Japan. They typically enjoy classic mountain routes and moderate multi-pitch climbs, and often pick their goals from the book Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.
Ishidera grew up in the Tokyo megalopolis, where his family wasn’t outdoorsy. “We did play outside but I wasn’t exposed to outdoor sports until I went to ski through my high school, part of a generation when skiing was very big in Japan. That became my passion,” he says. He studied abroad at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, diving into outdoor sports like downhill skiing, backcountry skiing, telemark skiing, climbing, and backpacking during his five years there. Ishidera has been working for REI for 22 years, and holds a demanding full-time job.
For years he trained somewhat haphazardly for his alpine goals. “I would just do six to eight hours of a big climb on my day off, or go hiking or trailing running for 20 miles and feel good about it,” says Ishidera. “And then I’d go climb a big mountain prior to the big climb. My approach was completely wrong”—in other words, it was neither graduated nor systematic, to allow for incremental strength and performance gains.
Long a fan of Steve House’s climbing and writing (he’s read Beyond the Mountain in Japanese “more than several” times), Ishidera reached out to Uphill Athlete for coaching help, and ended up working with Mark Postle and Nate Emerson. He also signed up for the How to Self-Coach for Mountain Sport Lecture Series, 24-Week Expeditionary Mountaineering Training Plan, and the TrainingPeaks.com premium plan, with its powerful analytics tools and direct line of coach-to-athlete communication. “The book, the forum, and the training program helped me to keep myself motivated and focused,” Ishidera says. “I truly believe it is a shortcut to knowing how to train properly, especially for older climbers like me.” He also appreciated how responsive Postle was to his questions, whether they were about the training itself or Denali logistics. “To ask a world-class climber who has guided multiple times on Denali, that was a tremendous help,” says Ishidera.
Here is a slideshow of their ascent of Denali, from May/June 2022.