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Local climbers remember Japanese enthusiast

The Bow Valley climbing community is remembering a Japanese climber as a young, energetic man eager to share his time and energy with the community. The body of Akihiro Tawara, 27, was found at the base Mount Yamnuska last Thursday (Sept.
Aki Tawara
Aki Tawara

The Bow Valley climbing community is remembering a Japanese climber as a young, energetic man eager to share his time and energy with the community.

The body of Akihiro Tawara, 27, was found at the base Mount Yamnuska last Thursday (Sept. 8) by other climbers. According to Canmore RCMP, Tawara had fallen to his death the previous day.

Tawara, an experienced and strong climber had been free soloing – climbing without a partner nor any ropes or other climbing equipment to protect him from serious consequences in case of a fall. As such, he was not attached to the mountain in any way and did not place any protection as he climbed, so it is unknown how far he fell, or what caused his fall.

Rather than focus on how he died, his Bow Valley friends are remembering him for his infectious energy and generosity, including countless hours of volunteer time during the first ever Bouldering World Cup to be hosted in Canada, which took place in Canmore in May.

“Aki was extremely helpful, he donated many hours,” said event organizer Dung Nguyen. “He was always on site, asking what he could do to help. He was working behind the scenes, and he donated a lot of time.

“Probably a good thing it was raining, though,” he added with a laugh.

When the weather was good, Tawara was out climbing every minute possible when not helping out Nguyen at his business, Vsion Climbing Gym, or training on the gym’s walls.

“He helped out a lot, setting routes at the gym and helping with the climbing camps. He was a very hard worker; he was always there when he needed to be,” Nguyen said, adding Tawara had made sacrifices to live far from his family in Japan.

Tawara first arrived in the Bow Valley a couple of years ago. Then, after living in Japan again for a time, he returned to Canmore last spring to be close to the mountains. Over the past few months he had developed numerous friendships within the local climbing community.

Tawara enjoyed rock routes at all levels of difficulty and showed an enormous enthusiasm for the mountains, said Hugo Daigle, who spent the last three days of Tawara’s life with him, climbing local sport routes. While free soloing is undeniably the most risky form of climbing, Daigle said Tawara had been training specifically for this challenge, and that the route he was climbing, Diretissima, a Yam classic of moderate difficulty first climbed in 1957, was well within his ability.

“He was very composed, very calm,” Daigle said. “He trained for this. He was a great guy to get to know.”

Nguyen said he had no doubt Tawara was prepared and aware of the consequences of a fall, either through human error or the result of objective hazard, such as a rockfall.

“He was a very methodical type of person,” Nguyen said. “Every single day he had to have his climbing dose. It seems he prepared well for that day. I’m pretty sure he knew the consequences of his actions. That’s the unfortunate part of soloing, but then he could just as easily be killed in a car accident.”

Speaking by Skype from Kalymnos, Greece where he is enjoying a rock climbing vacation, Nguyen said he would miss his friend and hoped Tawara’s family and friends in Japan knew how well he was liked and appreciated in the Rockies.

“Looking back, we’re thinking of how Aki lived his life,” Nguyen said. “He wanted us to do the same; live every single moment to the max.”


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