All that could be done

The day after tomorrow I will be marching towards Mt. Yari, the 3000 meters high pyramidal peak in the Northern Alps every hillwalker in Japan craves for.

I am not happy at all.

Since autumn, somehow, together with a couple of friends from work, we had been discussing a plan to go together on some major winter climb.
My first proposal was the Komado ridge of Mt. Tsurugi. The last big ridge on the mountain I haven’t been to as of yet. A major route indeed, but unfortunately this proposal was immediately swept under the table marked as too ambitious.

Instead the standard route up the Hayatsuki ridge was offered. Without any real alpine climbing, but still a big snow climb, I accepted. Four friends, two tents, it may be a bit slow and not my style, but heck with it, why not for once.

Last month we climbed Mt. Shiomi in the Southern Alps as a group training. It was an experience that made me remember why I enjoy climbing alone or in a team of two so much.
There is so much waiting for someone, so much group politics…

Japanese have been known for huge group climbing for decades.
I don’t want to reason with an age old tradition, probably originating from the collective mentality of the nation, as well as the general toughness of winter in the high ranges of Japan and relative weakness of an individual.
I am in no place to judge or argue with the knowledge of the veterans of winter climbing here. I just cannot stand it. The superfluous order, the leadership.

And then we had a group meeting with an unwelcome outcome. The chances of summiting with just four days of time, travel included, were considered too low to potentially waist precious time on without achieving anything and the Tsurugi plan was abandoned altogether.

Thus the Yarigatake trip came to be.

As I am writing this, posts from friends pop up on social media, announcing success on thrilling climbs. Tony Grant finally finnished the famous Orendani ice climb, Jost Kobusch came to visit Japan and climbed Tsurugi in one 33 hour push!

And I am stuck on Yari with rare and precious four days of free time…

Now, not to make it sound too pussy, I am sure I will enjoy the trip. It is just… all the waisted potential!

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Bits and pieces

Climbing day on Gozaishodake

Climbing day on Gozaishodake


It has been a long time since I wrote something and I am sorry for that. Frankly, things have not been easy lately. Not in personal life, not in business. Getting to the big hills has become more and more difficult.
Apart from one short trip to Mt. Houken in the Central Alps this January, I have been mainly just keeping up fitness on the small hills around Osaka and practicing climbing technique at local crags. Just trying to keep together the bits and pieces, so to speak.

I had one bigger project in mind for the beginning of 2014, but then I probably freaked out and put up various excuses, until I finally got it out of my head. Perhaps it was really not wise nor safe to attempt the Hayatsuki ridge of Mount Tsurugi, solo, in full winter. I don’t know. If the conditions were reasonable, I am sure I could have pulled it off, but since I am still missing on some crucial gear like serious winter mountaineering boots, I let prudence and safety win this time the battle with desire for adventure in my heart.

Tsurugidake - Hayatsuki ridge

Tsurugidake – Hayatsuki ridge


Instead we climbed the Houken with Katou-san, but that was way too short and easy to be really satisfactory in any way.
And so the best part of that trip turned out to be the night in the open at the eve of the climb itself. The cold winter air flowing through my nose smelled so good as I was laying there in silence, the stars flowing through the sky ever so slowly and peacefully. How long has it been since I felt like this. I let my mind drift aimlessly through the night, sleepless, not sad, not happy, just at peace.
Senjoujiki curl

Senjoujiki curl


Looking down from Houkendake summit. Katou-san is on the way up.

Looking down from Houkendake summit. Katou-san is on the way up.


On top of Houkendake

On top of Houkendake


Katou-san

Katou-san


The normal hiking routes seem to be slowly losing their appeal to me. I dream about the real climbs, mixed terrain, steeper ridges, spurs and faces… and altitude.
I know I am total newbie in all of that, but the fire keeps burning me!

The three ridges

Whenever I go to work, inside my small backpack there is one rather peculiar item. I use it in times there is not much to do, like while commuting or taking a lunch break, to search for new dreams and inspiration for the future.
It is the Shobunsha map number 33, covering the whole of Japanese Alps in 1:150.000 scale, which might not make it terribly detailed, but it still shows all the main trekking routes with walking times, huts and camping sites, water sources, important notes and generally every piece of information you might need to plan a basic hike in the mountains.
If you plan to stay on these main routes during the busy summer season, I can imagine this is the only map you really need, for it is virtually impossible to get lost on those alpine trails.
What I like to do though is to look at the peaks, walls and ridges, where no trails seem to be going and imagine what it must be like to climb there. But such free climbing is not too popular in the Alps these days for reasons, which are actually quite understandable.
First of all the tree line is quite high here in central Japan, with the trees giving way to the true alpine usually somewhere between 2500 and 2600 meters. Together with general steepness of the valleys, rivers broken by frequent waterfalls and very thick vegetation, it turns any remote approaches into nightmarish endeavors by itself.
The second main reason is that the quality of rock generally leaves much to be desired with piles of loose stones and constant threat of rockfall everywhere.

There are climbing routes of various lengths and difficulties nonetheless and three of them, which I have been eyeing up for some time now, I decided to transform into this year’s summer project. They are the three famous variation routes up the rocky ridges of three equally famous mountains, namely:
The Kitaone of Maehotakadake
The Kitakamaone of Yarigatake
and the Yatsumine ridge up Tsurugidake

Because I like to give names to my dreams, let’s call it The Three Ridges project!
My plan is to attempt one at a time in three consecutive months starting with July, as soon as the rainy season is over.
Until then I won’t get anywhere into the mountains I’m afraid, but let’s make it a good time for preparation. I have already started training since the unfortunate descent of Kisokomagatake and with hope and relief I’m happy to say that I can feel no signs of trouble in my knee.
Now just to get as many days of rock climbing practice in between and let come the big days!