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Rock climbing in Japan - Joyama
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technogeekery


Jan 31, 2010, 11:36 PM
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Rock climbing in Japan - Joyama
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The perfect antidote to a Tokyo winter is to get out of the city and head south to the Izu peninsula, where a warm onshore current and south facing rocks make a microclimate that is perfect for winter climbing. There are at least 4 quite different climbing areas in the region, and to keep me sane and excited about life I'm keen to climb at all of them. I thought I'd write up a little series of TRs as I do, because there is very little English language information about climbing in these areas, and I hope someone finds this useful.

Umikongo is the big daddy of them all, a 200+ metre cliff jutting straight out of the sea with 7-10 pitch trad routes winding up it. That is our goal for the spring, but we need to get a lot fitter and mentally stronger before we go there - my climbing partner Steve and I are getting back into climbing after a decade-long break, and we are weak, scared and generally unworthy. But we are keen to relive past glories (did we just imagine those? Perhaps...) so late spring it is. Maybe.

Jogasaki is also sea-cliff climbing, although much shorter and fiercer sport climbing. There ARE some easier climbs but they don't bother to list anything less than 5.10 in the guidebook, and most of it is much harder - I might leave that to the kids this year. Makuiwa at Yugawara is not far from the US Navy base at Atami, and perched high above plum orchards looking over the ocean. A far more gumby-friendly place, it has mostly 1-pitch sport routes from very gentle to very hard, with lots of moderate routes to work on. I've enjoyed climbing there and will do more, so I'll post up a trip report when I have more photos.


Walk from the station. The South Face is the big clean slab on the lower left

Today's report is on the 4th area, Joyama, a big lump of rock hanging 400m over the town of Ohito in Shizuoka prefecture, right in the middle of the Izu peninsula. The rock is andesite, a type of igneous (volcanic) rock that at Joyama is hard, dense, slabby, and features little solution pockets that while seldom being positive, give you something more than similarly angled granite does. Its predominantly a sport area, with lots of single pitch but also some very good 3-5 pitch routes. Access from Tokyo is by train, just over 2 hours from Shinagawa to Ohito and then a 30 min walk (or 5 min cab ride & 10 min walk) to the base. The sun hits the South Face early in the day, so best plan is to get there as early as you can and catch a cab there - it cools down fast when the sun drops behind the first ridge (about 3pm in winter) and you'll probably be happy to pack up and walk out soon after that.


Approach through forest

Four of us came down from Tokyo for the day, and very unusually for Japan, we had the cliffs almost to ourselves for the day - bliss. We warmed up on a nice straightforward 5.8 called Homeboy - not difficult and well protected, but a good introduction to the rock. Slabby moves and careful footwork are the order of the day.


Alex on Homeboy

Then Jeff and I paired up to climb Battlerunner - a 4-pitch classic that goes straight up the middle of the South Face. The 5.10a overhang crux and the 5.9R final pitch above were quite off-putting, so I took the easier 5.8 1st and 5.7R 3rd pitches. Some quite thin slabbing and an interesting, fun move around an overlap soon saw me 30m up at the first anchors, a good set of new bolts/chains on a semi-hanging belay. First hanging belay I've done for a long time, first multi-pitch lead in 15+ years, all had me a little nervous at the belay. Jeff was soon up and hard at work on the 2nd pitch.


Jeff leads P2

He floated past the lower section with no difficulty, which is just as well as the bolts were pretty ordinary, with some very dodgy home-made hangers. The crux was tougher though, and it took him a little while to work it out and reach the hanging belay on the headwall above.


Jeff working the crux


My turn. P2 was quite exciting - steep and lots of quite thin moves at about 5.9 past some manky looking gear. Just for laughs I tried the nut on the 1st bolt I passed - it spun freely under my fingers - nice. But no real problems getting up to the overhang, where the hard moves started. Fell of it a couple of times and eventually thrutched through ungracefully making loud complaints to join Jeff at the belay. Whoa, quite airy.

The next pitch was mine, and looked okay. Jeff pointed out that we could easily save time if we joined the next two pitches together, but who am I to deprive him of an R-rated pitch? I said I'd think about it when I got to the anchors, and set off fully intending to go 20m and belay on that nice shiny belay station up there. The pitch was actually very nice indeed, not run out too much at all and easy, but my feet were getting very tired and I was rolling off the small footholds in my comfy but not very positive Spires - so I was glad to reach the anchors. I looked up at the next pitch but it got steep again and the next bolt was a good 6m up - so Jeff was on-belay.

Took a few shots from the anchors - it was an amazing position, and looking straight down at Jeff quite spectacular.


Looking down at Jeff from P3 anchors


Can you fly?

Jeff zoomed up the last pitch to the top anchors about 2m from the top-out ledges, and brought me up, whinging and moaning as I went. It wasn't too bad at all, but my feet were getting very sore, and the last thing I needed was another hanging belay. So I kept on going to the tree-covered ledges and took my weight off for the first time in 3 hours - bliss! Almost as good as the 28mg filter less Japanese cigarette I enjoyed on the ledge while watching the hawks circling out over the river below - double bliss. Thanks Jeff - you are very patient, mate. I realised too late why the route didn't top out when I nearly kicked a rock 120m down onto my friends at the base - actually it would have been a great idea to keep off the ledge.


View across face out to Ohito

And then it was back down the route. Something else I haven't done in decades is multi-pitch raps, and Jeff hasn't done a lot ever, so we were super careful and did a lot of double and triple and cross checking and talking to each other - all went well and after 4 raps we were back at the bottom, footsore, hungry and thirsty, but blown away from an afternoon on a big rock.

Steve and Bill had been concentrating on single pitch sport routes, and climbed half a dozen from 5.9 to 5.10b within a few metres of each other on great clean rock, so they had a ball as well. We'll be back soon - loads more good climbs at our ability level and above, and if you can lead 5.10d comfortably, you could climb here for weeks. Great spot.


guangzhou


Feb 1, 2010, 12:25 AM
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Re: [technogeekery] Rock climbing in Japan - Joyama [In reply to]
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Sounds like a fun trip, thanks for sharing.


qtm


Feb 1, 2010, 8:29 AM
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Nice! When we went it was like an outdoor gym, there were ropes on most routes.

Would that be Tokyo Bill you mention at the end?


Partner epoch
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Feb 1, 2010, 12:21 PM
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Awesome time indeed.

When you head further south on the peninsula be sure to check out Super Rain. I had a blast on it.

The little alcove enroute to the main area at Jagasaki ,underneath the suspension bridge, has a few .8s and .9s nestled in amongst the other climbs. Sure, they're short, but for basalt cracks they are pretty good.

Cheers!


technogeekery


Feb 1, 2010, 4:10 PM
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Re: [qtm] Rock climbing in Japan - Joyama [In reply to]
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qtm wrote:
Nice! When we went it was like an outdoor gym, there were ropes on most routes.

Would that be Tokyo Bill you mention at the end?

Yes, we got very lucky with the lack of people. And sure it was Tokyo Bill Smile


guangzhou


Feb 1, 2010, 4:43 PM
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Winter, Japan, head to Okinawa. Nice climbing there.


asiaclimber


Feb 1, 2010, 6:01 PM
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Super rain is a great route. We hit that up back in November.


bill_in_tokyo


Feb 2, 2010, 4:22 PM
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Nice TR! It was a fun day, wasn't it?

Hey qtm, how's life in the city these days? Hope everything is well with you.

- Bill


mrtristan


Feb 3, 2010, 4:08 PM
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Cool! Looks like fun. I'm excited for when you get to Umikongo. You'd better post a TR!


mravits


May 14, 2010, 11:15 PM
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awesome! thanks for the info. i may be heading to japan in a year to teach english and we're only going if we can find good climbing... looks like we can!


technogeekery


May 16, 2010, 4:53 PM
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Plenty of good climbing here - nothing to travel to Japan for specifically, but enough to keep you happy climbing for a few years.

The English-teaching market however is going through a hard time, lots of the big schools closing (See Nova, Geos) - make sure you have a good contract and you've checked out the credit rating of whoever you are working for...


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