Saturday, April 25, 2009

Japan Trip Report

Once again I had to learn that climbing on plastic is not rock climbing when I didn't make to the semifinals in the World Cup in Kazo, Japan. After the World Cup we checked out a bouldering area called Horai, where Dai's new 8C called Epitaf is located. We drove more than five hours from Tokyo and paid over 10 000 yen (~ 90e) highway tolls just to discover that Epitaf is pretty much the only boulder in Horai. Soon we were told that the key hold on the problem broke - twice. The rock is quite loose and some of the still existing holds seem like they will break with some time. Since we made such and effort to get there I tried it a little bit and found myself falling off a big incut edge that had absolutely zero friction on it. I did quite a few of the moves but after falling a few times more from the big buttery crimp I called it quits. Needless to say I was not impressed with the "area".

Epitaf, Horai

Mitake was a really small area two hours north of Tokyo. There are some nice problems like Kani V11, Mushi V11, In Tokyo! V10. After all it's a pretty cool place with nice surroundings, but only a handful of boulders.

We climbed in Shiobara for a few days. There is the famous roof with many of Dai's hard roof climbs. I was really suspicious about this place because I had heard that all of the problems are chipped. After seeing it myself I can say that it is really hard to spot the chipped holds. I thought the roof was nice with a few cool hard problems - chipped or not.

Sabby in Shiobara

Ogawayama is an area with quite a lot of problems and good rock. It's only two hours from Tokyo by car and close to another bouldering area called Mizugaki. Definitely worth a visit if you go to Japan. Ogawayama also holds the famous slab Banshousha, which is 5. dan in the Japanese grading system that is the highest standard at the moment and earns you a "black belt" in climbing . It was given the grade of 8C by the first ascentionist Tokio Muroi, which would easily make it the hardest slab in the world. It was unrepeated for a long time until last Wednesday when I managed to make the first repeat. I was a little surprised it only took me one day of work, but a huge amount of tries to be honest. Was it hard? Yes. 8C? No. I never thought that a slab could be 8C knowing the standard in Font. However, Banshousha isn't a pure slab. Sure it's less than vertical hence a slab, but the whole time you are climbing a really slopey arete. Having something to actually grab onto makes a huge difference in the grading versus it being just a blank face. I felt like it is a really technical 8B and hard for sure, but not an 8C.

Mizugaki is my favorite area in Japan. It's 2.5 hours southwest from Tokyo and close (~ 40mins) to Ogawayama. Unfortunately we went to Mizugaki last and climbed only one day there. It seems that it's by far the biggest boulder area in Japan and there is a lot of potential for new problems. Rock quality varies from decent to very good. You won't find many crimpers, just pockets and slopers. Oh yeah, there are no chipped holds in Mizugaki (I think...).

Overall it was a really good trip. I must say I was pretty disappointed with some of the places. I would not recommend Japan if you just want to go on a climbing trip, there are much better places. If you are also interested in the culture and seeing the country, it's well worth the trip. Just use your consideration when choosing the climbing areas.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


9.A.M. this morning me, Jarmo and Kuutti arrived very jetlagged at Tokyo Narita airport. We cleared customs and started making our way to Kazo, a place just outside of Tokyo. Since this morning we have learned many things about Japan.

First of all in most places here I might as well speak Finnish in stead of English, because nobody understands anyway. Japanese people are really nice and helpful, but English just doesn't seem to be very widely spoken here. After traveling for 20 hours to come here, Jarmo decided that he wants to have a nice cultural experience at the McDonald's. Soon enough it turned out that "BigMac" or a "meal" where not words that any of the workers the could understand. To make things even more complicated all the menus where written only in Kanji characters and the photos where really different so you couldn't even just point out what you wanted.

Still hungry after a random burger we went to the local grocery store. The best way to describe it would be that it's pretty much similar to a western food store...after you take away everything and replace it with noodles, raw fish, tea and a whole bunch of stuff of what you have no idea what it is. Jarmo was stubborn and stayed on the western diet and bought only bananas and pepsi.

The train system in Tokyo is a bit complicated. Getting from the Narita airport to Kazo is really "easy", only three steps - on paper. In reality it was more of a mess, even the local people could not read the train maps properly. And the luggage we had was not making the job any easier. First of all we took the Keisei Skyliner to Ueno. That was maybe the easiest part. Then we had to walk to the JR Ueno Station - not a bad task either. Just followed the signs, a couple of U-turns and we were there. Then we were supposed to take the JR Utsunomiya line to the Kuki. We followed signs as we are accustomed to do and we found ourselves walking in circles - great. After asking some locals for help we finally got on the right train. At Kuki we changed to the metro (or train, or whatever) and after two stations arrived to Kazo.

This years first bouldering World Cup is in two days here in Kazo. After that we are staying here for a while and super syked to go bouldering.

Friday, April 3, 2009


On Monday weather was bad for climbing so went went snowboarding and took some photos. Actually the conditions were horrible even for snowboarding but we had a lot of fun anyways.

Ein Sickern Kickern, (c) Chuck Fryberger

On Tuesday we drove to Zillertal to the magic place. That was the only area dry that day. It's pretty much one cool boulder right next to the river. The conditions were far from perfect, but at least the rock was dry. Me and Chuck both climbed a nice arete called Trischebl, 8A+. After that I managed to flash The Riddler from Daniel Woods. He called hard 8A+ and possibly 8B saying that it felt harder than Incubator. Since I flashed it, it's really hard to comment on the grade, but I can say that it felt hard and I really had to dig deep on some of the moves.

Wednesday we went to Ginslingwald even though we knew pretty much everything was wet. So was Sundance sit, 8A+. We even saw a few big avalanches on the other side of the valley caused by the rapidly melting snow. We didn't give up and tried to dry the problem but it didn't help at all. Then I found some alternative beta avoiding all the good kneebars and using only the dry holds. It was for sure harder, but in the end it worked and I topped it out. The crux with this crazy beta is a foot move were you have to kick your foot really fast to a higher foot hold. Of course this is the last move after 10 hard moves and I managed to fall there five times because the kick needs to be really accurate.

Reini on Trischebl. The Riddler is to the right on the overhang.

Today we are driving to Italy for a show and a competition in Verona. After that I'm flying back home for a few days. I'm hoping the weather there will be good so I can try a cool new project that was found last winter.

We found some ninja prop at Reini's house and took some photos for absolutely no reason. Photo: Chuck Frybereger