January had perhaps the best winter weather window in the last 5 years, where we clocked up 22 climbing days across half a dozen locations. after a brief Tokyo hiatus to get office stuff done it was back out for 9 days of expedition development and making the most of the winter peak conditions.

ice climbing japan  gear up

another addition to our Car Park Gear-Up photo collection: getting a lot of stuff into shoulder-able loads

kaikomagatake ice climbing

lumping it all in: Kaikomagatake has broken many a team, often over the approach/load equation

ice mixed climbing kaikomagatake

steep ice and mixed climbing isnt rock climbing: getting good at the hard stuff requires a lot of time on top rope doing things you wouldnt risk on lead

ice climbing kaikomagatake

by the time you get onto the deep fat stuff you should be well honed and climbing well within your zone

ice climbing japan kaikomagatake

single pitch stuff is a no brainer, but multi-pitch routes soon become about the transitions between climbing, linking icefalls and rigging/derigging belays. staying warm and tangle-free over 8 pitches of varied climbing is about much more than clipping ropes and changing gloves, especially in a group of 3. the risk managment as the days goes on and complexity increases escalates – especially when you also need to rappel the route too.

ice climbing kaikomagatake

ice climbing amidadake

a shift to Amidadake across the valley bought a change in style, this time faster, lighter and covering double the distance

ice climbing amidadake

after enough time working it out and building confidence, short steep stuff becomes solo-able and a much faster (ie warmer) process getting to the bigger stuff further in

alpine climbing amidadake

the ice is of course what we come for – but its usually the snow between that gets the pulse up. 12 pitches over several kms makes for a lot of transitions between low angle trudging and steep agility.

alpine aid training tanzawa

after 9 days in the cold relocating to a lower, warmer place to focus on alpine aid basics was a welcome change

alpine aid climbing training tanzawa

alpine aid is a stripped down and guerrilla version of ‘true’ aid; racks are lighter, theres less cams and moving parts, rope systems simpler and clothing heftier – all better developed somewhere comfortable before being used high up

alpine aid climbing training tanzawa

…especially things like high-stepping onto hooks in big boots

aid alpine training backwards toucan

…and using gear in ways that push the design; yes, thats a Pika Toucan touqued in backwards

alpine aid stacked micro wires

stacked micro-wires are another thing best worked out on top-rope before done on lead…

alpine climbing japan

mixed alpine climbing is about a varied skill-set executed with confidence and focus. it takes time to develop and needs attention and committment. getting to the top is one thing, getting home is another.

all photos by ‘Green Machine’ Cam Bowker & ‘Aero-press’ Rob

Cams blog with lots more photos at