LOST KINGDOM REDUX: TANUKI SUICIDE & KAIKOMAGATAKE

kaikomagatake holds a special place in Japanese alpine climbing, being the step away from the popular stuff across the valley at Yatsugatake. theres several areas amongst the maze of valleys leading in to the peak, with the north east side forming the ‘lost kingdom’. this last trip we went into the lower and middle kaikoma areas, taking advantage of this seasons minimal snow.

kaikomagatake ice climbing

kai komagatake’s NE face

lower kaikoma

this is the easily accessable area around the road in from Nagasaka that includes several classic ice routes like gun-ma taki.

kaikomagatake ice

twin ice pillars in lower kaikoma (WI4)

kaikomagatake ice climbing

single ice pillar in lower kaikoma (WI5?)

kaikomagatake ice climbing

ice chandeliers in lower kaikoma

kaikomagatake ice climbing

gun-ma taki F1 (WI4)

middle kaikoma

middle kaikoma fast becomes another world. dropping to the valley floor and pushing up the river to take the right fork climbers are soon greeted by the true ‘lost kingdom’, with ice falls right to river level along either side of the river that soon becomes frozen enough to walk on.

kaikomagatake ice climbing

ice falls along middle kaikoma

kaikomagatake ice climbing

kaikomagatake ice climbing

kaikomagatake ice climbing

kaikomagatake ice trekking

section of frozen over river

tanuki suicide WI5-, M4+, 120m

undoubtably seen but with no record of being climbed, weve called this route ‘Tanuki Suicide’ after the splattered remains of a tanuki that looked like it had fallen at least 60m onto the top of the first pitch.

kaikomagatake ice climbing

tanuki suicide: WI5-, M4+, 120m. lots of variations, we took the lower left (out of view) then upper right

kaikomagatake ice climbing

the namesake dead tanuki at the first belay

pitch one is a short ‘Scottish-style’ line up a mix of good ice, crap ice, frozen turf and wet rock, to a decent belay if you consider spectres OK for such things.

pitch two is a stressful blend of trashy ice, running water over polished granite, a bit more frozen turf, and eventually onto good ice. protection is grim – a single decent piton, spectres into soil and a tied off tree root, the belay is decent tho, with screws into ice but better with threads if the suns straight on.

kaikomagatake ice climbing

looking up into the 3rd pitch

pitch three is nice soft ice, steep steps, more running water and tied off roots, but ends at good trees to belay.

all in all it sounds ghastly – and on lead its a real head game – but its also fun as hell. not often you get to place spectres, screws, threads, tied off roots, pitons and sling pillars on a single root – with almost all of them nasty. most of the climbing, tho steep at times, is sun-exposed enough to get good sticks – but not enough to hold screws, so earning the grades for risk.

kaikomagatake ice climbing

tanuki suicide topo: click to enlarge