type three suffering on frozen alpine rock and ice is all good and well, but theres time for type one fun too. Japan has a whole range of summer routes that are fun in their own right and good training for nastier objectives.
sure, some stuff can be climbed in a single day but where’s the fun in that? half of what makes a serious route serious is spending time on the wall, living vertically and refining all those things that pay off in winter, not to mention the evenings, nights and mornings when the wall is quiet, just the noise of the sea birds and the espresso maker.
Umi-kon-gou (海金剛): lots of routes but still a lot left to try
before the typhoon patterns arrive Japans coastal walls are what summer is all about: climbing from sea level with a cool breeze whilst inland swelters, the sound of the waves below and the views along the coast. the Umi-kon-gou (海金剛) buttress down the coast from Tokyo has about a dozen routes up to about 200m, most between 5.10a to 5.11c and mostly natural gear. spending a few days on the face, staying on the ledges, allows for interesting linkups and attempts at some of the unclimbed lines. Umi-no-gou’s lines are a good range of hand-sized cracks and wandering pitches on good rock thats surprisingly solid for its location over the sea.
as a training location Umi-kon-gou offers a lot. most traffic is confined to 3 or 4 trade routes, so getting onto less visited sections to work on alpine systems like stripped down aid and big wall techniques is easy. made easier still by staying on the routes to make the most of the hours when everyone else has gone home and is stuck in traffic.
clockwise from top: 70m 10.1mm rope, large pack, light pack, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, hanging stove, espresso maker, water bag, tarp, bivy bag, rack, rock shoes, wall boots, harness & aid setup
going alpine-style in summer employs a wide mix of equipment thats very stripped down compared to winter. we usually use a leader-pack/second pack system, and for the sake of training run pitches together to get used to being efficient on gear.
staying on routes like these is easy with the large ledges (tho the luxury of a portaledge is noticeably absent…). bivy gear is simple and light, with tarps being perfect due to the selection of vegetated ledges. sleeping bags are synthetic of course, and light closed cell sleeping mats are the answer to the hardy vegetation that would shred a thermarest.
from left: assorted slings & free biners, passive pro (wires & hexs + a big bro), large cams, small cams (inc a few off sets), ball nuts, blades, beaks, hooks, light hammer & brush
summer wall racks are somewhere between big wall and alpine racks. a set of cams keeps things rolling, whilst a good mix of big to micro passive pro makes keeping the winter protection skills sharp. as all this is aimed at alpine walls its a chance to work on alpine aid by including the basics of winter aid: beaks, knifeblades, rurps & hooks.
slings are another throwback to the alpine style where routes zig and zag and a maze of ledges makes protection savoury. the whole lot gets strung on a chest rack to make for easy changeovers.
clockwise from top: aiders, chalk bag, adjustable fifi, 5mm cord + knife, locking biner, nut tool, micro traxion, manual belay/rappel device, assisted belay device, ascenders, mid-weight harness.
not dissimilar to a contemporary Yosemite rig, Japanese summer wall rigs are free setups tweaked towards walls. a mid-weight harness with removable leg loops gets combined with daisys, aiders and a fifi hook. serious wall harnesses are overkill, with nothing above about A3 theres no 5hr hanging belays, and an adjustable Kong fifi hook is good for making the occasional hook sequence a bit less stressful.
being alpine style, most leading is done with a light pack that holds whatever is being switched between: wall boots or rock shoes, gloves, chalk bag etc. a micro traxion goes too for those sections where hauling is needed. belaying wants an assisted device like a Cinch or Gri gri, but for rappels a manual device like a reverso still gets carried.
clockwise from top: light alpine boots, hardshell helmet, sun glasses, assorted wall gloves, buff, sun cap, windstopper gloves, High Efficiency active layer, Powershield trousers, Neoshell jacket & over pants, Primaloft belay jacket