“you wont find reasonable men on the tops of tall mountains”
– Hunter S Thompson
expeditions are always on the boil. we plan, we prepare, we go.
2015, 16 and 17 is being scheduled now, with trips to continental asia and a series of project trips to tweak those in the pipeline for big objectives. we keep teams small and focused, as genuine expeditions should be. every trip focuses on a new route, first ascent or reinterpretation of an old route. every trip is the real deal.
some trips are short and focused. some trips are extended with multiple objectives. most expeditions build upon a series of trips aimed at a defined outcome. all trips are carefully planned, independant, small-footprint and a long way from the commercial ‘expedition’ circus. no trip is standardized, climb-by-numbers tourism. every trip is unique.
Japanese winter walls
5 – 10 days, early winter, alpine wall style, hard, cold & beautiful
people dont know about the multiday granite walls in Japan, which makes them perfect for micro-expeditions. seriously cold, technical and with multiple options japanese winter walls are ideal testing grounds for anyone who ‘thinks they know winter’. not to be laughed at, most walls are about 400m, very steep, boldly protectable and remote. these are the breeding ground for Japan’s generations of hard alpinists.
climber profile: the climber wanting a short and sharp hard climbing experience; wanting to experience cold wall climbing; preparing for an expedition during a southern hemisphere summer; wanting an obscure objective; this climber has standard winter gear and experience, understands hard work in a team, has functinal skill across a sprectrum of climbing disciplines
project & training trips: walls, peaks and routes
5-10 days, all seasons, any style
5500m in Tibet at -15c is NOT the place to learn about alpine anchors, setting up portaledges, mixed leading or using a hanging stove. for anyone serious about preparing for a big trip, wanting to debug their systems or just see if they have what it takes, ‘immersive’ training trips are the most realistic way. these trips use the same gear, have the same factors and have genuine objectives, but with a more concise schedule and a greater margin for learning. better to make your mistakes here before the real thing. in a dollar-to-outcome ratio these trips are best thing you can spend your money on.
climber profile: the climber going somewhere. wanting to upgrade their weekend warrior abilities. wanting to fine-tune existing skills. wanting to test run systems, gear and abilities. wanting to make the step from one climbing discipline to another. returning from a lay-off period.
this climber may not have the specialist expedition equipment or extended trip experience, but has the personal gear and a good working ability with weekend / short trip climbing. motivation matters as much as experience.
China (Sichuan / tibet)
our specialty. multiple schedule options (see below). the real deal, exploratory climbing in greatest unexplored mountains. April-May, October to December
Sichuan / Tibet has one of the largest concentrations of high altitude peaks (4500m – 7500m) anywhere. dozens of ranges span from the SW tibetan escarpment to the NW steppe and tho surprisingly accessible only a fraction has been climbed. there are still entire ranges that have never been explored. walking the line between clamped down Tibet and ever-opening China, many massifs fall into a grey area both culturally and bureaucratically, with iceclimbingjapan being one of the few operators with access after an 18 year track record in the area. from huge alpine walls to skiable peaks and countless big rock, ice and mixed routes there’s a lifetime of routes accessible to those who know how. based from Chengdu, Sichuan is perhaps the most doable part of China. far removed from the stressful coastal cities, Chengdu is relaxed, cosmopolitan and quietly expanding – with 6000m peaks just a day or two away.
climber profile: this climber wants something new, left-of-field, with easy access, in a safe country with good food and minimal logistical problems; wanting a vanguard experience in an emerging destination; wanting to see it before things change; wanting a ‘launch pad’ trip to consolidate expedition capacity before a larger trip. this climber has a good degree of pan-cultural experience, extended trip experience like the Alps or Alaska, is set up with basic expedition gear and is motivated for the entire expedition process, not just on the mountain.
2-3 weeks, single objective, route-oriented
China is efficient enough to shave days if not weeks off a normal expedition schedule. you wont get a full ascent of a peak in, but theres enough time to get onto big routes. as a spin-off trip, late entry to an existing expedition or onto a short and sharp route, this option is an efficient way to experience Western Tibetan climbing. note that short schedule trips usually run along with full exped trips.
climber profile: technically proficient with basic expedition resources; bridging alps-style climbing to full expedition efforts; single route-focused;
3-4 weeks, non-peak routes, multiple options, first route ascent
if summiting doesnt excite you and its just the route that counts theres hundreds of options across NW Tibet / Sichuan. huge ice routes, alpine big walls, complex faces and north sides – the option of trying several or going all out on something obviously hard. using a different logistics process, route-only options free up some aspects of a trip and make different objectives possible.
climber profile: experienced climbers focused on specific styles and objectives; climbers wanting a broad spectrum of options rather than a fixed peak;
5 – 8 weeks, multiple options, first ascents and extended exploration
climbing as it once was – the real thing. full expedition climbing includes accessing and reconning the peak, outfitting and setting up the base, establishing highcamps and exploring route options, mapping unknown areas and spending serious time up high pulling it all together. when the peak is totally unknown and unseen theres a lot of work to do. every route guaranteed to be a first, this how expedition climbing was in Mallory’s time – first we need to find the base before deciding how to climb it.
from the markets of obscure Tibetan towns, setting up BC in pristine high meadows, recording the climate, acclimatization trips and exploring untrodden terrain, these trips are about much more than just climbing.
climber profile: highly motivated, effective team member, wide skill base, confident decision maker, a head for logistics; excellent pan-cultural capacity to get things done; well resourced and able with BC living
Turkistani karakorum (China / xinjiang)
6 – 10 weeks, enormous options, big ascents
the final frontier. if K2 southside isnt wild enough there’s only one place left to go. even by Chinese standards the north side of the Karakorum is seriously out there. combining the wildest elements of Himalayan/Karakorum, Central Asian and Tibetan climbing, north of the karakorum has an endless wilderness of peaks covering every aspect of high altitude climbing. it doesnt have to be K2, there’s dozens of options for lower peaks. any objective in this area is at the forefront of expedition climbing
climber profile: this climber is ultra-motivated, expedition experienced and looking towards the greater extent of expedition climbing; wanting the true expedition – Younghusband-style; wanting to go beyond the 8000m commercial climbing ‘safari’ limitations; this climber has extended time, resources and motivation to pursue such a trip
5 – 8 weeks, first ascents, obscure areas, DONE SAFELY!!
Pakistan isnt what it used to be. the 8000m club has arrived as they run out of Nepalese peaks, tribal groups and militants have destabilized large areas, the authorities are fraying at the edges and fundamentalism is creeping in to previously moderate sectors. since our first trips to Pakistan 15 years ago things are more marginal than theyve ever been. the good news is that the far north has queitly been getting better and better as a climbing destination – despite minimal broadcasting of the fact by the commercial climbing sector. they wont mention that access from China is the easiest its ever been (despite the large lake on the once modern KKH), redtape can now be gone thru elsewhere than in Islamabad, permit fees have been massively reduced or even discarded and as the communities of the KKH look more and more towards China than the central government for economic growth, living standards in places like Hunza and Gojal have risen.
so, as an effort to usher in a better deal for locals and climbers alike iceclimbingjapan is rethinking how its done and organizing trips to the lesser-known peaks in the safest part of pakistan, via the safest route. ALL trips access via Kashgar in China, ALL trips are run in co-ordination with locals who provide safety from the border and back again, ALL trips are far within stable Northern Areas territory, ALL trips are arranged with fluid return schedules to China, NO part of any trip goes thru unsafe areas, NO trip has lingering schedules stuck in Islamabad, NO trip gambles anyones safety in regards to security. climbing solely within a limited area well-buffered from Pakistan’s notorious inscurities we spend time amongst the finest people and landscapes in Central Asia – which also contain hundreds of new climbing options on peaks to 7500m. huge walls and towers, entire massifs and countless stunning peaks all set above the legendary Karakorum valleys.
climber profile; this climber has big mountain experience and is motivated to pursue an alternative; future-minded with a strong sense of climbing in dynamic areas; as motivated by the destination as by the climbing; not drawn to the ‘safari-style’ climbing that dominates the international climbing scene
it’s one thing to own a lot of gear and have big ideas – it’s another thing to pack it all together and take it to a remote part of the world to try something no one has ever heard of; the rewards of exploration exist for those who put ideas into action – even when in their underwear.
real expeditions need time and communication to put into motion. whilst we can role out a short trip with minimal notice, the longer the trip the more lead-time required. extended trips to China and Pakistan take time to arrange permits, visas, transport and on-the-ground logistics, plus the specialist equipment required. to be on a team requires motivation and communication – these are not guided trips where jaded locals usher you up well known routes.
theres no secret these trips are not for everyone. aside from the multiferous nature of going to obscure places for an unexplored objective, many places simply dont handle the arrival of large alien groups very well. there will not be dollar-a-day locals to bring tea to your tent each morning or carry your extra underwear. our local operating partners are engaged for their expertise and paid as such. iceclimbingjapan works with small groups of professionals and provides generous remuneration in line with local economies. we avoid elements that suck money away from the locals whose homes and backyards we pass thru, even when it costs us more to do so. after seeing what decades of commercial ‘safari’ climbing has wrought we make ourselves the example of the alternative.
trips to continental asia require at minimum about 3 months advance confirmation. as teams are kept small and select we give priority to motivation, climbing history, team contribution and communication. priority is also given to climbers booking a series of trips, with serious discounts and the possibility of deputized team positions. if youre not sure what your levels for these things are then do a short trip to Japan first.
the foundations of a good trip are;
deciding what you want. communicate this to us clearly. we need to know your ideas for objectives, time and capacity
deciding if you realistically have what it takes. if any doubts, schedule a training trip beforehand. this is bang-for-your-buck your best investment in the process. we make paired training-expedition trips viable costs-wise.
confirming the schedule. this means pay for it. with this we can secure the permits, visa support, logistics and resources with your name on them.
preparing your end. expeditions however small are the product of intentional preparation. get the right gear, flights and conditioning nailed down.
making realistic decisions. what you achieve is the sum total of your ability, judgement, research, adaptability and hard work. the better developed and communicated those factors are the better the result.