Japan is a world obsessed with efficiency and compactness, encompassing as much experience in as small a window as possible. From the digital wonderland of Shibuya109 to the 3000m alpine peaks of Yamanashi, what Japan lacks in expansiveness it makes up for with intensity. If committed trips to obscure places for serious climbing flips your dial then Japan is an emerging destination still hazy in the foreign climbers eye.
kaikomagatakes 2000m SE face: notorious amongst Japanese climbers as a proving ground for hard climbing on granite walls & mixed routes
Six seasons doing trips into Japans remoter places has led to the formation of the Micro-expedition: short trips into places with serious approaches and maximum climbing options. Unlike regular climbing trips that include lots of beta, easy access and the legendary Japanese hospitality & convenience, micro-expeditions take us into remote places, unsupported and totally self-sustained. Using the same process as a trip to Eastern Tibet or the Pamir, we go in light, focussed and expecting the unexpected, which translates well to Great Range Climbing as proven by generations of Japanese climbers including the current exploits of the Giri Giri Boys in places like Alaska, Pakistan and the Himalaya
the upper 1000m of Kaikomas NE side: remote, cold and endless options. image from zettkeikanakurikuri
these trips have all the exoticness of Sikkim or Hispar but not the giardia, the untrammelledness of Sichuan but none of the red-tape and the climbing of the Alps but none of the crowds. The remote routes of Japan are serious undertakings requiring the same equipment, attitude and capacity as time spent in other focal climbing locations. Japan is cold (often -20c), vertical gain is high (often 2000m), the routes technical (large granite walls and endless ice flows), with the routes we attempt often being FA’d by teams that went on to peaks like Latok, K2 and Logan. Possibilities include:
hard mixed faces
cold north face ice
multiple route link-ups
remote ice areas
gear for micro-expditions: most trips begin and end with a pile of gear in a carpark somewhere, deciding what can go and what stays
all micro-expeditions have significant approach times, often without established trails, and require full self-reliance – the lights of civilization may be visible at night but the character of Japanese topography makes it very hard to get to. Micro-expeditions are ideal for small groups and even solo climbers with experience in winter climbing and a high value on exploration. Iceclimbingjapan provides support and consultation for micro-expeditions covering
kaikomagatakes eastern colouir and the SE buttress: one of the homes of Japanese-style hard climbing
CHINA ICE CLIMBING
Tho things have been a bit up and down with ice climbing in china the last few years, these days everyone wants to go to ice & alpine climbing in China, tho its not Nepal or the alps with a huge industry catering to it. Permit changes, angry Tibetans, earthquakes and politics has been interplayed with good trips to new places in true expedition style.
Shuangqiao gao is the center of China’s ice climbing, beneath Siguniangshan in the Qonglai range on the edge of Tibet. With dozens of icefalls along a high valley Shuangqiao gou has the climbing of europe with the exotic quality of high altitude Asia.
In either direction along the Tibetan escarpment hundreds of valleys hide countless icefalls, almost all of them unseen and certainly unclimbed. Trips here can range from week long alps-style jaunts to month long expeditions into the vast array of surrounding valleys and peaks.
Iceclimbingjapan has climbed extensively in this region, putting up dozens of first ascents and paving the way for a lifetime of future trips. Transport, accommodation and logistics are arranged to get climbers from Chengdu to the ice with minimal hassle from the bureaucracy that has affected this area in recent winters.
Its no secret China is not for everyone. Even amongst ‘expedition climbers’ few are willing to take it on.
On the ground China is amazing: the food is good, access can be good, theres no Taliban or Maoists or religious rules. The cities we start and end in are huge and comfortable, visas are easy, crime is low and prices are good. Yes, there are issues with alienation, human rights, censorship and politics – but no worse (and a lot better) than many other expedition destinations.
5500m peaks along the Sichuan-Tibet border in China. accessible and good weather patterns, yet barely climbed.
Over 15 years weve regularly travelled into Greater Asia’s more serious places, clocking up dozens of trips with the majority of these into lesser known regions of China and Central Asia, building us a portfolio of experience unequalled by logistics providers. Lots of companies can get you to the Khumbu and the Baltoro, some even to the Tien Shan, but few know what we do to get you to the lesser known ranges.
Daruut Khorgan, deep in the western Pamir’s Alay Chu: parts of Central Asia are still very wild & off the grid
All across the region are dozens of +/- 6000m peaks that are accessible to those that know how. With Iceclimbingjapans network of local guides and logistics people we make them very doable. For the new generation of alpine climbers graduating from 3-4000m routes the only options are not just the old favorites where much of the ‘expeditionary element’ was whittled down decades ago, with the formation of safari-like industries to dumb down the process. In places like Tibet and Central Asia, expeditions are still the real thing, with vast areas waiting to be explored.
driving in to NW sichuan-tibet border: peaks in the Xue shan range. photo: Schewchuk
Iceclimbingjapan is an independent logistics provider that puts you I charge – we don’t do the climbing for you. Our specialty is running logistics for remote trips. We don’t fix ropes, import oxygen, carry your stuff or tell you how to do things. What we do is streamline a process where 15 years of experience turns the fantasy into the doable. Its your idea, to your timeline, with your team – we just pull it together. This is a new way of organizing trips, to new areas, for climbers thinking in a new way that breaks the ‘Scotland-Alps-Khumbu’ mold.
Give us your ideas on objectives and we do all the tedious, difficult and confusing stuff that includes
Permits & redtape
Stocking & sourcing
Trouble-shooting & negotiation
‘I wanna get on a 5500m route no one else has tried in a place that doesn’t need 10 days of approach time’ is a great place to start. As are ideas that last several months, cross deserts, descend rivers and go into places without names.
crossing the lake in the karakorum highway: enroute between K2 south-side and Xinjiang/Tibet