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.


kaikomagatake west face

the 2000m high east face of kaikomagatake: notorious amongst Japanese climbers as a proving ground for hard climbing on granite walls & mixed routes

kaikomagatake south east face buttress ice winter climbing

kaikomagatakes huge SE face: showing the big alpine routes and possibilities for serious granite faces

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

kaikomagatake NE face o ren tani

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:

  • alpine walls

  • hard mixed faces

  • cold north face ice

  • multiple route link-ups

  • remote ice areassenjogatake south west side winter ice climbing

senjogatakes SW face and gullies: rarely visited alpine routes to almost 3000m

senjogatake north side winter ice climbing

senjogatakes northern side: showing the dozens of gullies, granite faces and colouires

gear expedition ice climbing japan

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

  • route and access information

  • group equipment 

  • supply sourcing

  • trip leading

  • logistics & organizationkaikomagatake eastern ice alpine routes

another view into kaikomagatakes eastern colouir and the SE buttress: one of the homes of Japanese-style hard climbing

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.