2017 EXPEDITION – CENTRAL ASIA

TO THE HEART OF CENTRAL ASIA, THIS IS EXPEDITIONS 1910 STYLE

Must have;

  • Well developed sense of humor, curiosity and resolve

  • Previous expedition experience with unsupported approaches, alpine climbing and remote areas

  • Navigation experience

Desirable;

  • Desert experience

  • Central Asia experience

  • Glaciological expertise

Dates

  • August 19 – 30. Confirm by May

Members will be joining a motivated and experienced team and expected to function likewise. The trip is self sustained, with minimal redtape, but full immersion in the area and cultures. There will be no grants, no film deals, no sponsors, no porters and no guarantees.

This trip will not suit anyone seeking a predictable, guided, three star, well–trodden experience, nor is it suitable as a first expedition. Commercial interest is not welcome.

This trip is confirmed as going ahead. Price is accessible, covers almost everything in-country for the 12 day schedule, and reflects the logistics, research and work of taking on such an unusual objective.

Serious expressions of interest welcome. Exped / climbing resume will be required. Before emailing have confirmed the dates, physical condition and climbing ability to begin the conversation.

Emails to iceclimbingjapan@hotmail.com with 2017EXP and your name in the subject line. Replies within a week.

Trust us – you don’t know anybody who knows anybody who knows about this objective.

BBC EASTERN TIBET ARTICLE

its not often much comes up on Tibetan areas in the BBC, but sure enough, heres a pretty good article describing some of the modern lifestyles out there, very close to some areas we climb in.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-36938787

they get much of the general overview pretty good, helping to dispel some of the persistent myths about the place, ie its all desert, the cultures gone, ‘Tibet’ means only the Lhasa area, how accessible it is etc.

EAST FACE OF MAEHOTAKADAKE: BUGS, HEAT & SUMMER ICE

you dont hear much about the east face of Maehotakadake (3090M). the north ridge is a classic alpine techy scramble, and a panoramic trail crests its top, but the big, jagged, looming east face is usually little much more than an ominous view as people go past it on the way to other things. with good reason. its a loooong way to the base, via dense, barely maintained trails, endless loose scree and – if you get caught up in the many complex gullies – year round ice.

planning with a different route in mind, we set out for the east face, thinking it was something else, to find a true corner of rarely visited Japanese alpine climbing that easily fits the distinction of Alps-style in Japan. soaring buttresses, detached pillars, high icy cols, hidden lakes, waterfalls and couloirs leading into rarely seen upper faces. with 3 days to spend we were soon overwhelmed by the grandiosity of the terrain – 3 days is barely enough to into the faces upper reaches – and relinquished to return another day. scant attention means access is hard, requiring adhoc navigation and guesswork in the faces swirling complex of gullies – most ending in ice-smoothed chutes and dangerous ravines. tell-tale evidence from ancient pitons, few and far between, denote this place has escaped the hardware-happy decades. a trip here demands more than the short ropes and anemic rack often suitable for the popular routes.

the east face of Maehotakadake: plenty of alpine ice in those gullies, a lot of complex terrain

a 400 – 500m summer ice line, looking across at the east ridge

the east face of Maehotakadake is a beguiling objective, mysteriously bridging the gap between established routes on the Japanese survey maps. this is unique climbing, a hybrid of european scenery with asian details and the heart of Japanese alpinism. anyone who thinks Japan has nothing new left to try hasnt been up here. with a lot of gaps filled in the plan, we will be back to try again, with more time, more gear and a higher degree of commitment. a mention in dispatches for Matt for cheerfully soloing dodgy ice and wet rock, brushing off the bugs and knowing when we were beaten.

EASTERN TIBET STYLE

since Messner appeared a while back stating how the eastern Tibet ranges would be his choice should he be a young man again, knowing what he knows, interest has bubbled. and tho climbers like to invoke the name of Messner, not all actually apply what his ideals were for self-supported, clean, committed, daring and integral climbing. at iceclimbingjapan we saw what Messner said as a kind of indicator of somewhere the climbing world can go: towards a cleaner, more streamlined, more sustainable direction less burdened by the undesirable commercial elements that have warped expedition climbing elsewhere.

the Minya Konka range: most peoples introduction to eastern Tibet is via this range, either out the window or thru the escapades of western climbers. despite being close to the lowlands, its still remarkably unexplored, with huge potential.

climbing in Tibet is its own thing. it differs from Greater Himalayan climbing in that there’s no industry surrounding it, it revolves around 5500m – 7000m peaks, it has Chinese infrastructure around it and the bulk of whats there is unknown. it also differs from former-soviet Central Asian climbing, where despite similar altitudes, again there is no industry behind it and there is simply far less known about the geography. whilst decades past saw huge interest in the Himalaya, Karakorum, Central Asian ranges, Tibet lay mostly off-limits and unclimbed in.

since gradually becoming accessible the Tibetan ranges have been slow to see action. even though ‘Tibet’ is synonymous with alpinism, the onslaughts of activity seen in Central Asia and around 8000m peaks that bought airstrips, hotels, seasonal base camps, guides, piles of trash, sanitation problems and celebrity have never arrived in Tibet. even the most well known places like the Siguniangshan and Minya Konka areas are startlingly quiet, and despite now being open, the other ranges of eastern Tibet are barely climbed in at all. for all the media and spray about climbing these days, most of Tibet is still a huge area as unclimbed, unseen and unnamed as the Khumbu was in the 1950s.

laying so culturally distant, Tibetan peaks have something in common with places in Central Asia. Unlike North America, Europe and western-oriented locations like Nepal, Tibet shares with the ‘Stans a void in reliability, logistics and data that immediately extends the motivation and attention to detail needed to go there. theres no off-the-rack trips, piles of ready permits and industry maintained infrastructure. like the ‘Stans almost no  specific resources are available in-country, which translates to climbing with only the gear you can bring with you which then means a refined style is default.

a good example of whats out there: this +/-5600m tower, viewable only thru this break in the ridgelines, sits along with others like it in Eastern Tibet. no ones even been to the base of it.

today, Tibetan climbing is perhaps most influenced by Alaskan style climbing, mostly because American climbers with Alaskan histories are taking the most interest. this means light teams, well equipped, with daring ideas and the experience to pull it off. these teams are reveling in the ease of access that allow multiple ascents to be undertaken, using an Alaskan protocol of acclimating on smaller routes then squeezing as many routes into a weather window as sanity allows.

‘Charakusa’ and ‘Garwhal style’ climbing also exerts an influence, with similar elevation peaks and high, grassed valleys to base from. what differs is Tibet’s more amenable approaches (Chengdu and Chinese transport and food is considerably nicer than whats in Pakistan or India) meaning you arrive in better condition with less chance of hygiene problems and a more reliable schedule. rising from similar tectonic processes (ie being newer mountains) means there are similarities in the way rivers cut thru ranges to make dramatic formations into newly exposed rock that offers complex ‘feature climbing’ well suited to small, focused teams.

another big influence on the regions style is of course Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden, bringing to the mix the British near-infinite obsession for style. where the Alaskanites are clocking the lines, Mick and Paul are taking on the bigger peaks with a style perhaps described as Scottish-Himalayan, ie single-objective grungy sufferfests done on ridiculous gear. along similar lines, teams like Dave Anderson and Tzu ting have been focusing on single prominent peaks, sometimes returning over multiple seasons to find the best window in places with almost no records of climate.

between the gaps of these two parallel styles are significant numbers of Japanese, eastern Europeans, Antipodeans and Chinese climbers, mostly climbing in similar ‘hit & run’ styles and dispensing with the accouterments of long expedition climbing. many of these groups have simply taken long weekend style climbing and pushed it to a barely doable degree.

Alps-style climbing is a fairly distant cousin to climbing in Tibet in most areas. theres not a lot of options for short overnight trips from civilization, theres no cable cars and definitely no assistance to give margin to any errors. the actual vertical climbing has more similarities as the glaciers are generally smaller and things get steep fast, but with a base level of about 4000m and the unsupported approach the technical climbing happens in a different context.

even tho this looks like a lot of interest, spread across an area as huge as Tibet it barely registers. entire ranges are still barely recorded let alone climbed in and if not for the distant glimpses and skeletal mapping of travelers like Tomatsu Nakamura almost nothing would be recorded at all.

Tibet will always be Tibet: in many places yaks and horses outnumber cars and theres still populations of people who live nomadic lifestyles.

what defines Tibetan style alpinism?

5000 – 7000m peaks: peaks at these heights offer amazing climbing-to-dollar ratios. rather than weeks on crowded approaches then more time playing connect four and eating popcorn in a mess tent, these elevations generate a high proportion of climbing time. these elevations also allow for more technical and/or hard climbing, and when combined with relatively quick approaches open up possibilities impossible elsewhere.

variation: so much geophysical activity has produced a wide range of mountain types. huge walls, complex massifs, rocky spires, collections of granite towers, long faces of connected peaks, isolated standalone peaks. some areas are heavily glaciated whilst others rise from grassy step and river valleys.

unexplored: most tibetan ranges, even the well known ones and peaks near towns, are barely explored. most have never been looked at with the intention to climb, making even the base of many mountains uncharted ground. of the peaks that have had interest, its often of just a single aspect, with whole other sides of familiar peaks unknown. weather records barely exist and what does is based on models rather than actual recording. even peaks on maps, unless climbed, have not been verified, with discrepancies sometimes show to be by several hundred meters. all this means going into tibetan ranges requires a scope of skills rarely seen since the 80s

high starts: most approaches begin between 3500m and 4200m, making the ascent to the roadhead from sea level Chengdu one needing planning. its easy to rise too fast as Tibet zips past the car window, but smarter ascent profiles can be managed. in the end, it will catch you.

remote: even ranges close to towns are still several days from places where communication and requirements will be easy. just because a town is near doesnt mean youre close to help

acute approaches: tibetan approaches tend to go from 4000m roadheads to 5000m basecamps over quite short distances – often within 5km. consider that the approach to Everest or K2s BC at similar elevations occur over a week, starting at about 3000m and spanning about 65 – 80km. its easy to gain height too fast on the drive up from the Yangzi basin, so transport needs to be arranged to cover this. the good thing is much of your acclimation can take place in hotels and around town, rather than out in a cold tent.

little snow: compared to Alaska and some of central Asia much of tibet has less snow. north of the Minya Konka range snow loading significantly decreases and some areas in Qinghai are high altitude desert in the secondary rain shadow beyond the Greater Himalaya. 20 years on the ground has shown us that dependable weather patterns create incredible windows, but due to the scarcity of climbing they are little known.

no rescue: in China, any form of help will come from days away thru the local mountaineering associations. there wont be helicopters put in the sky for climbers. period. this gives things a degree of risk not seen in high altitude areas for decades and an affect of this means international rescue groups like Global Rescue have reduced efficacy in China.

relaxed cultures: these days Tibet is a safe  culture to be in. aside from occasional pick pocketing and a few hygeine issues like hepatitis and tetanus, Tibetan areas are pretty easy to be in. food is plentiful, hotels are ok, theres no heavy religious stuff or extremism  and in general Tibetans are happy to have outsiders pass thru so long as they dont treat locals like their home is Disneyland. that said, Tibetan liberalism can easily be confused with false security. Tibetans still have good people and bad people, opportunists and ugly elements. in Eastern Tibet especially brigandry has a long history that isnt exactly dead yet, and not everyone is glad to see outsiders.

no industry: aside from the anomaly of the cross-border Everest/8000m industry, elsewhere Tibet has no industry to support climbers. a few Chinese companies provide the logistics and legal stuff and theres a guesthouse or two aimed at foreign adventure travelers, but out in the mountain areas theres nothing. this means no systems of porters, no tea houses, no code of employment, no gear shops, no reason to care. in some areas locals just laugh when asked if porters are available, wondering why foreigners cant carry their own loads.

good infrastructure: despite its image as a hardcore destination, the roads, towns, food and basics in Tibetan areas can be good. much better than anywhere south of the Himalaya or in central Asia. in an effort to keep the population happy China has sunk a lot into roads, power supplies, hospitals, telecommunications etc. you may not want to live there year round, but its certainly enough to bookend the actual climbing.

permits: the days of under-the-radar ascents are pretty much over – as are the days of buying your way out of trouble. permits in China for virgin peaks can be up to $8000, then theres a series of smaller fees and permits for compulsory insurance, the environment and entrance to some areas. but, for all this, what you get is good – crew are well paid and professional, infrastructure gets things done, the system works and for all the expense, it keeps things from becoming crowded. to that end, in 20 years there will still be new areas across Tibet to explore. its worth noting these same fees apply to Chinese climbers as well.

the PSB, politics & restrictions: Tibet never has been open and free and aside from a 10 year window when lack of interest meant no one was watching, its better now than its ever been. yes, big brother is watching, but so long as you stick to climbing they are more curious than problematic. that said, make a problem for the Public Security Bureau and they will be very efficient at shutting things down till its sorted. not all problems come from the authorities tho; local superstitions and monastic rules have shut down their fair share of expeditions, and unlike the limitations of authority, this happens well after youve handed over your cash. politics is never far the surface in Tibetan areas, and its complex beyond what any newcomer will comprehend. to think its as black and white as ‘Tibet vs China’ is the first error to make. authorities are aware that some foreigners have agendas – a history of holding and ejecting journalists is testament to this – and compared to Nepal, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan etc this is all more tightly controlled.

+6000m peaks out the window: the roads into Eastern Tibet go high, well over 4000m, and the approach to the roadhead needs careful planning

the future

add all this up and for high altitude climbing it makes one of the most unadulterated region to climb in – which in this era demands a unique climbing style; the light and unsupported style of  Alaska, the clean ethics of Scotland, the topographical features of Charakusa, the exotic remoteness of Central Asia

todays climbing resources mean there is no reason to use invasive methods to ascend. no bolts need to be needlessly used, no industrial base camps need to be carved out, no fixed ropes need to be installed etc. using the example set in places like Alaska’s Ruth Gorge, small groups with light camps can come and go to serious objectives leaving almost no trace if they apply some basic parameters for conduct. in the absence of any others we have come up with these;

  1. keep trips self or minimally supported; carry your own stuff, go light, dont rely on the locals, pay properly when you do

  2. keep climbing styles clean; no fixed ropes, no bolted progresss, no fixed camps, no reliance on outside technology. if you cant climb without these things come back when you can.

  3. keep cultural impact to a minimum; climbers are not salvation, these people do not need us and they certainly dont need all the crap of our culture in theirs

  4. go remote: spreading climbing activity wide prevents problems associated with saturation. in Tibet this includes banditry, price gouging, sanitation problems and attention from the police

  5. keep the authorities satisfied: pay for the permits, dont project an agenda, be careful with photos. its taken decades to see these places open and they can be closed overnight. its happened before. if you want to push the rules, dont connect it to climbing. this applies as much to the local monks and construction companies as it does to the PSB – remember that in China things dont have the degree of separation they do elsewhere.

  6. collect quality information: useful data on these places helps streamline future trips and minimize potential accidents

  7. understand where youre going: the era for foreigners to blunder unknowingly thru another culture is over. educate yourself so you can apply it

these are not meant as rules by any means, they are simply things weve seen to work and keep working over nearly 20 years, and when the opposite has been done its been shown to quickly result in problems. we vividly recall the years of ‘anything goes’ climbing in Eastern Tibet and yes, it was fun, but the side-effects of trouble with the authorities, security with the locals and probably the deaths of several climbers makes it clear things are better now.

with effectively a clean slate this is a chance to avoid the mistakes of the past and use standards in line with the best thinking of today. right now most of Tibet’s mountains are still pristine and unadulterated by mass tourism. in many places stream water is still safe to drink, nomadic families still move thru the valleys and foreigners have almost no impact on the local way of life. wed like to see it kept this way.

a note on the use of the word ‘Tibet’.

disputes about where and what ‘Tibet’ is are common, usually debated by people with little real experience in the places concerned. the Tibetan people themselves do not use the word Tibet, nor do the Chinese. there never has been any one place called ‘Tibet’ other than in the foreign imagination. What we call Tibet the Tibetans refer to under various names for various lands that over the centuries have shifted and been far, far greater than they are today. even today these lands and people are not unified nor homogeneous, comprising multiple groups with widely varying cultures, languages and beliefs.

today, ‘Tibet’ is often used to mean what in China is called Xizang province. this constitutes only a small part of the Tibetan peoples homeland – other areas including Qinghai, western Yunnan and Sichuan, southern Gansu and the sub-Himalayan regions of Sikkim, Bhutan, Mustang and Northern Myanmar etc. Xizang as it currently is has only existed since 1955. before this its eastern half and the west of Sichuan were the separate province of East Tibet or Xikang. this was the most populous Tibetan state and even since the dissolution of Xikang the region of western Sichuan is still the most populated Tibetan area. today people of Tibetan ethnic groups make up about 75% of the population – more than that of Xizang province. some areas in what is now Sichuan, due to being more remote from the interests of both the Tibetan and Chinese governments, have retained a less adulterated Tibetan culture than the well know areas of central Tibet. administratively, most of these areas are known as ‘Tibetan Autonomous Regions’ or TAR’s and get special interest from the central government, both good and bad.

we use the term Tibet, because we are climbing in the lands of Tibetan people, whether they are in Sichuan, Qinghai, Xizang etc and however it has been carved up, romanticized and politicized by others. we use it to denote the lands that come under the collective Tibetan culture. currently climbing in Xizang province is near to impossible, so we are mostly climbing in the western part of Sichuan province that was Xikang until 1955. in these areas non-Tibetan’s are in a small minority, with little other than Tibetan languages spoken. culturally, ethnically, linguistically and practically it is 95% Tibetan.

over the years weve seen how politics can mess up expeditions – both for ourselves and others who come after – so we keep our thoughts on that quiet. but as a Chinese sage once said, ‘the first step to wisdom is getting the names right’ we know Tibet when we see it and when we look out the window, we see nothing that could be called anything else.

Mt FUJI ICEFALL: DAMN, JUST MISSED IT

the ice fall inside Mt Fuji’s caldera is real. it exists. and the last 2 winters we have documented it – tho missed it both times despite a spectrum of dates. we know it forms in mid to late spring, but being so hard to check on…well, you know.

+/-70M, interesting access, no good top anchors, enough altitude to feel it, 3 weeks too late

annoyingly, this year it looked like it had formed even better than normal, despite bizarre conditions all winter long. we arrived about 3 weeks too late id say, to find the remnants much bigger than last year and a lot of smaller but cool stuff along the calderas rim. it didnt seem much had crashed down yet as its still below Oc up there, but UV and sublimation are taking care of it.

next year…

6 ‘DEEP’ EXERCISES FOR EXPEDITION CLIMBING

expedition climbing differs from alpine climbing by how much the day to day stresses effect the outcome. on an expedition youre as likely to get hurt or run down by the loads, the approach and the way you sleep as you are by the actual climbing. you need to be fit and resilient to pull the moves AND to survive the general process, often exposed to altitudes regular alpine climbing may not entertain which means recovery is compromised.

strength for expedition climbing isnt just the obvious bulk capacity to carry stuff upwards. by developing the deeper, unseen elements like breathing musculature, body tension, load bearing musculature etc  you can go far beyond what just endurance and climbing training can cover. Dan DaSilva arriving at 4600m with a 30kg load – he may look like a male stripper but he climbs like like an orangutan.

training for expedition climbing needs to address the specifics often glossed over with regular alpine climbing, namely: the load bearing muscles, the diaphragms and the ‘sleeping muscles’. lots of climbers get very good at the general and the climb-specific elements only to find that endless pull ups and hill intervals havent prepared them for the workhorse stuff. these exercises address that by making stronger max function and increasing range of motion to help prevent injuries.

‘deep’ exercises are ones that develop stuff you cant really see and address weaknesses you probably dont know you have, making them powerful when integrated with the usual climbing training. these sorts of things pull together the rest of your training and increase overall energy efficiency but they are not quick fix only-10-minutes-a-week vanity exercises. these exercises may be targeting things you have never consciously trained before so may find surprisingly weak and deserve to be a fundamental part of any training regime. other types of these sorts of exercises exist, these are just ones that require little/no gear and have direct applications. remember these are all strengthening exercise – do them at about 3-6RM.

 

1) Lung Lifts

the drop in diaphragmatic efficiency as you gain altitude is startling – the other muscle groups that see such double-digit loss of capacity get huge attention but are peripheral by comparison. just as groups like leg and thorax musculature require a blend of max strength and base endurance to optimize, so does the diaphragm. running etc provides the basic base line, but Lung Lifts target the max strength.

  1. hold 2 x weights (combined weight about 90% of 1RM overheard press) at chest level, pushed together to focus the load onto the sternum area. breathing should obviously move the load.

  2. stand against a wall or horizontal bar to prevent leaning back and shifting the load onto the lower back and hips. you should feel a forward pull.

  3. exhale and allow the abdomen to collapse, dropping the shoulders forward to allow the diaphragm to retract as much as possible.

  4. inhale, using the expansion of the lungs and strength of the diaphragm to raise the load and straighten the body against the wall/bar. hold for 4 or 5 seconds.

  5. repeat for the usual number of strength-oriented reps (3 – 5) and sets (3 – 5).

 

2) Tension Push Ups

being able to maintain body tension in a prone or reclining position is key to resting in grim bivvies, long drives on bad roads, miserable belays and cramped tents. its usually a matter of holding a static state of tension from the shoulders to the feet, length-ways AND across the body. Tension Push Ups build the recruitment to body needs to know what is doable and the range of motion necessary to engage it across a spectrum of forms. if you thought you have body tension down, think again.

  1. place hands on floor, arms extended as for regular push ups.

  2. place the soles of the feet flat against a wall with no support aside from friction (no toe holds, no smears etc). height same as shoulders to create a horizontal bridge of the back.

  3. raise your back and use tension to hold feet against the wall. perform push ups. reps as usual (sets up to 12 before adding resistance)

  4. raising feet or placing hands further forward makes it easier.

3) Plate Stretches

carrying serious loads (>25kg) for serious time (>5hrs repeated daily) requires strong hip connections and lateral strength, plus a strong range of movement to keep it safe over uneven terrain. standard core strength focuses on forward -back strengthening that also compresses or fails to elongate the musculature (front squats, front levers etc), limiting the range of movement and overlooking the direction of real-world loading. Plate Stretches are an old school gymnastic exercise used to strengthen the waist for things like pommel horse that require lateral strength to keep the legs and shoulders aligned – sound familiar? they combined several functions linking static holds with stretching and core strength. start light to get the movement before risking lower back strain ie <5kg to begin.

  1. sit with legs splayed as wide as possible, hamstrings to the floor, feet pointed at the ceiling, both ass cheeks evenly seated.

  2. raise load (plate, KB, DB etc) above head, arms straight, body straight.

  3. lower to each side in alignment with legs, aiming to touch elbow to knee and hands to feet. bend by compressing one side and lengthening the other NOT by raising the ass/hips. keep the body straight.

  4. raise the load by lifting compressed side and retracting extended side NOT swinging load upward with momentum.

  5. 5 or 6 reps to each side before adding weight.

4) Squeeze Bridges

bridge exercises are good because they develop the muscles along the spine (ie the stuff thats often weak because they cant be seen in a mirror…). this helps with heavy packs, hanging in a harness, bad sitting positions and steep or awkward moves. but – like sit ups, dips etc – once threshold is reached its easy to keep doing them mindlessly with diminished results and as the rest of the body gets stronger it becomes a weakness again. Squeeze Bridges combined the dorsal development with the lateral development useful for all those climbing moves that require pulling the body into position, perhaps most obvious on ice when climbing pillars and delaminated features where capacity to simply position the body may be undeveloped. lots of exercises strengthen the ability to push with the legs, but in the ugly, gnarly climbing common the mixed alpine pulling and torquing with the body is common.

  1. lay on floor, hands positioned as for a regular reverse bridge. raise feet and position either side of an object thats about twice shoulder width, feet are unsupported aside from friction between them and the surface. exercise balls are easy, sides of a squat rack are hard.

  2. feet should be placed about same height as shoulders when arms are extended into full position. squeeze inwards with the feet and push torso upwards into bridge position with abdomen raised as high as possible. hold until capacity starts to diminish. lower to floor.

  3. get to 6 reps before adding weight (plate on abdomen etc). similar to Tension Push Ups, Tension Bridges are a progression of this exercise.

5) L-sit Levers

we all know L-sits. we all know Front levers. both are usually employed as static tension exercises which is great for hard overhanging moves (and so should be kept) but have little base level function for the other 90% of expedition climbing that isnt at the hard sharp end. L-sit Levers take the body tension of these exercises and combine controlled movement, joint rotation and core connection across a spectrum of function that develop the shoulders for carrying, the waist for moving and the body connection for balance and the stresses of awkward belays/bivvies. the classic gymnasts version is done on rings or a pommel horse, here hexbells (that wont roll) or push up bars will do. dip bars work once you get the motion. hands flat on floor may compromise wrist movement so use bells etc or knuckles to floor if you have the training or even fingertips if youre Bruce Lee.

  1. raise into the L-sit position; legs straight, arms straight, active shoulder.

  2. from the L-pose raise the hips and waist, straightening the body. keeping hands under center of balance, rotate shoulder joints so arm angle to floor drops. at maximum extension return under control to start position.

  3. from start position push waist back and raise knees towards chest. angle of arms to floor opposite to previous stage.

  4. get to about 6 reps of extensions in both directions where the angle between arm and body exceeds 45o. increase angle and/or add weight by putting weight in the lap and moving out along legs with progress.

6) Weighted Hip Rotates

hip rotates are stock-standard warm up exercises usually not thought much about. Weighted Hip Rotates are a way to develop the sort of leg-waist connection strength and quality range of motion that assists with carrying loads, prolonged periods sitting on belays and in tents and athletic moves requiring wide steps and stems. beyond just increasing the function motion of the hip joint, this exercise develops the inside of the upper leg and the static tension of an extended leg – this is the panacea for disco leg.

  1. lay on the floor, shoulders, ass and hamstrings evenly flat against the ground. raise one leg so knee to chest. raised foot weighted (use a leg weight, Bulgarian bag etc).

  2. starting clockwise with right leg (for the point of discussion, it doesnt matter) extend raised leg across the left leg until straight, keeping ass and shoulders evenly against floor. keeping extended, move leg in a wide arc till out from body, foot as close to ground as possible. continue arc, bringing knee to chest.

  3. 5 reps each direction, each leg, before adding weight.

these exercises may look like esoteric gymnastics stuff, but they are all doable like any regular movement and have arguably more real world function that much of what gets done in the name of climbing. done as strength exercises means twice a week is optimum, or once a week if other strength/power work is being done. the effects of this stuff wont be seen as cool abs or vanity muscle but it will be felt when climbing or carrying under load, especially at altitude where its like a plug for energy leaking out of a body that looks strong but actually has unseen weaknesses.

TIBET 2016 FURTHER, BIGGER, WILDER: NEW POSITIONS AVAILABLE

plans for Tibet have solidified. new areas are being scheduled, permits are being shuffled and the climbing being analyzed. with 6 months to go it’s time to set a course with training, gearing up and getting your head in the game.

this all means new positions have opened up for some objectives – all of them first ascents, minimal footprint and to barely mapped areas.

this time round we have new data, new freedoms, new ideas and a new capacity to get things done – and with all this we are headed to a new area to take on significantly grander objectives. in keeping with our ethic of minimally supported, low impact and clean-style climbing we are heading further onto the plateau and to higher peaks. its a logical next step into wilder territory to put our expanded capacity into action

6000m, unclimbed, unexplored: these are not the peaks we are going to, the real ones are secret and a lot more dramatic

what you need to know:

world class objectives. +5500m unclimbed peaks in areas with considerable interest but almost no action – done in the best style possible

all redtape covered (permits, visa support, intro letters, liaison, fees, security briefings, more permits)

all team supplies included (tents, stoves, fuel, ropes, team hardware,basecamp food, emergency supplies etc)

all transport and travel details included (meals, vehicles, translation and hotels)

solid scheduling. experience and China’s infrastructure mean we can schedule a first ascent into a 2 week timeline that includes sane acclimation and ‘off-days’ and puts us on the mountain in peak condition

lead and supported by real people with extensive Tibet climbing experience, first ascent experience and intimate knowledge of the geography and politics

minimally supported which means no porters, no guides, no staff. after being dropped off we are on our own with a unique degree of freedom hard earned over 20 years

clean style means no bolts, no route fixing, alpine-style, acclimating on site, leaving as little as possible behind

minimalist, alpine-style, unsupported and daring: it wont always be easy but it will be to the coolest places you can imagine

if youve wanted to be part of a true expedition to a world class objective these trips are the real deal. its not signing onto a pre-packaged tour, its joining a team for a common objective. first exped climbers welcome but all members are expected to prepare realistically and act responsibly with the team dynamic.

teams are kept small and with dozens of possible objectives we pick the one that suits best – fast alpine, big wall, variations, multiple routes, training for even bigger things.

inquiries encouraged

WHAT MAKES THE EXPEDITION CLIMBER ?

contrary to what the climbing media will show you, expedition climbers are not usually the coiffed, logo-laden, high tech, well spoken ambassadors they are made out to be. after 20 years going on prolonged trips to places barely on the map, weve come across enough of the real thing to recognize it when we see it.

superficially, expedition climbers fit a Jungian archetype somewhat different from ‘trip’ climbers, tho of course theres a lot of overlap and its natural to be both. for this blurb we will define ‘expedition’ as being an undertaking in an area removed by degrees of magnitude from any form of climbing industry. basically its climbing somewhere outside of where climbing usually happens and the industry that provides to it has no sway. by example the Khumbu, Charakusa, Fitzroy or the Alps usually dont qualify, whereas the North side of the Karakorum, Baffin, the Altun Shan and many of the sub-ranges of the Himalaya, Andes, Pamir, Tien Shan, Hindu Kush do. if Global Rescue has an off-the-shelf plan and youre not packing your own toilet paper and paramedic supplies its not an expedition.

what makes the expedition climber is the expedition. the omega point of the expedition objective throws into context all other activity and pulls together the pieces to make it happen. people dont end up on expedition by accident, via haphazardness or wishing and dreaming. expeditions are the result of intent and hardwork and theres a certain character that fits that.

if eating unidentified food from a bag excites you, you are one big step towards expedition climbing

expedition climbers dont come from nowhere. they are not born as such and no one hands it to them. to climb in expedition style requires developing the physical capacity, motivation, technical ability and thought process – and making the sacrifices – to be the type of person who does that sort of thing. it doesnt suit everybody. the commitment over large loops of time to many is not realistic. many simply dont believe in their ideas enough to let it happen. to some the idea of being that off the grid is frightening.

expedition climbers see a process. that its a large loop of feedback is understood and that all the steps on the way are not always glamorous is accepted. expedition objectives are rarely the result of fairweather preparation – if you cant cope with a weekend in the rain its unlikely you be solid on a ledge in a storm.

expedition climbers have the guile to channel valuable resources towards a grand objective. $1000 airfares, $800 boots, expensive permits and destroying ropes is accepted as the entry fee. long periods in obscure areas never has been a cheap undertaking and thats simply that. actually work it all out and it maybe comes to $100 a week over a year, making it cheaper than its ever been, but the value has to be there to start with. some people think $100 a week on beer or weed is justified.

if you like hanging out with a crowd in a big warm mess tent with a crew cooking regular meals then real expeditions might not be for you

expedition climbers live in the tunnel of expedition thinking. this is a general way of living where excitement, curiosity, a work ethic and an objective process applies to everything. the ideas of new places, thoughts of new activity, a penchant for logistics, acceptance of a level of base knowledge area paradigm to view life thru that means the actuality of going on expedition scratches all the little itches of day to day living. more than one climber on expedition has announced a sense of being where they know they should be, at least for part of the time.

expedition climbers know its not about the gear. of course gear is part of the equation, but at a similar level to how craftmen use tools. specialist expedition gear is seen as a series of gateways that let certain things be done. the fetishes for nylon, aluminium, carbon fiber, dyneema and plastic dont last long over function. expedition climbers are the only climbers who find sponsorship a hindrance rather than an accolade.

expedition climbers dont demand a set course of actions. if anything expedition climbing can be defined as the opposite – to go where no prefabricated set of rules exists. if your life revolves around morning emails, dependable weather reports, known approach times and detailed topos, adaption to expedition living may be hard. if any paradigm is central to expedition climbing it is that at any moment it all can change to something totally unexpected. entire sides of mountains can prove unapproachable, complete weather patterns can be found to not apply, unforeseen bureaucracy can scuttle whole schedules, accidents and coincidences can open up bizarre outcomes.

expeditions tend not to include the concept of a nice warm hotel room at the end of each day

expedition climbers are discontent with having followed. the shock of the new is fundamental to the expedition mentality, at near-addictive proportions. the buzz of climbing new terrain supersedes any emotion of standing at a high point and its shadow – the act of following established ground – is seen as a form of failure. by definition its a neuroses, but one that drives a grander vision rather than one that backs into a corner. the association with unknowns and unexplored areas is integral to planning, objectives are decided equally by avoiding known factors as by attraction to unknown ones.

expedition climbers have a solid ability to research. from nutrition to training to languages to geography. by their nature expeditions take place without an industry to fill in the gaps. basic factors like sourcing food, navigating towns, negotiating with locals and making decisions are profound enough to get bogged down in without a large degree of pre-knowledge. obscure places are obscure for a reason and often once there an ability to communicate with the greater world diminishes, meaning information from a bigger scale is not apparent. locals can have entirely alternative ways of determining weather, gaining access, perceiving risks. their perspectives and demands are unlikely to have much in common with a team of foreign climbers, more so when communication is alien.

the basis of expedition climbing is making uninhabitable places habitable, even if just for a short space of time.

expedition climbers understand allocating money. expeditions cost hard cash, and that cash translates into unique experiences. for those experiences to be real the money needs to reflect that. cheap boots save $100 but compromise the $1000’s spent on other aspects. expensive gadgetry can introduce complexities and problems analogue solutions can avoid. dollars spent on preparation can reduce dollars spent on wasted time, other factors cant be changed no matter what amount is thrown at it. take away an industry of guides, porters and liaisons and you cant pay your way to the top of a mountain – let alone home again.

expedition climbers train. you cant get good at expeditions by going to the wall, gym or trail 3 times a week and calling that enough. the basic demands of expedition climbing covers a spectrum of effort far broader than climbing alone that a base of general capacity for suffering accounts for maybe 75% of it, with the remaining 25% being the specific machinations of climbing. you are just as likely to be battered, tested and exhausted by days on bad roads, sleeping in cramped places, hauling big loads and belaying from nasty positions as you are from hard edge climbing, and you dont proof yourself from all that by doing 4x4s and crossfit. expedition training is pure blue-collar grunt work of which the only thing that sucks more is not doing it. a large element is in digging out existing weaknesses and chronic problems so they can be managed, as well as incrementally developing the capacity to push against gravity and the weather for weeks on end.

expedition climbers get the cultural aspects – not necessarily the host cultures, but the process of being out of their own. its ignorant to expect the locals in a barely known place to understand, accept, align to or care about your visiting values. minus a climbing industry it fast becomes apparent just how pointless expedition climbing is. in places that see few travelers provisions for them are not default, and often are viewed as decadent or a novelty. if you cant be bothered to decipher your presence in a culture with minimal place for you then you may need to look at your motives. despite a media telling us otherwise, expedition climbers are guests in foreign lands, interacting with landscapes in alien ways that can range from uninteresting to sacrilegious to those whos backyards it happens in. combined with the subtleties of communication between vastly different cultures and its not difficult to see why so many great alpine objectives are off limits.

when weather reports dont exist you have to roll with the consequences

expedition climbers engage the process of problem solving well beyond the climbing. expeditions deconstructed are a matrix of problems requiring solutions. these problems are a continuum that exist long before the actual climbing phase and continue long after, to edit your perspective to just the romantic stuff is to miss the implications throughout. skip a problem early on and it both snowballs the matter and decreases the contingency to fix it. a snapped boot lace is tiny out on the weekend, but on a huge frozen wall the odds are dramatically changed.

expedition climbers are attached to a broad range of goals. standing on top of an unclimbed feature is a feat that takes hundreds of small goals to get to. to place gear properly, to be precise with navigation, to buy the right food, to be fit enough, to pack properly, to make a good tent ledge – to nail the foundation of subsidiary goals is to set up the primary goals, making them possible. looking back at any failed climb, the failed sub-goals are often the cause of greater failures. wrong boots, lack of ability, lack of clarity, lazy choices….when these goals are not made the vectors that allow big objectives to occur are not present.

expedition climbers get hard work. all of the above covers aspets of character that define an archetype that puts into action the process of going far away to do something pointlessly risky for the sake of a unique experience. its the stuff of life and heroic in its own little navel-gazing, Campbellian way, but without the connective element of elbow grease still comes to nought. in the end its grimy blue collar work that makes it happen; carrying loads thru rivers, lugging boxes of groceries up stairs, decanting kilos of oats into little ziploks, suffering bad roads and delays, weeks without washing, ropes that need coiling, ground that needs covering, snow that needs melting, boots that need drying, weather that needs recording, decisions that need making.

now these things all seem obvious, and most people have degrees of these qualities already  – the difference with expedition climbing is that defining and clarifying these characteristics extends very realistically to the sharp end. you dont come home from an expedition by chance, so all of these attributes need to be clearly cultivated.

GOLDEN WEEK – BE CAREFUL

golden week is here. the highways are jammed, the trains are booked out and the carparks are full.

Yatsugatake’s Ice Candy. perhaps in Honshu’s most stable winter environment at 2200m in a shaded amphitheater, its usually still pretty solid in late April. photo from the Akadake Kosen blog.

every year it seems winter gets a bit shorter – certainly shorter than when the aging guidebooks were written – so those old favorite late spring routes are now really early summer ones. every year sees a few more accidents as climbers find out the hard way. the snow pack isnt what it once was, the slopes arent as stable as they once were, the rock isnt as frozen as it usually is, the 24hr  temperature fluctuation can be broader.

add to that the undeniably weird weather over the last winter and theres real unknowns out there. be careful where you camp. be careful where you climb. be careful of the bigger picture.

2015 / 16 WINTER THAT WAS

2015/16 was a strange winter. conditions were strange, the atmosphere was strange, the locations were strange. it may be part of a greater cycle…or maybe its not.

to go with the strangeness, we spread ourselves over a large spectrum this winter. avoiding being too focused in a season that had a large degree of unpredictability from the start. we avoided some places we usually focus on and spent a lot of time in areas with a lot of untapped potential. we didnt get everything done we had planned, but we did set in motion the wheels for the next phase. fresh back from Tibet, we entered the winter with a bigger perspective and with trips to Iran on the horizon we had another objective to channel things towards.

unusual weather meant some places had easier access as the streams froze. a rare convenience.

FUJI

we really consolidated things on Fuji this winter, with a lot of trips over a very short period. at the peak of it we did nearly 13,000m of ascent in 11 days in winter conditions.

the South West face of Tanigawa-dake. theres a reason people dont know about this place.

ICE

some people called it a ‘bad ice year’. we thought it was excellent. late arrival meant no trash ice in the mix, so what formed was lean but clean. in some regular places no ice formed at all, whilst other icefalls formed the best weve ever seen them,perhaps due to the widely oscillating temperature variations.

we also worked hard on the ice we had, fortifying what we could do with straight volume sessions. this winter we were simply better climbers.

Will Gadd’s WI7 route Frozen Gold in Sendai. setting the new bar high for the possibilities in Japanese winter climbing

MIXED

modern mixed is where japan’s biggest winter potential lays. effectively so little has even been thought about the possibilities are unlimited, no less as the season is also longer and the summer can be spent working the hard bits.

the big event here was Will & Sarah coming over to prove the point, putting up the two hardest routes in the country while they were at it and identifying dozens more. this is exactly what Japanese winter climbing needs before it sputters to a halt.

Espresso Wall at Kaikomagatake. the short, sharp, powerful dose of mixed climbing Japan needs.

ALPINE

as a low snow year this was the time to head to places like Tanigawa-dake’s more esoteric aspects. having been away from the area for a few years it was valuable to return with a fresh outlook and get into places wed overlooked before. what we found was big, daunting, quality and profound and will become a new focus for us, tho it will take time to get it right.

the faces at Mitsutoge became one of our favourite mixed alpine locations.

IN GENERAL

this was the winter to reset directions and launch into new ideas, tho it took several years of accumulated experience to make it  go. as expected we proved to ourselves that motivation and derring do backed up with preparation made it work. new frontiers and climbing goals are needed in Japan and we have done what we could to get things rolling – and the right people have responded.

winter 2016/17 is already falling into blocks. get on board fast.