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.
Q: how much of the evolution of your climbing has been planned progression? and how much has been random opportunity?
WG: I’ve always just wanted to go climbing. When I was in high school I climbed as many days as possible during climbing season, and that’s still true today. I never thought about it as a career or way of life really, just pushing and doing the forms of climbing I wanted to do. I am interested in new areas, new forms of all my sports, but that’s interest rather than a master plan.
I’ve had some good opportunities through winning competitions, working in publishing, and working with some great companies including Red Bull, Arc’teryx and Black Diamond. But those opportunities came about through interest and intense focus on doing what I found fascinating, not a master plan. Niagara Falls was a random opportunity in a way, but it happened because I’d spent ten years learning how to climb spray ice, managing film crews in crazy environments, and pulling off big ideas safely. Without that climbing background, track record and long-standing crew of great people I work with over and over again I couldn’t have climbed Niagara Falls.
I’m a lucky guy for sure, but try to reduce my reliance on that luck to go forward…
this is the first post in a series of ten with Will Gadd. the rules were simple: no editing, no word limits, no punches pulled, no need to even be coherent. shoot from the hip straight to an audience who want to know. as usual Will delivered 110%.
Q: where was ice and mixed climbing 10 years ago, where is it now, and what’s happened in between?
WG: Ice and mixed climbing are both healthy and going strong. Not a ton of development there in the last 10 years, just a lot more potential globally. More climbers, more areas, more farmed ice, more towers, it’s going great! I’d say it’s another golden age for ice and mixed, just tremendous opportunities globally, from China to South America, just lots to do!
What has changed is dry tooling. Ten years ago it was headed toward being its own sport, now it is its own sport entirely. Ice tools are used, but increasingly it’s done in steep caves on drilled holds, or with bolt-on logs and other features. Drtoolers have gotten good enough to hang onto ice tools for hours at a time even in a flat roof, which is awesome, but if you can hang on forever in a flat roof it’s hard to make routes harder. The grades from about M12 on are basically meaningless these days, more about ego and length of horizontal climbing than difficulty. Some of the harder routes are hard, but a lot of them are just endurance events without any hard moves, especially in Colorado’s Vail area.
To make the drytooling routes harder we’re cutting off more points. Back in the day we cut our spurs off because it made the routes boring and easy, but now some people are cutting off the “rake” points to make it harder to get rests, leaving only a single frontpoint. This actually doesn’t make things tons harder if you can hang on forever, so we’ll need to cut some more points off to make it harder again… At some point it’s going to make sense to just use rock shoes, and then that will probably get too easy so we’ll just have to use our hands again with a chalk bag. So I think drytooling has gotten to the point where it’s basically rock climbing with hooks. I’ve lost interest in this game. I also don’t like the chipped nature of the harder routes, just seems odd to me even though I’ve done a lot of it…
wanted: amazing women for amazing climbing
Sarah Hueniken, the archetype for elite women climbers, establishing Fun Chimes M9 on an exploratory trip with Will Gadd in Japan
after a lot of interest from both inside and outside iran, we will be running a special trip to connect women ice climbers. radical, meaningful and an extension of goodwill, this trip will combine frontier ice climbing across several locations in iran, great food, amazing places, outstanding ice, and a place in climbing history. climbers of any level are encouraged, all logistics including visa support are included, all questions about iran and the region will be answered and an incredible experience is guaranteed.
men, as either partners or individual, are of course invited too. these trips will be run together, as a kind of road trip thru iran’s best ice areas, climbing the classics and putting up new ice and mixed lines. vast potential exists and our local friends are highly motivated to show us around with their famous persian hospitality.
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.
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.
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.
exhale and allow the abdomen to collapse, dropping the shoulders forward to allow the diaphragm to retract as much as possible.
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.
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.
place hands on floor, arms extended as for regular push ups.
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.
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)
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.
sit with legs splayed as wide as possible, hamstrings to the floor, feet pointed at the ceiling, both ass cheeks evenly seated.
raise load (plate, KB, DB etc) above head, arms straight, body straight.
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.
raise the load by lifting compressed side and retracting extended side NOT swinging load upward with momentum.
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.
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.
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.
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.
raise into the L-sit position; legs straight, arms straight, active shoulder.
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.
from start position push waist back and raise knees towards chest. angle of arms to floor opposite to previous stage.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
it’s been a long time. until the late 70’s Iran had consistent visits from international groups, putting up serious routes on the 4500 – 5000m peaks across the country. as a developed, hospitable and accessible nation Iran had a good reputation. the revolution scared people away, and upheaval in surrounding countries plugged the way in, but despite Iranian climbers continuing to climb abroad, as an international destination thing fell quiet.
behind Iran’s borders the climbing went on and new generations of climbers put up ever-harder routes on ice, walls and alpine faces. it was only those outside that didnt know about it. as the world changed former eastern bloc, Chinese and soviet climbers came in from the cold and bought their individual climbing styles with them. now its Iran’s time.
as sanctions drop iceclimbingjapan is preparing to go back to Iran, linking up with Iranian climbers and being part of the process of change. we did it in China, we are doing in Japan and we will get the ball rolling in Iran. working with climbers who have serious histories in their own country and places like the Alps, Himalayas and Pakistan, the Friendship Trips aim to both open the door and to get some serious climbing done. repeating the test pieces and establishing new lines in Iran’s most profound locations is the objective. along with this we will do a lot of hanging out, a lot of eating, a lot of footwork and a lot of thinking big.
with so much to climb in Iran we are doing a series of trips to showcase what is there
Autumn Walls: October 2016 15 days
Iran gets cold so before deep winter sets in we are heading to some big alpine walls for some serious vertical time. on the agenda is repeating classic Polish routes, trying some of the new Iranian lines and establishing something new. on-mountain time will be a blend of high camps, basecamp and ledges on the face. this is a good trip for anyone wanting real exped wall experience but without many of the problems that come with higher altitude.
Winter Alpine: December / January 15 days
Iranian North Faces are a culture of their own. Iran’s dramatic mountainscapes mean theres alpine faces in several places, each with their own style. like the walls, we will be heading for a mix of established routes and new attempting new routes.
Ice road trip: Early Febuary 15 days
all across the ranges of Northern Iran is ice. our schedule is to link up several ice areas to hang with the local crowd, climb the known stuff and get in new lines where we can. from idyllic mountain villages to stark mountain sides we go where the ice is. this trip is specifically about good times, and we can cover a lot of territory both on ice and across Iran’s varying landscapes.
these trips have full logistical support and the redtape organized. we have solid processes for visas, insurance and security. no trip goes anywhere with 500km of of the Iraqi or Afghan/Pakistan borders, or restive areas around Baluchistan (ie the UK foreign office advisory areas). as an example, a trip to Thailand will bring you closer to areas with the same level of advisory.
Iran is surprisingly easy to get to, with regular flights thru much of asia and the middle east. Visas are a mixed lot – some nationalities get them on arrival, others need to be booked before. contrary to some reports, US citizens are not banned at all. like several other nationalities you just need to be booked on a trip and all that is organized. where things do differ for US citizens is there is no consular representation inside Iran, tho other consular missions pick up the slack.
note that visas and logistics take time to arrange so the cut off for joining is 2 months prior to the trips start in Tehran.
welcome to another year of iceclimbingjapan expeditions. if you like your climbing comfortable, commercial, standardized and with minimal unknowns then please exit this website now
by the time you get to the start of the climbing a LOT of planning needs to have been done: Dan Dasilva at the drop-off for the first winter attempt on Se’erdengpu’s SSW face.
motivated by the successes of recent expeditions, over the coming year we will be going further into unknown areas with bigger ideas and more dynamic agendas – including ideas that are raising the eyebrows of even some of the most vanguard climbers around. like previous trips, we will be combining the latest in styles, logistics and resources to match objectives previously off the radar. not all trips are regular alpine climbing and this years schedule includes ice and mixed trips to places you’ve never heard of and peaks that dont even have names.
ice & mixed climbing in the edgiest parts of Asia. if you thought you knew where the frontier was, think again.
new routes on (barely) known peaks attempted in cutting edge styles ranging from big wall to big push
full first ascents of unnamed peaks, done in true expedition style
needless to say, these trips need commitment, both leading up to and during the trip itself. you will be expected to function as a full team member and that means having the physical ability, climbing ability and expedition mentality appropriate for the trip. these things can all be developed – but not overnight. if you need to sharpen your edge, you need to commit asap.
unusual places take unusual levels of commitment to get to.
this process starts with intelligent contact, which includes detailing your previous climbing experience. we dont hide the fact that not every trip suits every climber and we give priority to the right team, not the profit. each team is kept small and streamlined so logistics stay smooth and allow for optimum adaptability at the sharp end, and our unparalleled access and logistics in places like Tibet opens up options only dreamed about a few years ago.
obscured by clouds: for nearly 20 years we have visited the less known parts of Asia, sometimes under the radar, sometimes working with explorers like Tomatsu Nakamura. we take pride in our constant search for unknown objectives.
all expeditions are costed to include all exped-relevant costs, ie the permits and paperwork, ground logistics, logistic support & staff wages, operating management, hotels/meals when not climbing, team equipment and contingencies. on some trips paid positions exist for photographers.
part of the process will be inclusion in aspects of our custom equipment process. this takes time and once the production dead-line passes its gone.