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…
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.
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.
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.
ice climbing rarely makes the mainstream press, and when it does its usually the superficial stunt stuff and tales of jacked-up craziness. taking a different direction, The Tokyo Weekender was keen to show the less exposed side of the sport, where it merges into a cultural and esoteric process and the trips into little-known parts of Japan for unusual reasons.
timely in its publication, the story details some of the long process that lead up to Will Gadd & Sarah Hueniken’s trip, describing some of the early trips to Tohoku and encounters with the parts of the country far from the crowded areas in central Japan.
note: none of the pictures have anything to do with the location or iceclimbingjapan
japan, asia & the world now have 2 new routes, both unique in their style, concept and location. with minimal working, maximum work ethic and a frontier mentality, Will Gadd & Sarah Hueniken forged both lines under crazy pressure during an express trip to the Tohoku region. with nearly zero beta and under dangerous conditions both routes were put up ultra-fast and climbed unrehearsed. both routes are on thermally affected geology that demand a blend of fixed and natural protection. both routes were done in a period of strange conditions with very lean ice at the start of the season.
FUN CHIMES 40m, m9, bolts and natural, Zao Ice Garden
Sarah Hueniken stepping onto the hanging dagger of Fun Chimes
weird spray features, thin pillars, hanging daggers, overhanging iced cracks and frozen earth; Fun Chimes runs the true spectrum of ‘mixed’ climbing. a 15m frozen crack links a short ice section to 15m of delicate vertical picking via a frozen crack and hanging feature. bolts reduce the risks of nasty falls, vocal ice and otherwise-unprotectable icerockearth.
FROZEN GOLD 90m/3 pitches, WI7, bolts and natural, Futakuchi
Frozen Gold: 100m of vision, gall & skill
a monster route with a monster vision, Frozen Gold earns its WI7 grade by blending bizarre skills, extended stress, lean ice, grim fall potential and objective uncertainty. years of ideas distilled into a vanguard route that Will rates in the top 5 he’s done. thin and globular ice in slightly overhanging sections, initially punctuated with narrow mantels and before a long pitch on decreasingly sized blobs then a final swing out onto a big frozen squid and some easy fat ice to the top.
OLD YUWATADO BRIDGE IM7 (INDUSTRIAL MIXED), 30m
weird weather, strung out and feeling fat? Industrial Mixed could be the answer to many first-world-problems.