I’m back! Apologies for not keeping up with the dialogue whilst traveling, but we barely had enough time to scratch our heads, let alone sit down and write blog entries (and certainly not enough time to learn how to drive my new camera… thank Gecko for the “creative auto” setting). Since we’ve gotten back, things have been a little hectic, so, apologies once more.
So in lieu of the normal rock-climbing, I shall divulge to you our adventures in Japan, which involved rock-climbing, some bouldering, some walking up mountains, a whole lot of culture and sushi, and dragging a burning pillar of straw around a village, what I like to call ‘Flambe a la Japonnaise’.
Our main climbing destination in Japan was Ogawayama, which as the crow flies from Hakuba, does not appear to be too far away. In actual fact, it took us about an hour and a half to catch a train from Hakuba to Matsumoto, and another 2 1/2 or so hours in the hire car to drive to Ogawayama itself.
It is a gem of a climbing area, and the http://www.ogawayama.com online guide is invaluable. It’s possibly one of the only guides for a Japanese area which has an English translation, and the directions for reaching the crag were spot-on. Thanks very much to the climber who has dedicated a huge amount of time and effort in developing both the area and the website!!
When we arrived, it was drizzling gently (this was to continue intermittently throughout the day); D’s folks managed to obtain an English-language map of the area, which also showed the main crags. At around 15-yen, it’s well worth 20 cents Australian. We saw a boulderer strolling into the carpark, mat on his back, and throughout the day heard screams from climbers ringing across the valley.
The scenic walk up is well worth doing, and as usual in forested areas in Japan, be sure to make a lot of noise – the bears there aren’t a joke, but apparently they’ll avoid you if they hear you coming. Frankly I thought the sound of bear bells was a little too similar for a dinner bell for comfort… “Coming right up! Stringy climbers! Get’cher snacks!”
Tracks to individual climbing spots can be a little difficult to spot – we slithered down a pine-needle and soft earth path, which rather resembled a wallaby track, and I half-expected it to evaporate amongst the pines at any moment. We found our way to the base of a crag, which, happily enough, appeared to boast a well-featured climb up the granite slab and out of sight over a mantle.
We kitted up, and D took first attempt…
“…How’s it going, D?”
The granite slab was, I will not deny, full of features. They just happened to be negative, slappy, off-angle crimpy horrors. D decided to reinforce his way up and around the arete with some trad gear, and managed to get a second clip before, hearing exhaustion and frustration in his voice, I called for him to come down and take a rest.
I like granite, a lot. I may have mentioned this before. So, strolling on up the easy base section, I quickly reached the part where D had been sieging the climb. It was nastier than I’d expected. I puttered about retrieving the trad gear, and managed to bridge between the main line and a mossy, suspiciously mobile outcrop of granite, and get up above the second clip.
Some delicate footwork later, the third clip was placed, and I continued the struggle to attain the next, before giving up. It was an unpleasant mantle movement, with little in the way of toes and some promising folds in the granite for hands which quite quickly turned shallow and unhelpful. If I’d balled-up, I definitely could have pulled off the move. Brave pants were not in evidence that day.
D’s parents came and watched us for a little while, then wandered off. We weren’t providing much in the way of spectator sports! Eventually we gave up on the lead climb idea, and hiked further up the hill and out along the ridge, to a point where we could rap down to the end of the climb, and set up a top-rope.
D made me promise not to take photos as I rapped to join him (spoilsport), and it’s a good thing he did, otherwise I might have tried wrapping the rope around my thigh to pin myself in place while I tried to take a photo of some horrendously frayed and faded tat, an aptly named Yosemite Triangle of Death (apparently).
In the end we each finished the climb, then had to make our way down to the car, and our waiting comrades. I’m super keen to get back there, and could happily spend a week or so camped out in the bowl of the hills, climbing and bouldering in Ogawayama’s beautiful scenery.