Thursday, 31 May 2007

Sportclimbing & bouldering in Horai

Some dude does Metaforce, 8c+, ハイカラ岩,
originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

Hōrai is written 鳳来 in Japanese. The first kanji depicts the male phoenix, the second kanji carries the meaning of arrival. Hence, Mount Hōrai is a place where the phoenix swings by on occasion. Alas, more rarely than oft, I would think.

Type of climbing
Vertical to steep to very-steep-indeed sportclimbing on volcanic tuff. A good spread of routes from 5.7 to 5.14d. Almost everyone, even world-class climbers, will find enough routes to go at for an extended stay. Josune Bereziartu and Rikar Otegi stayed for forty days a few years back. I'm just saying.

Hōrai have some high class bouldering as well, but almost nothing, and certainly nothing good, under 1kyū/1-dan (7A/A+). Hōrai is very popular with the Tokyo elite, so there are a number of hard problems up to 5-dan (8C). Initiation, 4-dan, is a very well-known problem with three pinky-only pockets in a row on a 45 degree overhanging face. A must do for the so inclined.

Most of the climbing is on pockets and slopers. So if you have fat fingers, prepare to be humbled. (As an aside, I once met the father of rotpunkt, Kurt Albert, on a small nondescript crag in Frankenjura. When we asked him which crag he liked best in Northern Franken he held up his huge hands and said “this one, everywhere else is just pockets”.)

For sportclimbing, the most impressive faces with the coolest and most unique routes are on the various cliffs surrounding 鬼岩 (oni-iwa=demon rock), unfortunately it is an one-hour steep uphill slog to get there. ガンコ岩 (Gangko-iwa), a 30-40 min hike from the parking lot, is also a good choice for first-time visitors.

Year round. Some faces will be too cold during January-February, but there are some south facing alternatives, and bouldering is of course possible year round. Everything is to hot during July-August and early September.

Wakabayashi tries Shamo, 2-dan,
originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

Photos & Videos
I have a slideshow from Horai on my flickr-account. My good friend Yamada Wataru also have some photos from Horai.

Check the local weather-forecast before you go on

Just north of Shinshiroshi 新城市, north of Toyokawa 豊川, in Aichi-prefecture (愛知県). Here is a map from, a more zoomed-out map will give you an idea of where it is.

Getting there
From the Toyokawa intersection (豊川IC) on the Tomei Expressway (東名高速道路) running between Nagoya and Tokyo, turn up on Road 151 in the direction of Shinshiro city (新城市). Keep your eyes open all the time to follow the sharp turns on road 151 as it crosses Shinshiro. After passing Yuyaonsen (湯谷温泉), keep straight on 151 until you take off left towards Ure dam (宇連ダム) and then Lake Horai (鳳来湖 only signposted in Japanses I'm afraid). After crossing the railroad, take right across a small bridge, and then directly left. Keep going until the road ends at a parking place with a public restroom. This is a good starting point for many of the best crags on Mount Horai.

Me failing to onsight THC, 5.12c,
originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

The parking just mentioned consists of two zones. After the first zone there is a U-turn area. After the U-turn area there is another parking zone. The second parking zone is reserved for people staying less then 1.5 hours and for visitors to the shrine on the top of Mt. Horai.

If the first zone is full (more than likely on weekends after 7.30 AM) do not park on the upper parking zone! Instead, drop your gear and let the person who draw the shortest straw drive back across the bridge, turn right up towards Lake Horai and park on the big parking-lot on the right. From there, it is a 40 min walk back to the original car park.

Rules and regulations
Climbers are not allowed to leave quick-draws hanging from the routes overnight. According to the priests in charge of the many shrines on Mount Horai, this would greatly upset the numerous spirits that visits the forest; therefore, all QDs have to be taken down before nightfall. For the same reason, stashing of ropes is frowned upon.

Unfortunately climbing is banned on 乳岩 (chi-iwa=tits-rock*, the priests must have been lonely). The old man who have set himself in charge of the parking-lot will be delighted to tell you this in his not always completely understandable dialect.

フリークライミング 日本100岩場〈4〉 (Free climbing: Nihon 100 Iwaba <4> by Kitayama) cover most of the routes in Horai, and is available through as well as through every climbing gym and climbing store in Japan.

Sorry for being such a broken record: there is no topo for the bouldering in Horai. Seriously, someone got to take charge of the situation and start producing topos for all the bouldering in Japan. It's not that hard. Where are the trustafarians when you actually need them?

Staying there
There are two campsites marked in the guidebook. I have only stayed in one of them. To get to that one, drive up past Lake Horai, after the tunnel and the second bridge there is a T-junction. Take left and the campsite is directly on the left. The campsite has a disgusting dry toilet, and running water from a tap. That's it. It is really cheap though, 300 ¥ pppn. No showers, but there are quite a few onsen in the vicinity anyway. My favorite one is Toei-onsen (とうえい温泉) in nearby Toei (東栄町). To get there just continue north up into the mountains along road 151 and follow the signs. Toei-onsen also serves decent set-meals in Japanese style.

When you arrive at the campsite, the owner will probably be asleep. Just knock on the door to his house in the morning. The fella keep a rooster that start crowing at around 4 am, so try to find a spot not that close to the hen-house.

Unfortunately I have no information about Hotels and Ryokan around Hōrai.

C. Norgren climbs Okurimono, 5.11b/c, originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

More info
Climbing magazine (US) had an artice about climbing in Japan a few years ago. Horai is mentioned in the article “The Way of the Weekend Warrior”.

This years summer issue of ROCK&SNOW (issue 36) has an extended article by KOYAMADA Dai about the famous roof ハイカラ岩 (=High collar-rock). The article has directions, and an updated topo for the roof. Funny enough the topo was outdated a few days before the issue was shipped due to a new 14d, Spectator, by Mr. Koyamada himself. Back issues of ROCK&SNOW can be bought through

Handy words & phrases
Nanmei-sama mattemas ka? How many people are waiting (queuing to do the route)?

* Or more appropriately, “Milky rock”. Whatever.

† If you are interested in buying high collars, I refer you to The Vintage Shirt Company. According to my Japanese dictonary ハイカラ from high collar means a westernized, stylish fellow.

Such high collars are called parasite in French. According to one theory some joker twisted parasite into parricide, and thus the style became known as Vatermörder in German, and fadermördare in Swedish. However, the type of collar originated in Germany, and therefore the aforementioned theory doesn't ring true to my ears.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Bouldering in Fukube—瓢が丘

originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

Type of climbing
Mostly steep bouldering on some form of volcanic rock. Very high friction but the holds can be a bit snappy. Due to attention from some of the best climbers in Japan (and for that matter, the world) there are quite a few hard problems in Fukube, up to at least Fb 8b (hard 4-dan). First-time visitors would do well to know that the grading is very inconsistent, but rather stiff. On average, the newer problems in Fukube might be almost a full grade harder compared to Ogawayama.

March to December. The road is closed during winter. Most of the bouldering is at around 700 meters, not enough to escape the heat during the hottest months.

Photos & Videos
I have a slideshow from Fukube on my flickr-account. You can also see all pictures on flickr, tagged “fukube”. If you do a search for photos tagged with “瓢” you get a lot of pictures of cucurbitaceae, since the meaning of the Chinese character 瓢 is gourd.

Check the weather-forecast before you go on

Just north of Mino-city 美濃市, north of Gifu-city (岐阜市), in Gifu-prefecture (岐阜県). Here is a map from, a more zoomed-out map will give you an idea of where it is.

Liberty, originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

Getting there
From Mino-intersection (美濃IC) on Tohkai-hokuriku Expressway (東海陸自動車道), turn right and then left onto Road 156. Turn left onto Road 81 between a Circle K and a Lawson and Cross the river on Shinmino-bridge (新美濃橋) and turn right. After crossing the next bridge (新長瀬橋) continue past a small supermarket (YAMASAKU) and turn right at the Statue of Liberty. From here it's around 5 km until the road steepens by a Shinto Shrine; across the street from the shrine there is a hut with a register behind the windows. Write your name and time of entry in the register, you must also stop on your way back to write the time of exit. Drive up the steep road quite high up the mountain, until you see a restroom area and a car park.

If you park your car and walk down back the road and turn left up on a wide dirt road you will get to a good area.

As far as I know, there isn't any topo for Fukube readily available. There is an old photocopied topo that has been floating around, but it is not for sale anywhere, as far as I know. However, a few topos and some info can be found in the Japanese climbing magazine Rock&Snow, issue 30, 33 and 36.

More info
Well, you can always give google a shot. If you do a search for "bouldering fukube" you'll only get traces left behind by me, I'm afraid. A search for フクベ & ボルダー generate more hits; how much that will help you depends.

Sunday, 13 May 2007


Last Saturday I went with Wataru to Byoubuyama, a collection of granite outcrops above Mizunomi in Gifu-prefecture, an hour north of Nagoya. Mr. Kitayama had us driving in circles by the usual quality of his maps and directions. Anyway, we warmed up on a surprisingly difficult and dirty right-leaning hand-crack. I cannot for the life of me understand why such a nice climb can become so dirty. It should have tons of ascents.


Wataru wanted to do Eve, a well-known ultra-thin layback, that lay baking in the sun. He made a valiant effort to onsight the route but was stymied by the first really hard bit. The third piece (top-piece) blocked a key hold and he declared defeat and lowered down. I took over and removed the second piece, a red alien also blocking one of the few useful holds. I moved the stopper that was the top piece to a bomber placement a bit higher up.

Eve The Crack .2, originally uploaded by Wataru Yamada.

Due to a mixture of general crappieness, fat fingers that wouldn't fit the ridiculous thin crack, bad smears on too-hot rock, and a million other excuses, I too declared defeat.

Wataru gave it another go, on the two pieces I had left in place, and after first taking a 4-5 meter fall onto the high stopper he managed to climb from the top piece to the top. An impressive piece of climbing, and quite run-out as well.

After removing both pieces from the crack Wataru gave it another go. Unfortunately the top stopper didn't go into the slot I used, and he expressed some doubts. From my position it still looked like a decent placement, so, and I feel so bad for this, I didn't implore him to back down. Of course I should have told him a solid piece of advice: When not happy with the protection you have to go down, if possible.

Anyway. On the last hard move he lost his footing and fell. The stopper ripped and much to my surprise the rope stretched a bit on the first piece. Alas, not enough. Wataru broke both heels on impact with the ledge at the base of the route.

A couple from Toyota helped calling for an ambulance and we taped his feet and carried him, through some rather rugged terrain, down to the road. Wataru is really light by the way.

Mizunomi fire-department responded to the accident with haste and competence and took Wataru to Sogou general hosptital in Toki city.

I have been told that fractures in the heels are the most painful fractures you can get.


Thursday, 10 May 2007

Ogawayama revisited

This year I went to Ogawayama for Golden Week. As I did last year. My reflections from last year, together with some hands-on info can be found in the article Bouldering in Ogawayama on

Day 1, Saturday
Saturday was a bit of a fiasco. After finally falling asleep around 3:30 am I got up two hours later and went across the city to pick up Wataru, who was soundly and wisely sleeping when I came by. I bullied him into driving to no avail. I couldn't sleep in the car, never can. Well well. Some hours later we arrived and met up with Itoh in the campground in Ogawayama. Itoh did manage to break some form of Japanese record this year and took 11 days off around Golden Week. Well done there! Well done, indeed!

We started to warm up on the famous Kujira-iwa, the Whale boulder. I was too tired to climb really, could hardly get off the ground on the warm-ups. So when a thunder-storm started to move in I was more relived for not having to climb than anything else. I got over my glee quite quickly when it started hail and later to snow. An inch or so.

Ogawayama (63 of 74) Originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

Well the ryokan have an ofuro, a hot-water bath house. Godsend on a cold day.

If it was cold during night? Eh. That would be a yes then.

Day 2, Sunday
»If you're going climbing with young people, you get very, very used to seeing your climbing partner as a tiny little dot.«
– Chris Bonington,

who, I'm sure, was thinking about plodding up snow-capped hills when he remarked thus. The statement is, however, possible to generalise.

The forest of Mizugaki is owned by the Emperor. It is said that his imperial highness decided to grant his forest a visit some five years ago. Since the mountain had an embarrassing lack of infrastructure it was decided to construct a new road in place of the old 4x4-only road, and to thin out the dense pine forest.

Now a paved road leads up to a huge parking lot, and a dense system of well-kept footpaths criss-cross a rolling landscape where huge granite blocks is thrown out in a random somewhat sparse fashion. Higher up spires and walls looms.

The Emperor went there once and never came back, but you will not hear any complaints about wasting money on just one imperial visit from us climbers. The access is much better now, thank you very much. Oh, to be an emperor!

Überstrong climber on Ashura,
originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

Well, a fine day it was. I still felt like shit and did a half-hearted warm-up. Did a few tries on Indora (1-dan) which gave me a broken blood-vessel on my ring-finger and nothing more. Also tried Ninja, which comes in from the left on super-sharp pockets, to no avail. Meanwhile Wataru did the cool crack Asura (1-dan), and then Indora, both in a few tries. (For an explanation of the mysterious sounding Japanese bouldering grades, look no further than to the exposition on this very blog: Grades and Steps.)

There is a video of Jason Kehl's flash of Indora on Wataru says it's closer to 1-kyu then 2-dan, so easy 7a+ employer des cotations français.

I did a nameless arête (2-dan) left of Asura but with French start, so no tick I suppose. Higher up in the forest Wataru ticked a cool 2-dan I would like to come back for. He and Itoh also did an easy 1-dan I should have done but I slipped off from the top and couldn't be arsed. It was 1-kyu anyway according to Sourgrapes-san.

The day finished with a visit to a Thermalbad with radium-rich water. Very good for the healt apparently.

Day 3, Monday
We had pitched our tents on the parking place. We shouldn't have. Not allowed. However, new regulations says that it is OK to camp on the lawn beneath for 1000¥ pppn.

Anyway, we climbed some bolted vertical routes on granite above the valley by a creek called Kasamerisawa. Nice but nothing special.

Day 4, Tuesday
Oh, Sugar! It's raining cats and dogs dear!

Days like that are perfect for staying in the tent and reading children's books. I read the second and third part of Jonathan Stroud's Barthimaeus-triology; only interrupted for a few hours in the middle of the day when we jumped into the cars and went over a mountain-pass, and down another valley to get to an onsen with a hot-water spring by a waterfall.

I liked the fact that all main characters in the Barthimaeus-trilogy are assholes. Not common in children's literature.

Day 5, Wednesday
After a spot of indecisiveness I and Wataru decided to drive to 湯川 [Yukawa], about half an hour from Ogawayama. According to the guidebook, Yukawa is a good place to learn crack-climbing. Wataru had never, apart from the 4 meter tall second pitch of Ogawayama Layback, done any trad climbing. So off we went with the rack we borrowed from Wakabayashi. On the way there I pondered the name off the place, Yukawa, which I took to mean “hot-water river”.

Yukawa is a small cliff of volcanic tuff (凝灰岩, [gyoukaigan]) split by vertical crack-systems, with perhaps 20 routes up to 20 meter or so. All routes have fixed anchors so it was indeed a very convenient place to have a crack-climbing course. Anyway, Wataru is an engineering student and can boulder 3-dan, so my tutelage was limited to explaining for a few minutes how protection works, sorting out the relevant pieces and telling him to climb to the top. He was a natural at climbing cracks, only stopping to place protection at natural shake-outs. Impressive.

But sweet Jesus, they have some really rather stiff grading for cracks in Yukawa (or all of Japan, what do I know?) Granted, I haven't climb trad in almost two years, and have perhaps tied in to a rope 15 days since moving to Japan in September 2005, so my opinon might be worthless. Maybe I'm just crap. We started on some 5.8 and worked our way up to the 10's. The hardest route I did was a three-star 5.10c, slightly overhanging crack that went from fingers to thin hands with not much in the way of holds outside the crack. A midway jug saved the onsight but, gee-whiz (him again, shouldn't take the lord's name in vain perhaps), I almost pumped out!

On our way back we stopped by a small waterfall just by the dirt-road that leads to the cliff. Much to my surprise, we were high up in the mountains after all, the water wasn't cold at all. Aha! Thus: Yukawa!

Day 6, Thursday
Back to bouldering. Down by the river that flows by the campsite I did a 3-kyu I couldn't touch last year, a Fountainebleau-esque humiliation-bloc. Moreover we managed to start in the wrong place on a 2-dan, which turned it into an 1-kyu/1-dan or so. I was too impatient to get back to my nemesis from last year, Boukyaku no kawa or “River of Oblivion” (2-dan), to care. The moves felt strangely awkward and hard, I managed to do every move without being close to link the entire problem. I broke a nail. Wataru cruised it. No surprise there.

River of Oblivion
Originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

Afterwards I and Wataru did Kami no Hitomi or “God's eye/pupil” (1-dan). I did it in the famous style “almost flash”. Oh well, 2:nd go on the scorecard then, if I had one. (I should get one. When I expressed interest in trying ”Out of Oblivion” Wataru gave me an incredulous look and told me I did it last year after almost a million tries.”)

I also went to check out Mike or “Tortoise pattern” (perhaps?) a morpho jump I suspected was overgraded at 3-dan in the topo. It felt really doable, and like a perfect tick for tall grade-chasers.

We also went to another area to check out Chris Sharma's “The two monks” (2-dan). Fun but to hard when tired. Got nowhere near doing that one.

God's Pupil
Ursprungligen postad av Jonas Wiklund.

Day 6, Friday
Rest-day for me. I hiked the “Panorama course” and took a few pics. Wataru went back to Nagoya via Mizugaki.

Ogawayama (15 of 74) Originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

Ogawayama (98 of 117)
Originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

Day 7, Saturday
A good day. Down to the riverside to warm up. Managed to do Mike after changing around the feet a bit. It is 3-dan in the topo, but nowhere near 3-dan for me. Oh well oh well, I had a stated goal of despatching an overgraded 3-dan so I was pretty happy.

Here is me on Mike, but with crap beta. Put left foot on the smear instead.

Ogawayama (98 of 117)
Ursprungligen postad av Jonas Wiklund.

Straight after I sent River of Oblivion. I celebrated by resting fifteen minutes and did it again (except the non-trivial top-out which is creepy w/o a spotter.) Yes! There's nothing like lapping an old nemesis! Nothing!

The rest of the day was spent failing to get up anything regardless of difficulty. I couldn't care less. The weather forecast for Sunday said 90% risk of rain. I went home.

Myself and I on Boukyaku no kawa
Originally uploaded by Jonas Wiklund.

The pic of me on the traverse is from last year, but I still have the same jeans. The only difference is that I'm fatter now. The pic will do.