August, 15 th 2020 Komono
This weekend was supposed the hottest weekend of the year. Just being in the city is painful. While literally melting at our last climbing session at the seaside of Himeji, we decided to go to Mt. Gozaisho, which is an incredible amazing spot to enjoy rock climbing. I have been there already last year and filled with anticipation I couldn’t wait to be there back again and climb. Saturday morning we met at Umeda and squeezed our heavy gear loaded backpacks into the car and around one and a half hour later we shouldered them and headed out into the mountians. The mountain hut was an half an hour hike along a beautiful clear torquise river with big chunks of bright rocks. It was exhausting, sweat dropped down my face and my shirt was soaked within minutes, but the air already felt way better than in Osaka. Clear and fresh. Excitement flooded my body when we arrived at the hut. It was as cozy and nice as I remembered and the manager made us feel welcome immediately. We took a short break to cool down and sort the gear we would need. Today’s plan was to go for sports climbing. We slipped into our harnesses and soon we were on the trail climbing up to a vertical rock face on top of a wooded moutain. I remebered something I tried to displace: the trails were extremely steep with a lot of passages with highly loose rocks and gravel slopes. I would dare to say that in this region the approach is more dangerous than the climbs itself. We had some difficulties finding the right spot we wanted to climb, but after a long detour we finally arrived. The view was amazing. To the left there were those incredible green mountain peaks with its huge chunks of bright rocks, in the valley the river was buried and in a bird’s eye perspective we could see the cute mountain hut. To the right, the mountains came to stop and cities seperated by large rice fields were visible and the sky leading into the blue ocean far away. The rock face was impressive and the first climb of the day was a 5.9 crack protected with cams only. Even though I flashed it, I had some difficulties. While removing the rope, a fist sized rock got loose, fell down and hit my upper arm. It was painful and started bleeding. Luckily it hit the soft muscle and no boned structure like shoulders (I was wearing a helmet). The next to routes, 5.9 and 5.10a, were classical sports climbing ones and I really enjoyed flashing them. The last one was a crack again. I passed the crux and almost looking for finishing the route I had to pass a long slab without any protection. My skills shrinked immediately by fear. But there was no chance to go back, since I was the last one and had to clean up. A tree with a string. I reached out and could set a protection, but wondered how I should repell there. I couldn’t see any anchor. I climbed up and reached a small path. On a big chunk of rock I saw the anchor blinking in the sun. I had no idea how to boulder around this chunk, but found a bolt. While clipping it, I saw there was an easy walk around from the other side and arrived at the anchor. I repelled and was very happy and satisfied with today’s climbs. We packed our stuff and went down to the mountain hut, our stomachs already eager for dinner. The descent was way faster, since we managed skip the detour. Only a few steps in the other direction would have saved our detour beforehand. The descent was rough and difficult and I was happy when we arrived at the hut. During summer time, there is a typical Japanese bath outside and I couldn’t wait to sit deeply clean in the tub. Shortly after our arrival, a clacking sound came out of the corner behind the hut and the manager told us the engine was ready. Behind a simple curtain was a bathtub and a small chair. A tank of boiling water next to, fired by a wooden oven. This was more open than expected and the curtain wouldn’t protect from to be seen by people passing by. I didn’t care. I cleaned away all the sweat and dirt of adventure and slipped into the hot bathtub. I love Japanese baths and this was one of the most joyful moments I had so far. A hot bath after a long climbing day is like heaven, but taking it in the mountains, outdoors, while watching the ocean in the distance was another level. Deeply clean and relaxed, we sat outside when dinner was served. It was traditionally Japanese and all home made. I loved this place so much. It is hard to describe, but being there caused a deeply happiness and the feeling of being at home. I already had this feeling last time when I was here, but this time it was way more intense. There was a slightly breeze and temperature was just perfect, no trace of the summer’s heat or suffer. We chatted a while until we moved inside into the cozy common room. In the hut, there was only another party of climbers, we already met today at the
spot. Sometimes the world is a small place, the three of them were from Osaka as well, climbed at the same spot and going to the same gym in Namba. Soon the chats were about analyzing the very recent routes in the gym and giving tipps and tricks for difficult moves while mimicing their solutions. I was in heaven, there were people as crazy as us (I cannot remember any faces or names, but when it comes to climbing routes and their features my memory is incredible). Also my level of Japanese changed and in this kind of talks I dont’t feel excluded by language anymore (as long as it is about climbing). We had a very happy time together and I’m looking forward to see them back in the gym soon. Tiredness slowly caught me and I went to bed at first. Upstairs was a cozy tatami room with futons awaiting me. I looked out of the window. The sky was dark and where I could see the ocean during the day, was now an ocean of small twinkling lights. A cool breeze of air touched my face. Happiness. I layed down on the futon and my tired body fell asleep immediately. I did not even noticed when the others came back.
August, 16 th 2020 Komono
Multi pitch. I woke up naturally. For me, a very rare gift and only happenend while being outdoors. It was around 6 am and I felt deeply recovered and ready for the next days. Kazu and Kusakabe san were already awake and doing some stretching. It was warm and bright, sunlight flooded the room. It was hard to open my eyes. I slowly got ready and together we went down for breakfast. In Japan there is a dish, “natto” (fermented soy beans) of strong taste and smell. While most Japanese people like to eat it, almost all Western people find it disgusting. I simply love it. A peculiarity people are wondering about. When I tell them that I’m eating two packs of it each night, all starting laughing. Even among Japanese this is very special. I also like to eat raw egg (it’s safe in Japan and tastes better than the imagination). The manager had so much fun about this two unlikely characteristics that he served me a raw egg to my rice and an extra big pack of natto additionally to the smaller one. Breakfast was rich. Heat was increasing and it was time to head out. We arranged our gear again and started hiking up into the very mountains. The trail was going up all the time and when we left the hiking trail to follow the path to the climbing spots it became very steep and difficult again. It wouldn’t been us, if we hadn’t got lost. But it wasn’t too bad. That’s part of the adventure and very easy in this huge climbing area. Today we were going for multi pitch and the approach itself was rather climbing than hiking. To get to the first pitch’s start it required repelling. Unfortunately the rope got stuck and we couldn’t clean it up. Since we were using two half-ropes, we started into the first, very short pitch with one. It was a huge crack without any bolts. I was following and even though there is literally no difference to sports climbing in a toprope, fear overcame me and froze my skills. Even though I grew very strong over the last months, I would have never been able to lead this pitch. Mentally I was weak. The second pitch was a continuation of the first one and Kazu lead again. We arrived on a terrace made of giant rocks and even though it was supposed to be safe to move there freely I could feel the inconvinience of fear inside me. Kazu repelled to pick up the other rope and came back. It took quite a while and even I was sitting in the sun with a cool breeze and incredible view, I was happy when he appeared back and we continued. It might sound unbelieveable, but naturally I am a very coward. I simply love sports climbing and the gym. For most people, so my friends it’s vice verso. I like to explore my physical, sportive limits while being in an as safe as possible environment. I just recently achieved to get some enjoyment in outdoor climbing when the routes are blankly vertical and properly bolted. The third pitch was a crack again, which was generally easier, but with a way harder crux. Kazu managed it incredibly well. I wasn’t happy that all the responsibility layed on this shoulders, while we were at the very same level of skills, but I was just unable to lead. A short repell was following and according to our stomachs high time for lunch. The next pitch was supposed to be the hardest one. The wall had the shape of a freehanging triangle we called “Onigiri face” leading into a vertical blank wall with little cracks horiziontal inside. I wondered how we should climb over the edge to enter the face in the very first move. Kazu said we would need a ladder and I thought he was joking until he hang a portable one. Even with a ladder it was a very tough move and they couln’t manage to reach the second bolt. All hope was on me. Great. I was kinda self contious to be able to do it somehow since it was a very sports climbing situation, but what next? It would be lame to come down just doing the crux. I left my backpack and the cams and went only with a set of quickdraws to be as light as possible. I was highly focused and I managed the crux and quickly clipped the second quickdraw. Relief came and with it some fear which caused shaking legs. Typical climber’s problem and the very least thing you need in this kind of sitaution. I climbed from bolt to bolt and it was actually a very nice route. I kinda started enjoying and gaining confidence when suddenly I arrived an edge with a long steep slope. No bolts anymore. I could see the anchor 10 m above in the slope and the small crack traversing half way up to there wasn’t deep and sandy. Objectively I was skilled to climb it, but the level of danger was out of my ability. They wanted to send me some cams, but since I have never setted one in my life, I refused and went down. I felt guilty to leave the dirty job and all responsibility to Kazu again. He started climbing and quickly reached the point where I got stuck. Unlike me he was brave and managed it to the anchor, so we could follow. The second time I climbed with way more difficulties even though I knew the route and was in toprope this time. All of us were exhausted and at the anchor we decided to stop our tour here and repell. I was satisfied with this decision. We had plenty of adventure including some very nice climbs. We repelled down to the end of the hiking trail in two pitches. With tired legs the descent was even more dangerous and difficult and I was happy when we merged into the official hiking trail. The hike to the hut didn’t seem to end. I was so exhausted. Finally we arrived. We quickly sorted our gear, shouldered our backpacks and started hiking down to the car. No one spoke, tiredness and exhaustion were all over us. My legs feel soft. We were almost at the parking lot, when it happen: suddenly I crashed on the ground. My ankle weakened and got badly twisted. I couldn’t feel pain in this moment, bit got dizzy. Shit. The joint started to swell immidiately, but there wasn’t much pain at all. Walking was ok, and once dizzyness was over we walked back to the parking lot. Considering if an injury happend, this was one of the preferable ones, even though I’m very annoyed by it, but it could have been worse. It still was the best weekend of the year.