Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bouldering in Ayoro

Good morning! Like my last post, this post has nothing at all to do with this blog's stated topic, the building of my garage wall. No, as spring finally arrives for good (please God) and the flowers blossom and the cherry trees bloom, so too must this blog blossom and branch out. It's time to talk about some outdoor climbing.

When I came to Japan three and a half years ago, I wasn't a climber and had no interest in climbing. And yet here I am, investing countless hours of time and countable-but-uncounted amounts of money into building a bouldering wall in my garage. But despite how I've jumped headfirst into climbing, this spring marks the beginning of my experience with outdoor climbing on real rock.

A few weeks ago, we took a trek out to Noboribetsu, a town on the southern coast of the main bulk of Hokkaido. Noboribetsu has a lot of volcanic vents and smells a lot like sulfur all of the time, so the locals decided the obvious thing to do was to make their town hell- (and onsen-) themed.
Welcome tourists!
Not included in most guidebooks is the bouldering area at Ayoro Beach, a set of seaside cliffs ranging from about 3 to 5 meters in height. We brought out the crash pads and had a look.
The crux is getting down

This was only my second time out to a "real" bouldering area in the great outdoors. The first was too shameful to write up, and anyway I don't have any pictures. Find the area was easy enough, but my inexperience proved a burden when it came to finding the actual boulder problems as written up in my guide. I imagine that this will come with experience. It would have helped to have met somebody familiar with the area, but we were alone.

Nurikabe Stem 5c

Climbing on real rock is, obviously, much different from climbing on gym holds. Much has been written about this, but until you do it yourself it's hard to understand the difference. One aspect of outdoor climbing that I've found much more challenging than I imagined is identifying holds- since I'm used to colorful and obvious holds against a wooden wall, the art of finding good holds in stone is very new to me. You can see in the pictures that some of the holds were marked up with chalk from other climbers, but many of the easier problems we tackled were not.

Nurikabe Stem 5c

Another challenge was learning to trust my spotter and the crash pads. None of the problems we climbed were particularly tall, but there was still a mental challenge to it. By the end of the day I was pretty comfortable.

Dimple 6a

Sukesou Traverse 6b+

The problem I enjoyed the most was called Sukesou Traverse, shown above. Next time I go out, I need to remember to take pictures of the problems before we climb them! Rated at 6b+, the low problem involves traversing across pockets before going up the wall. Charles, shown above, was able to reach the goal horn from this position; I wasn't so lucky.

Sukesou Traverse 6b+

I tried pulling myself up enough on the sloping top to get my feet into the pockets, but no dice. I did manage to find another pocket up there that I could barely reach, though, and that gave me the leverage to get myself up. Success! This was the first outdoor boulder problem that I had ever "worked" successfully- previously, everything had been either an onsight or a failure
Sukesou Traverse 6b+

We did a few more problems before calling it a day. Next time I go, I hope that I can meet a climber at the site or bring somebody more experienced along; finding the problems and identifying them in the book was more of a challenge than the actual climbing was. Then again, it may be that I need to pay less attention to the guidebook and its ratings, and just focus on climbing.

Orange Crab, 6a+

And finally, boy do I need a tan.

Charles atop Standing Face 5c

Hoping to get out again this weekend, so more to come. English information on Hokkaido climbing seems non-existent, so I'm hoping to get some information and beta pics put up.

Thanks to Charles, Jordan, and Elise for use of pictures and likenesses!

1 comment:

  1. Nice stuff, looking foward to climbing with you all sometime soon.