Saturday, April 21, 2007


Steep limestone is especially sought after by sport climbers, and Honjo, sporting 150 degree walls studded with tufas, has the best such rock within a weekend's drive of our house. Located near the northeast corner of Kyushu, we can reach it in four hours of predawn driving (daytime long-distance driving in Japan is basically impossible). It's a little far, but well worth the effort.

The main crag at Honjo is next to a tourist area, and a walkway has been made for pedestrians to enjoy a unique stroll above the crystal clear Banjo River. The walkway is also the start of each climbing route.

Our good friend Yoshi wrestles with Etodatchi 5.10c. This route avoids the main overhang via a cave squeeze. Exposed climbing above the river follows.

Kumi hugs a tree-trunk-size tufa to clip the anchors on Tarachine 5.11a.

Ayako redpoints the super steep and popular Batman 5.11b. Climbing calmly with deliberate movements, she makes this strenous and painful route look easy.

Leanne clowning around after finishing the same route. The overhang makes it almost impossible to get back to the starting point, so climbers usually lower to the opposite bank of the river.

The inhabitants of the very rural Honjo valley have not, it seems, lost all their sense of esthetics as is true of their more urban counterparts. Here a house, although built with the shabby 20th century materials that are so typical of even modern structures in Japan, harmonizes well with its surroundings.

After a break to rest our aching arms and shoulders, we return to the rock. Our Nagasaki friend Oohira-san dances through the intricate moves of Rakuyo 5.13a.
Hamasaki-san cranks through the gymnastic moves of the relentlessly overhanging No Problem 5.12a/b. As there is no decent rest on this route, to be successful one has to climb quickly before muscles go limp with lactic acid buildup.

Leanne on her current project, the aptly named Namako-no-namida (Sea Cucumber Tears) 5.12a. Here the key is to figure out how to rest on the tufas hanging from the 110 degree wall, because the hardest moves are near the very top.

Mr. Kappa says, If you grab the quickdraw, you owe me a beer.


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