Ice climbing Yukawa ・湯川でアイスクライミング

Ice climbing from Ishikawa always means a long trip, as we have lots of snow, but not lots of ice. In January I went ice climbing to Yukawa, a nice place in Nagano-ken near Yatsugadake.

Masumi enjoying a bit of sun coming into the fall.

As often in the area, the weather was horrible when we left. Heavy snow fall, white highway, we couldn’t go faster than 30km/h, which made the trip much longer than expected.
Leaving at 4:30 in the morning we were greeted by deep, fresh snow, even in Kanazawa. And it didn't change, all the way. The highways were ice and snow covered, maximum speed about 40km/h.

This photo was taken on Hokuriku-Highway somewhere near Toyama.

After 7 instead of 5 hours we finally did arrive in Yukawa, passed the Onsen/Minshuku we have reserved for the night, and continued up to the climbing area. Without 4WD we had to leave the car about 30min on foot from the last parking, still not bad an access. Arriving at the first climbing spot we were greeted by several other parties enjoying the easy access, easy setup, and decent ice.

Arriving at the climbing spot already 3 other groups were practicing. The beginners area near by was hard to reach due to the amount of water, so we all aggregated in the same spot.

Without warming up I started to lead a pitch on the right, which turned out to be more difficult then expected, due to thin ice. After that Masumi and me climbed from right to left practically all routes in this area.

Since most places were taken we started in the far right, and I immediately decided to lead the first pitch. A bit stupid thing I have to say, since I haven't done ice climbing for a year.

The lower part was ok, but in the upper parts ice was thin and fragile, so I got my share of adrenaline for that day.

Masumi fighting in one of the steeper parts of the ice fall

As we have started late, we continued all the way till after 5pm, then hurried back to the car on very slippy terrain, and back to the Minshuku for Onsen and dinner.

Since we arrived so late, we climbed till it was getting dark, in total 7 routes. The 30min back to the car on a very slippery road we hurried not to miss onsen and dinner.

The Minshuku was excellent, a nice central room surrounded by rooms for the guests, all ice climbers (the place gives a reduction for ice climbers!). The Onsen had excellent water quality, if only the water temperature in the Rotemburo would have been higher – after ice climbing you do not want to freeze in 32 degree water, you need something much warmer!

The place we stayed, Yukawa Onsen, is an excellent place. They provide ice climber reduction, and in fact on that evening only ice climbers were there.

Dinner and breakfast was excellent, and Masumi and I even got our meat-free diet. During the dinner we chatted with other ice climbers, got lots of good tips, and made new friends.

After warming up in the onsen and spreading out the wet clothes for drying in the room, we were served an excellent dinner with lots of bells and whistles, and of course lots of beer and sake!

A typical ice climber room, filled with stuff, everything hanging around for drying.

Masumi happily enjoying a beer (the first, and not the last, followed by Sake, and wine).
(Part) of the dinner for us, what a treat!
Of course I was enjoying a nice cold beer, too.

On the second day we first set up a long top rope opposite the first day’s area, a challenging steep ice fall with lots of columns. On the plus side, the sun shone onto the ice fall, which made it a bit soft, a bit warm, and nice for photos.

After setting up the top rope, which was a small expedition on its own, first Masumi, then me, both two times, climbed this fall.

After that we moved to the next area, a long valley with ice falls on both sides, with top rope points above reachable from the road. Fortunately, because we were short on time, a mountain guide we met there was so nice to let us use their ropes for climbing. Big thanks!

After having climbed two times we decided to check out the next climbing spot, just 10min on foot.

Me too, enjoyable top rope climbing

As it happens sometimes, while climbing I was hit by a piece of ice, with disastrous effects: Now my model like nose has a scratch!

Typical incident while ice climbing: A small piece of ice falling down and hitting you on the nose, nothing serious, I wouldn't have even realized it without Masumi telling me.

Around 1pm we left the area, trotted back to the car. It was the first excursion in my new mountaineering boots, and I was so happy, no wet socks, no frozen toes, just perfect!

Returned to the forest road I take of my crampons, and say thank you to my new mountaineering boots, since I am still completely dry inside!

After another dip in the Onsen we started the long ride back home to Ishikawa. Fortunately this time the weather was nice, the street was dry, so we were much faster. Thanks Masumi for the great time, and hopefully soon we can go for another ice climbing trip.

More photos at the gallery: Ice climbing Yukawa January 2013

Masumi’s blog entries (in Japanese): First day, Second day.

Map of the area:

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