I was back at Futagoyama near Chichibu last weekend with a friend, and we managed to find a window between the thunderstorms and the rain to climb the Chuo-ryo. 8 years have passed since I first climbed this stunning 7-pitch rock rib on the south face of the west summit, and I'm happy to report that the experience of this route is even better now than it was back then.
You can read my description of the route here, but be aware that there have been several changes in the years since I wrote it:
1. Crux 3rd pitch
(i) There used to be an in-situ thread near the top of the flake. This is no longer there, which means you now have to thread your own sling through the hole.
(ii) The crux of this pitch, and the whole route, is a short section of A0 aid climbing above the top of the flake, to get past a blank section of wall and access good holds to the terrace above. In the past there was a length of rope hanging down that blank section, attached to a solid piton in the crack above. That made this section substantially safer and easier, as you could just clip into the bottom of it and then pull yourself up it. That rope is no longer there, which means you've got to get yourself all the way up to the piton and then make the aid moves on your own gear.
Both of these changes have increased the sense of commitment on this pitch, and I feel it is a huge improvement to the experience.
2. Hiking trail descent
In the past there were in-situ chains down the hiking trail from the west summit down to the pass between the west and east summits. In response to extensive feedback from local climbers, these chains have all been removed. There are now expansion bolts at regular intervals for those who wish to protect the descent. This is an unprecedented development in my experience of the Japanese mountains, and I feel it is wholly positive. Futagoyama is one of the most famous limestone climbing venues near Tokyo, and amongst other routes, is home to Yuji Hirayama's 5.15a route "Flat Mountain". The removal of these chains has returned its status as a climbers' mountain.
I have also updated the article to give a full description of the access to the mountain and the route by car.
Here are a few photos from Saturday's ascent...
Looking up the 3rd pitch:
View down from the top of the 3rd pitch:
At the top of the mountain:
Can you spot me?:
[Thanks to my good friend i-cjw for sharing his photos from our climb.]