Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Multi-pitch rock-climbing on Shishi-iwa (子持山獅子岩)

Route name:  Shishi-iwa (獅子岩)

Mountain:  Mt Komochi (1296m 子持山)

Rock type: Andesite

Time:  2-4 hours

Grade:  Crux pitch of 5.8

Shishi-iwa, or Lion rock, is an andesitic outcrop approximately 100m tall on the shoulder of Gunma’s Mt Komochi. Comprised of solid rock with excellent friction, its south-eastern aspect is home to a bolted 6-pitch rock climb that is deservedly popular. The top of Shishi-iwa offers unparalleled 360 views of the Kanto plains and nearby Mt Akagi (赤城山) and Mt Haruna (榛名).

Getting there:
You will need a car to access this route. If driving from Tokyo (東京), take the Kanetsu Expressway and exit at Shibukawa (渋川). Then take route 17 heading north. You will reach a junction signed for Shikishima station (敷島駅) on the right. Go straight across, but then turn left about 10m beyond the junction. Continue until you see a big red torii gate and turn right under it. Carry on to the car park at the end of the road.

As of November 2016 the road has been completely destroyed due to flooding caused by late summer / early autumn rainfall this year. You will now need to park your car as close as possible to the barriers that are in place across the road about 2km short of the car park.


From the car park you need to cross the river and walk up the road for a few minutes until you reach a large map board.

Take the trail on the right, initially up a long series of wooden steps, then over a small arched bridge. The large rock face above the bridge is called Byoubu-iwa (屏風岩), and is home to a handful of aid routes.

The trail continues up on the right, and ascends for about 30 minutes until you reach a signpost.

Take the small trail contouring off to the left. After about 100m you’ll come to another fainter trail heading steeply up the hill on your right. Take this trail and in a couple of minutes you will reach the base of the first pitch of Shishi-iwa.

The route is well bolted, with good bolt anchors between pitches, so just head up the line of bolts and you can’t go wrong. Approximate pitch descriptions are as follows:

Pitch 1: Climb the slabby face to an anchor below the large flake. (30m 5.7)

Pitch 2: Climb face moves to the bottom of the flake, then layback to the top. (30m 5.7)

Looking down Pitch 2:

Pitch 3: Climb the face straight up, crux move midway, then anchor on the ledge on the left. (25m 5.8)

Looking down Pitch 3:

Pitch 4: Climb the slab to the upper face. (20m 5.7)

Pitch 5: Ascend a short step to finish on a wide ledge. (20m 5.7)

Pitch 6: Finish up a slab to the summit of Shishi-iwa. (15m 5.7)

Summit of Shishi-iwa:

View across to summit of Mt Komochi:

Getting down:
From the top of Shishi-iwa you need to climb down an in-situ chain ladder to the wide ledge that runs around from the top of pitch 5.

From the ledge you can either head left and hike up to the summit of Mt Komochi, about a kilometre away, or head straight down the hiking trail. Take care not to kick down any of the many loose rocks in the first 15 minutes, and you will soon regain the junction where you branched off to the start of the climb. Now reverse your approach hike back to the car park.

A top-quality little route, with excellent climbing on solid friction rock. This is a good place to practice slab climbing, and could be nicely combined with a visit to the nearby onsen resort of Ikaho (伊香保温泉) near Lake Haruna.

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