Route Name: Southwest arête (Nansei-kante 南西カンテ)
Mountain: Joyama (城山)
Rock type: Andesitic tuff
Length: 4 pitches (120m)
Grade: 5.9 crux
For quality friction slab and face-climbing a couple of hours from Tokyo, you simply cannot go wrong with Jōyama (城山). Its expansive South face is home to dozens of top quality multi-pitch routes, with superb exposure. There is a tree-covered terrace running diagonally upwards from the top of the face, and it would be possible to ascend this and reach the summit, but the risk of knocking loose stones onto the climbers below dictates that climbers rappel the face after their routes.
There is one beautiful way to the top though. The Southwest arête is a striking natural line up the left edge of the face, with some superb climbing at a very moderate difficulty for this venue. For anyone looking for exposure and multi-pitch training, and an introduction to the Jōyama climbing style, this route is highly recommended.
The climbing season typically runs from late October through the winter months to spring. In summer it is far too hot!
If travelling from Tokyo on public transport, the simplest way is to take a shinkansen from Shinagawa (品川) to Mishima (三島), and then change for a local Izu-Hakone-Sunzu train for Ōhito (大仁). From there you can either walk to the trailhead in about half an hour, or take a local taxi.
If travelling from Tokyo by car, head down the Tōmei Expressway (with a convenient Starbucks located at the Ashigara service area south of Mt Fuji), transfer onto the Izu Chuō-do toll road, and stay on as far as Ōhito. Once on local roads in Ōhito, make your way across the Karino river (狩野川) and down to a small car park opposite the trailhead.
From the trailhead a short walk of about 15 minutes will bring you to a signed junction in the trail.
Head right from here up a short scrambly path and you will come out at the bottom of the South face. It’s a good idea to put your helmet on whilst near the base of the rock in case of falling stones from above.
Walk to your left along the bottom of the South face and follow the trail up through the trees past several zigzags, always keeping the South face in close sight. In a few minutes the trail heads up to the right. After a short scramble over stones and tree roots, you will see a small terrace across and slightly down on the right. This is the bottom of the Southwest arête.
Approximate pitch descriptions are as follows:
Pitch 1: Climb the first few metres up well-featured rock with excellent friction. Cross round to the right side of the arête as soon as you can, and then follow the line of bolts upwards until you reach an in-situ bolt anchor on a small terrace. (30m 5.8)
Pitch 2: Continue up the arête on excellent rock. The exposure is immediate and very satisfying. After about 20m you’ll reach a tree-covered area. Continue up easy ground, past an in-situ rappel anchor on a tree, and over one final slab to gain the belay platform in an alcove. (35m 5.7)
Pitch 3: A few steep moves will get you out of the belay alcove and to the foot of a bulge (ring bolt here). If you don’t fancy climbing this directly, it can be bypassed in two short pitches via a 5.7 bolt-protected traverse out to the right across a slabby face, and then a scramble up along the base of the overhanging ‘second rock band’. If you tackle it direct it goes at 5.9, and is well-protected and engaging. After the initial bulge, continue up through another steep slabby section, followed by a scramble up loose tree-covered terrain to the belay anchor on a ledge beneath the final pitch. (35m 5.9)
Pitch 4: After the initial groove, climb out onto the face on climber’s right, then step awkwardly across to gain the top of a rock jutting out on the left at two-thirds height. From here, continue up and to the right to belay from any tree of your choice. (20m 5.8)
From the top of the route, walk up the trail to your right, and after about 10 minutes you will pop out at a junction on the main Jōyama hiking trail.
The summit is about 3 minutes up the trail to your right and is a wonderful spot, sheltered from any westerly winds and with magnificent views of the nearby Karino river and Ōhito town, and extending all the way to the Tanzawa range (丹沢) to the northeast and Amagi-san (天城山) to the south.
Simply head back the way you came for a few minutes to the trail junction, and this time continue down the main hiking trail to the right. After about 15 minutes or so you will come to another junction on a pass.
Head left and follow the trail down for about 30-40 minutes and you will arrive back at the trail head and the road.
An enjoyable climb on excellent rock up some striking features. If not for the occasional tree-covered sections, it would be first-class. Combining it with a route on the South face makes for a fantastic day of climbing, with a summit and great views thrown into the bargain. The in-situ protection is good, so a rack of 12 quickdraws will be sufficient.
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