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près de Kyūkaruizawa, Nagano (Japan)
It was my first experience of climbing frozen waterfalls, I don't know if there is any meaning to it but I was in Gunma prefecture where my wife is born.
We spent the night at Michinoeki Myogi, snowhow it was warm in the tent before going to sleep so I didn't bother with the extra layer of pants... by mistake and I was cold all night (alghouth it was just a 4-hour night) and regretted my negligence.
In winter the sun is blocked by a hill to the East and one cannot see the sunrise from the parking lot so I quickly gave up any hope to get a nice shot that morning.
After driving to the end of the road the approach trail is extremely short and in 5 minutes we got to the waterfalls. There are 2 main areas, 1 slab on the right and steep falls up to vertical on the left.
I-san set up the ropes and we went in turn on one route on the left fall. I had received axes from N-san, another member of the Alpine club, but those are old ice axes and one is particularly heavy.
With no technique whatsoever and just by clenching to the axes and hitting on the ice I somehow managed my way near the top of the route. I tried next lighter axes and this time my arms didn't explode, it was much easier.
I practiced drilling the ice screws in the ice on the slab, it worked well and also practiced rappeling down. Handling ropes and quickdraws with winter gloves is an altogether different level, so a lot of practice is needed before attempting technical routes.
Since the slab was too easy we focused on the left waterfall, some routes led below icicles and many fell down. The ice was thin at parts and towards the top quite brittle.
Some other parties joined and at the end we focused on the vertical fall. I wanted to try first and gave up midway, it was too hard on my arms. After 3 others from our group made it to the top I tried again and used the holes they had made, this time it was easier and I could go all the way to the top.
At the end I went on the left route and retrieved the carabiners attached to the slings fixed to the trees (used for top rope belay) and rappelled my way down. It was the first time I had this responsibility and I was glad to be do with it because physically I couldn't have done much more.
Overall it was a good experience but I had the strange fealing of having been to the mountain without using my legs, only the forearms had been used.
NB: the GPS got crazy particularly with elevation measures.
More pictures here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B8dPS_LBwxeLU1VJbzBQaDh5NFk&usp=sharing