ARTICLE: Sawanobori - James Pearson on Climbing Waterfalls in Japan

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 UKC Articles 01 Apr 2019
Yuji Hirayama and James Pearson discuss the route ahead. On Wednesday 20th March, UKC hosted The North Face Speaker Series 'Sawanobori' film launch, featuring TNF athletes James Pearson, Caroline Ciavaldini, Matty Hong, Yuji Hirayama and Toru Nakajima. These athletes weren't climbing rock or ice, but something in-between: waterfalls. Sawanobori is the Japanese art of climbing a mountain river to its source, involving scrambling up gullies, ravines and waterfalls. As a sport, sawanobori has been practised for over 100 years, but rivers have long played a crucial role in mountainous jungle areas of Japan as the paths of least resistance for transit. Waterfalls are also sacred places in Japan, believed to be places where gods dwell.

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 RKernan 01 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

I was convinced at first that this was another April 1st joke... it seems so implausible!

 Fergal 01 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Well played.

In reply to UKC Articles:

This isn't an April Fools! 

 john arran 01 Apr 2019
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

> This isn't an April Fools! 

Ha, ha. Nice try Natalie!

 Doug 01 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

isn't this just ghyll scrambling ?

In reply to RKernan:

Genuinely isn't. Not sure I'd travel to London just to be photographed on stage with James for an April Fools! Or would I....

In reply to UKC Articles:

"Recently, the pair have had to face their biggest adventure yet: the birth of their 3 month-old son, Arthur. "

That must have been an adventure!!! 🤣

In reply to TobyA:

Oh no. That doesn't read too well!! I'll amend...

 ianstevens 02 Apr 2019
In reply to Doug:

No, its the ancient Japanese art of climbing waterfalls that no-one has done in 1000 years and has needed the vision only a pro-athlete can offer. /sarcasm

My thought as well when I first saw it. Turbo ghyll scramble.

 GDes 02 Apr 2019

'It was probably my shortest, least detailed expedition proposal as I was stealing somebody's wifi outside their home whilst away on another random climbing trip in Canada,' he explains

Looks fun, and like a different kind of trip. I Do really hope, however, that they don't keep making films implying that they live some sort of low impact, thoughtful towards the environment lifestyle. You can reuse as many water bottles as you like, but if you're going to flybro Canada and Japan in quick succession, then please don't preach about environmental responsibility. 

 Hardonicus 02 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

I'd like to see a sequel involving some Scottish classics e.g. Clachaig Gully, Surgeon's Gully, Five Finger Gully etc.

In reply to GDes:

James and Caro both offset their flights using Mossy Earth, so they're not oblivious to their impact in this regard. This is something they post about a lot.

 John Kelly 02 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Bit easier to access

Post edited at 15:06
 GDes 02 Apr 2019
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

Come on though, carbon offsetting is still a bit tokenistic isn't it?  I'm not saying don't go on these trips and lead a rich and fulfilling life.  I just find it annoying when people get a bit preachy about it.  If you really, really care, then you'd live and climb in your local area, and definitely not go on multiple trans-continental flights per year. 

Another example is on the Black Diamond website, where they give a grand environmental philosophy on one page, then on another have lots of reports from their sponsored people going to several continents in a year.  Just do one or the other is all I'm saying.

 Kemics 02 Apr 2019
In reply to GDes:

It seems a bit weird to be so hung up on an 'all or nothing' approach to environmentalism. Small and incremental changes are really important. 

 Red Rover 02 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

I love Sawanobori  (extended Gill Scrambling?) but I give myself the rule that I have to find the exact source of the river, i.e. the very puddle it begins from. Of course its quite arbitrary as rivers start from square km areas of moorland but its good fun.

I start with a fairly big brook like the one at Crowden and the rule is I have to stay in the water all the way to the source. When I come to a junction I take the branch which has the most water coming down it. On UK moorland it usually ends with about a mile of following a labyrinth of very poorly defined trenches on a moorland plateau until you arrive at a small puddle.  

I always thought I had a very odd hobby but I'm glad other people do it! It's great for rainy days or when you want an excuse to walk somewhere. 

Crowden brook is a bit of a classic as it involves a long walk in up to waist deep water (actually the easiest access route to some of the local crags!) followed by scrambling and then a plateau walk. 

Post edited at 16:17
 GDes 02 Apr 2019
In reply to Kemics:

I'm not sure I agree.  Not if it kids you into justifying doing other quite damaging things.  I think a real issue is the perceived benefit of doing things like reusing plastic bags, and how it makes people then justify doing things like going on long haul flights.  Surely if you're genuinely concerned about your impact on the environment, you just forsake going on climbing holidays in different continents several times per year.  And if you are going to do that, then don't make out that you care about your impact.

ANyway,  thread hijack really.  Looks like a fun outing.

 GrahamD 03 Apr 2019
In reply to GDes:

Have to say (whilst on hijack) that this "doing my bit for the planet" is a pretty pervasive advertising slogan right now and, like you, it concerns me that it takes people's attention away from the real big hitters.

In reply to UKC Articles:

Reminds me of Bryant's Gully that I did in February (Though obviously much harder). Utterly crazy. 

 Superpump 03 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles: My only experience of North Face is buying two pairs of back to berkley boots  for about £350 to prance around london  like a hipster fool. Both fell apart in about 6 months worn occasionally on pavements, I didn't get my money back. But what a beautiful place and excellently shot video, the sound of the water and wind is immense. Lovely stuff. 

Post edited at 20:53
 Superpump 03 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

I once got drunk and fell over in the shower, but managed to stand up again crimping the tiles hard despite the water pressure.. I've given a rough estimate of E11, but need some kind of consensus from other people trying a similar route? 

 Ciro 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Natalie Berry - UKC:

> James and Caro both offset their flights using Mossy Earth, so they're not oblivious to their impact in this regard. This is something they post about a lot.

Mossy Earth says:

"It is important we prioritize reducing our flying to the indispensable and only then consider offsetting."

In reply to Ciro:

yes I always thought the offsetting is a bit of a cop out as in the only means to justify their massive amount of flying, which I don't particularly have a problem with (I drive a lot myself) but it's the double standard that Ged referrers to. 

 tobyk 04 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

The amount of carbon given off by a plane is nothing compared to a volcano going off, and they have a few of them in Japan! The destruction of rare flora which live in these habitats is surely a more logical argument.

I think as a climber/hill walker you have to accept in order to do what you love doing there’s always a certain degree of environmental damage. Those ‘clean’ crags plastered with chalk are pretty sterile places in all honesty.

However, give this crew a break, Sawanobori looks like a great activity, and I thought it was a great watch!

 Red Rover 04 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

P.S. an epic for UK Sawanobori would be the Ashway watercourse in the Chew valley. You'd start by rowing a boat accross the reservoir (probably a bad idea, might be best to skip this bit) and then you'd walk and climb up a couple of miles of Victorian water-courses including the death-slide

Then you have a kilometer long tunnel to go through before a long scramble up a natural brook with a few biggish waterfalls. To top it all off you then have a long plateau walk following the brook as it dissipates into the moor. 

This would be massive! Probably a grade of PD would be most appropriate. Has anyone done it? I'll have a go this summer but its probably best to skip the reservoir pitch.

Post edited at 12:16
 Sean_J 04 Apr 2019
In reply to tobyk:

So, what you're saying is that we should get rid of all the volcanoes?   

 tobyk 04 Apr 2019
In reply to Sean_J:

Not get rid of them as such, just put a plug in them...

 auldscotal 05 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

having been gorge walking with youngsters for years before I retired and indulged in climbs such as Chlachaig Gully in Glencoe I can understand the appeal of this. One thing that didn’t come over fully is the volume of sound that surrounds you.

In reply to UKC Articles:


From the Japanese bori (about) and sawan (to swan) 

 benmorr 06 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Mossy Earth - would that be the huge clumps of vegetation being pulled off and chucked away? Perhaps a list of the plant types and their conservation status could be put up on The North Face website. Try watching some of our videos with someone who also enjoys "being out in nature" but who isn't a climber. Listen to what they say they when we bolt, bang in pegs, rip up vegetation and shoo birds away from their nesting sites. I'm not suggesting we give up but a bit more critical self-awareness would send a better message to young climbers just starting.

 Superpump 17 Apr 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

dear thread , apologies for  my abysmal attempts at humour above , was a little tipsy. Maximum respect to all real climbers and to UKC, for continuing to inspire us troll punters even as we sit at our computers drunk rather than at the base of our next route.

In reply to Superpump:

I thought your post was funny mate, if there's no space for amusing the infantile then we are truly doomed.

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