In recent years, the BMC have organised an international climbing meet in the UK and invited guests from all over the globe to come and taste the quirks of its trad climbing. Each time, a couple of Japanese guests have turned up and set the scene alight with their totally committed and focused approach. This year appears to be no exception. I can’t help thinking that a pattern is emerging here…
This week I have had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with a group of Japanese guests ahead of the international sea-cliff climbing week based in West Cornwall.
31 year old Keita Kurakami - one of Japan's emerging trad climbing stars (having established Japan's hardest multipitch trad route at 8b+/5.14a last year, as well as another more recent hard trad line in Japan) - arrived in North Cornwall a week prior to the meet with his eyes firmly set on repeating James Pearson’s Southwest test piece The Walk of Life E9 6c at Dyer's Lookout. Despite feeling rough around the edges due to a cold picked up in transit, he headed out on Monday 8th May to check it out.
After spending two sessions over two days, Keita felt happy that he had pieced it together and choreographed the moves before deciding to go for the lead on the third day (May 10th).
All looked to be going smoothly with Keita putting in a solid effort until three-quarter height, when a tiny edge hold snapped whilst making a long reach, resulting in a massive (20m) gear ripping ride back down the route leaving him hanging close to the initial crux at the bottom!
After a couple of days to get over sore toes, not to mention rope burn and a few bruises, he returned with renewed enthusiasm and after reworking the section around the snapped hold (now smaller!) at his previous high point, he was back on for the lead (May 13th)
It was exhilarating and a pleasure to watch at close quarters, as he picked his way through a sea of tiny (creaking) flakes and edges, linking sections with warrior like screeches, Japanese style. Some nervous moments passed as he worked through the new sequence past his previous fall point and into the final run-out section for the top.
On reaching the top his joy was obvious as he screamed, believing it was "in the bag". His only words as we embraced and celebrated his success were "Sooo long!" and "Scary!"
A superb effort and a fast repeat, the first repeat by an overseas visitor (unless you view Scotland as a foreign country!). Let's see what he gets up to during the meet itself...
(Words and photos by Stu Bradbury www.wall-crawler.co.uk)