The Grand Icicle

English translation by Takeshi Nagano.

The phantom "The Grand Icicle"
By Atsushi KATSUNO

In these years,with the beginning of winter,it never failed to rise and tempt me to a experience to extreme.The name of which is called
A "The Grand Icicle".Such a thought seemed to have been held among several alpinists in Tokyo or Kanto district.
Of Mt.Tanigawadake,there are lots of rock walls,and in winter,The Grand Icicle has got shape through "EBOSIZAWA-OKUHEKI(EBOSI is a sort of a hat,and OKUHEKI means a wall located in the depth )",which is one of the biggest walls in ITINOKURASAWA(means a valley with Le primier fortresse).
About 250m in height,1`10m of width,70?`vertical, that straight ice line is got formed almost every year.
The shape of the icicle slightly changes year after year.It begins to be formed in the start of December,and completes in mid-January,then breaks off ,remains upper-half part, in the end of February or March.
Even if completely taken form of,it is made of fine icicles ,or the parts on the slabs are thin ice.
Snow showers come so frequently.Needless to say,it suggests a severe climbing.
The first person who regarded "The Grand Icicle" as a subject to climb was Masaru MORITA.He died in North-face of Grand Jorasses in 1980.Still today,he is the most famous alpinist in Japan.
The first attempt was made by a party - MORITA and Eitarou IWASAWA - in 1969.
Since then ,so many challenges has made by so many ambitious alpinists who know Mt.Tanigawa]dake well in winter.For example,

Retreated at the icefall above "Curious chimney"

Unknown in detail
Famous for three North-face solo in Europe in winter.

Masakazu KAMATA
More than 20 times attempts.
Retreated at the icefall above "Curious chimney".
In other routes,he has several first ascent records.

Katuyuki MASUNAGA - Kouiti TAKEUTI
Retreated at the vertical ice beside "curious chimney"

Seiiti INUKI - Atsushi KATSUNO
Retreated at the vertical section beside "curious chimney"

In addition to them,elaborate researching for this route was done by the enthusiasts.
Someone said that it was possible to climb with the artificial ice-piton climbing,and other said that it possible with double-axes.
But matured and experienced climbers have been defeated again and again.- Why?
There was a climber who made attempts at this Icicle and declared that definitely desperate.
We didn't realize the means of severity until we tried.
I can say ,that was the route which brought us a evolved technique when completed,exactly.

Climb " The Grand Icicle "

By Tosiyuki KIKUCHI

In late December 1981,since I heard The Grand Icicle came out.
About a month later - On 10th Jan.I departed for Mt.Tanigawadake to watch The Icicle.But the result of the observation was rather hopeless.Such a thin ice-sheet on the vertical 300-meters wall might be out]of]hand.
15th Jan.the weather was favorable for Itinokura-sawa.We started lightly,but the more we went up,the sight just above us - big Icicle
which was about fell off toward us - began to pressure.
"Don't be worried." I said to myself.
At half past 10 o'clock,I started the first-pitch leading.A low-angled ice and next pitch was right]hand ice]couloir.
Next pitch was the beginning of the severe climb.Just left of "curious chimney",a vertical ice standing.
The ice is so thin(2`7cm),fragile,a little strike was enough to break it up.
And,of course,vertical.
Preceding parties retreated at this point,or eliminated this section.
A little attempt began with one distant move into the left-hand thin ice.Differed from my supposition,the end of the pick of my axes held myself.
Having kept climbing ,5m had gone.
Too late.It was the point of no return.In this condition,it was meaningless to make effort to put an ice-piton into such thin ice.Hardly put a piton on the rock,I decided to make it up.
Left]hand of me was overhanging rock,and it prevented me from making up.
At that point,I held a hand-hold in left-hand,and put ax in my right]hand into the thin ice sheet and I succeeded in moving up to a stance.
We fixed a rope and descended.I didn't anticipate such achievements.
"It may be possible to do that."- I thought like that for the first time then.

16th.The weather was more favorable than the previous day.Jumaring up back to the last-gained point at 9:30.As far as looking up the following section,the 40m ice pitch above the ledge seemed to be a crux.
After discussing,we decided to climb the right-hand arete and ice to the lower-angled snow section.Then proceeding 5m icicle.
KATSUNO began to climb the ice couloir.Slightly rightward and found difficulty in thin ice.
Next pitch I decided to make it up a hanging icicle.According to expectation,the ice was stable.With double-axed technique,I almost gained the section,but the next moment snow-showers came down.I managed to keep myself safe.
After this section,10m difficult ice had passed,got below the overhang.
Crawling into a cave and put some pitons.Then it became tremendously hard.Fragile icicle were too dangerous.Changing leader again to KATSUNO,but he said it was Impossible,too.
The day we spent no less than 5 hours in one pitch.Fixed ropes again and we descent.
January 17.Storming.Frequent snow-showers.Every five minutes they rushed down.We couldn't even open the eyes.
KATSUNO tried to make it up,but under such conditions,it was desperate.We went to the bottom.
Match suspended till next week.

I considered ,on my way home, how we should treat the following section.It breaks up as soon as be sunlit.I thought if we missed this opportunity,it seemed to be impossible eternally.

Certainly that was,not merely an Icicle.
But a ice]shaped devil.

After several sleepless nights in the city,we returned to Mt.Tanigawadake in the evening on 21th.
22th,we made it up again.But this week,The condition of snow was quite worse than that of last week.Struggled to the end of the fixed ropes,we miserly got wet.
It was clear.Jumaring up and we observed whole remained section again,but we could not find the way of solution.
We made it up with some artificial moves and I dared to make a distant move to left]hand ice.Contrary to my expectation,the ice was too thin.Just below us was almost only snow-covered rock.
It was 60`70?,during that pitch,the end of the pick kept hitting the rock inside the thin ice.At full length of a rope,I reached a couloir,and fixed the rope and we rappelled down.
Things were,if anything,going to be completed.
23th.We retreated even Jumaring up on account of the heavy storm.
We were in a hurry.It could end in so much a phantom in winter. We were afraid of leaving it incomplete.
24th.Despairing weather held again in the morning,it became special clear.Restraining heartbeat of hope,we jumared and resumed proceeding.
Two pitches were remained.The first one,it required me very powerful ice moves.The icicles were vertical and too fragile to put the crampons,so I hanged on the axes and pulled up by the arms.After that section,30m's mixed climbing up to the chimney.
Changing the leader to KATSUNO,he crawled into an overhanging chimney and traversed to the center of the ice.Climbing up rather leftward.
Vertical and highness,exposure to ultimate danger.In addition to that,without protection on thin ice.
Traverse towards the left made about 15m.Just below the end of the extreme pitch,KATSUNO's ax broke off! Hauling up another ax and put some pitons.
Again changed,I made it up the last vertical section.Bulged ice was very awesome,but we conquered all difficult sections at last.
And the last trap awaited us.After the ice,in snow arete,the rope tensed.Full length,but we could not hear each other.It required more than an hour to meet together again- the real finish of climbing.

The impression of the climbing "The Grand Icicle"

By Atsushi KATSUNO

We used fixed-rope style.And admitted some artificial moves.Because each-gained pitches were entirely impossible to climb again,and we could not have any perspective about the whole route.It was apprehended that the strategy violated partner's morality about climbing.For example,it included bolting,or to use artificial climbing techniques.
I told them to him before making attempts.
If this route is to be graded,we give 6grade-super,even a year like that,the ice developed most.
Alpinism is based on each one's conception.Conception bears climbing techniques and equipments.Techniques enable us to have an idea of a route-a motif.It is one of the most important factors that contributes to bring forth the morality of climbing.
The first person who regarded that Icicle as a climbing route was Masaru MORITA.In those days,the techniques which were available to climb the ice-route were "cutting holds" or artificial climbing technique.
Today we take double-axed technique,and it reminds us of hard free]climbing.

If this route had been climbed by means of classical "cutting holds"or artificial climbing techniques,I would give up climbing - After the ascent,I truly thought.