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Yuji Hirayama on Asia’s first 9a.
This past March at Futagoyama, near Tokyo, Yuji Hirayama redpointed Flat Mountain, now probably the hardest sport climb in Asia. He first equipped and tried the 33-meter line as a teenager in 1989, shortly after his first trip to Europe, but moved to France before he could even come close to climbing it. The first two-thirds of the gently overhanging limestone route go at 7b+ (5.12c). The business comes in the final 10 meters, two linked 10-12-move cruxes. The first crux alone had stopped Yuji cold, and to this day none of the other local climbers — talent that includes the bouldering ace Hiroshi Okano, who took third at the bouldering World Cup in Lecco, Italy, in 2002 — has been able to do the moves. This estimated V11/12 section leads without rest into another long V8 sequence and the anchors. In January (2003) Yuji returned to the project and powered through the crux sequence. Linking the route took another two months. He feels this is the hardest pitch he has climbed, and suggests a grade of 9a or possibly 9a+ (5.15a). He worked on the route a total of 25 days, compared to five days for his repeat of Kryptonite at the Fortress in Colorado and four for Underground at Arco, Italy, both considered 8c+/9a (5.14c/d). The odd-sounding route name is the English translation of Hirayama. “I gave the name as fun,” says Hirayama. “This route is started the same as the North Mountain route opened by Kitayama [whose name means North Mountain], “and Futagoyama [the crag’s name] means ‘mountain of two kids’ (there are two peaks).”