Sawanobori

A short film following UK climber James Pearson as he journeys to Japan to take on waterfall climbing – or ‘Sawanobori’ – for the first time.

  • Video: The North Face

Arriving in Japan with the initial idea to be practicing Sawanobori – waterfall climbing – on smaller ascents, in this film by The North Face James Pearson and fellow climber Caroline Ciavaldini – alongside Japanese climbers Yuji Hirayama and Toru Nakajma – were thrown in at the deep-end with a towering first challenge: taking on the 350m Shomyo, Japan’s highest waterfall.

Video Duration

Sawanobori as a subset of climbing is varied in itself, with bouldering problems and mini routes as well as big walls. ‘I was overwhelmed by those spaces – difficult rocks, slimy rocks and the volume of water – realizing that there lurk unknown dangers in comparison to normal climbing,’ Hirayama explained.

‘At the end of the day they’re all just vertical playgrounds for us to explore.’

James Pearson

Tackling dense vegetation to reach the falls, an approaching typhoon made the conditions even more challenging for the athletes, with the already damp and slippery rock soaked by intermittent downpours.

‘Day two on the Shomyo falls was really about stepping into the unknown – the only thing that was clear was that we needed to be fast. The more I see the Japanese climbers, the more I’m impressed by their vision of the sport. They look at things in a completely different way,’ said Pearson.

Articles

Further Reading

Pyrogeography

The opening of a major new centre for the study of wildfire in London this year is the latest admission of the impact it is having on society and the environment.

Peter Freuchen

Shot here by Irving Penn in 1947, we commemorate the life of the Danish explorer, author, journalist and anthropologist who discovered Inuit culture, resisted the Nazis and won 'The $64,000 Question'.

The Airship Revolution

It’s the longest aircraft in the world, ready to set more records than Concorde yet its presence is bashful, modest, perhaps embarrassed by its own simplicity. Avaunt discovers the future of aeronautics.

Furnace Elegy

Photographer Viktor Mácha fell in love with the ‘dark mysterious world’ of the steel industry when he was fourteen – a world that is rapidly disappearing. Here he recounts some of the stories behind his extraordinary images.

Skateistan

It has become part of skateboard lore that once upon a time a man called Oliver Percovich travelled to Afghanistan to continue his career as a research scientist but found his hobby could be put to better use.

Story Island

Despite Iceland’s small population of 331,380, the average print run for fiction is 1,000 copies – a per capita equivalent of one million in the USA.
Browse by Category