Mameyaki Sawa

Mameyaki Sawa – exploring a rarely used sawanobori route…

Canyon Magazine
Japan Exploration
November 2013

Mameyaki Sawa was a great chance to explore a rarely used sawanobori route (Japanese River Climbing) in the mountains of Yamanashi. Three of us armed with maps, strong coffee and 120 meters of rope we head off into the mountains on what appeared to be a fairly quickly descent only to find out estimations can be wrong sometimes.

Starting quite late in the morning around 9:30, we make our way into the mountains along one of the forestry trails for about an hour to figure out where the start of our course is going to be. According to some of the sawanobori maps there is a decent size falls at the top level, but as soon as we reach Tou Falls (2 x 8 meter) and going further upstream and just seeing a long scrambling section we decide to start here.

Sometimes what looks good on maps turns out not to be so good when you descend the system. This was a good case. Although the sawanobori maps showed some waterfalls in-between Tou Falls and our main destination Hochi Falls, it turned out to be a lot of scrambling over large boulders which slowed us down quite considerably.

Sometimes what looks good on maps turns out not to be so good when you descend the system. This was a good case. Although the sawanobori maps showed some waterfalls in-between Tou Falls and our main destination Hochi Falls, it turned out to be a lot of scrambling over large boulders which slowed us down quite considerably. On the way down we find what a nice little sliding section but alas its not a smooth as we hoped. Then a small jumping section and not as deep as we hoped.

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We finally reach one of the falls over 8 meters and now the area look promising. This sort of sections where the walls are enclosing in is what we we’re after. If only we could have started from here and not done all the scrambling. This quick moves into a more promising canyoning section.

Our anchor point for the 3 meter and 5 meter abseil is off chockstone that looks like it has not moved in years. Finally getting through this section time is slowly getting the better of us, so we mad a hastily move to Hochi Falls as fast as we could. And there layer out was a nice surprise.

The Sawanobori map was incorrect. We were expecting a 25 meter waterfall split into 2 levels to abseil, not a 26 + 28 meter waterfalls in succession. It was a a good thing we brought both plenty of rope with us as we had to make the anchor point higher up around one of the trees. This was the highlight of the entire journey. Going down these waterfalls was what we were after but we had made such a journey of it to make to here.

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Everyone is cold and tired after the 2 descents. The light is quickly fading as its getting close to 16:00 and we’re still not at the exit point yet. Quickly packing up the ropes with freezing hands, we all move as fast as possible down the last falls of 6 meters. A long section of just scrambling and down climbing.

By the time we reach the exit point it’s already getting dark. What we estimated on the map would take us 3 hours has taken us well over 5 hours to descend. The exit is a straight walk up alongside and is brutal on the way. By 18:00 were are back in the parking lot glad we got out of system and back onto flat ground.

Afterwards while packing everything up summed the day up nicely as some nice little canyon sections but an awful lot of just scrambling and painful down climbing. It was fun to do, but we won’t be going back in a hurry to do it again.

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