This time we talked to Suzu, an avid mountain enthusiast, about her love of climbing, her first ice climbing experience, and images she captured with THETA 360-degree camera!
The appeal of climbing
When did you start climbing? And what made you want to start?
I started mountaineering about two years ago, but I only started to seriously climb around last summer. Up to then, I had tried bouldering outdoors once or twice, having been invited by a friend. But last summer, an expert-climber friend invited me to go stream climbing (“sawanobori”) with them and before I knew it, I had a bunch of climber friends.
【Mt. Myogi captured with THETA】
Unlike mountaineering, which you can do alone, climbing requires you to go with at least another person to ensure safety. Thanks to my enthusiastic expert-climber friend who frequently invites me, I’ve had more chances to experience climbing, even though I’m still a beginner.
It seems like there are different types of climbing. What kind of climbing do you do?
I often go sport climbing, but I’d like to go alpine climbing more in the future, so I’m currently practicing. A big difference between the two is that the objective of sport climbing is to challenge the boulder (or wall), but in alpine climbing, the goal is to climb the mountain.
【Climbing in Jyogasaki captured with THETA】
In sport climbing, you can check your current skill level each time you clear a problem. It’s fun because you can feel yourself getting better since you gradually challenge yourself with harder boulders.
【Indoor climbing facility captured with THETA】
Another big difference between the two is that in sport climbing, the objective is to climb a wall and clear it. You don’t have to carry any gear. But in alpine climbing, since the goal is to climb a mountain, you need to make the climb carrying all the gear required for mountaineering.
With alpine climbing, you need to climb carrying equipment that’s heavier than regular mountaineering equipment, including ropes, climbing gear, and heavy duty protection against the cold.
Challenging herself with alpine climbing in Yatsugatake!
It sounds like alpine climbing is a pretty intense mountaineering style. Have you actually tried alpine climbing before?
Last year, I climbed all the way to the summit using a rope for the first time. That was on Mt. Amidadake in the Yatsugatake mountain range. There are various alpine routes on the Yatsugatake Mountains. Among them, the Mt. Amidadake route is said to be the easiest and best for beginner alpine climbers.
There aren’t any trails in alpine climbing. So, how do you find a route?
【Mt. Amidadake captured with THETA】
Since some routes aren’t even on the maps, you have to climb while checking the GPS, mountain apps, and the Internet. I had a friend who’s a good climber take me to Mt. Amidadake. It was my first attempt at alpine climbing, so I climbed up slowly, taking about five to six hours. I watched the sunset on the summit and made my descent with a night hike on the trail. I don’t really recommend making your descent after the sun has set on the summit though.
I took the photo above with THETA when I was climbing up the alpine route on Mt. Amidadake.
In climbing, you make the climb while you’re connected to another climber with rope.
【Mt. Mitsutoge captured with THETA】
In alpine climbing, it is a given that you climb with at least one other person, securing your safety while you climb. When there’s two of you, you’re connected to each other with a rope and while one person is climbing, the other ensures their safety from below. It’s a system in which you take turns climbing. To ensure safety, we build strong anchors using our gear and support each other.
It must require mutual trust and teamwork! What’s different from regular climbing that you find appealing?
Since you climb a route that’s not a trail, you’re able to climb the mountain in an environment that’s even closer to the natural environment. It’s very liberating. You’re also able to see fantastic views that you can’t see from a trail. The fact that there’s a greater sense of adventure and excitement than with regular climbing is appealing!
Climbing on Mt. Myogi
【Mt. Myog captured with the THETA】
That looks like a pretty steep cliff… It must be one of the more difficult sections to climb on Mt. Myogi!
No, it’s actually one of the easiest sections to climb on Mt. Myogi. Mt. Myogi in Gunma prefecture has numerous routes including routes that are not maintained which are called variation routes, as well as courses which require climbing skills. I went to this section to practice rope work.
【Mt. Myogi captured with the THETA】
So, this is a section that’s easy to climb… It looks like it’s over 100 meters high..
One pitch is a distance of about 20 meters worth of rope. I practiced here for a climb of about five pitches, so I think that height is about right. I went here to practice ropework and multi-pitch multiple times.
The fact that you can take a photo smiling so happily at a place like that is just amazing!
【Mt. Myogi captured with the THETA】
First time ice climbing!
So you tried ice climbing for the first time this winter.
Yes, I’d been wanting to challenge myself with ice climbing ever since I started climbing in general. Ice climbing is an activity where you climb naturally frozen waterfalls and artificial icefalls using tools.
There are a number of sections in Yatsugatake where ice climbing is possible. But since we’re having a warm winter this year, there weren’t many places that were frozen. Natsuzawakosen, where we went this time, was one of the few places in Yatsugatake where ice climbing was possible in late January.
There were about 15 of us in all this time.
【Yatsugatake / Natsuzawakosen captured with the THETA】
So, how was your first experience ice climbing?
For me it’s the same as with trekking: I like it better in winter. So, I enjoy ice climbing even more than regular climbing! It’s more exciting with a sense of adventure and I like that.
【Chubu region – captured with the THETA *Obtained climbing permit】
It’s only been about six months since I became captivated with climbing, but I think I’ve come a long way. I couldn’t have done it without all the people around me who invited me to join them, taught me the techniques, and grown with me enjoying our time together. I’m very grateful for the friends I’ve made.
About the THETA SC2
Lastly, what did you think about the THETA SC2 having used it?
Unlike the THETA SC, which I had been using, there’s a separate self-timer button on the camera and it’s very convenient!
When I was using the THETA SC, in order to avoid taking photos with my fingers in the frame, I used the self-timer function that launches when you simultaneously press and hold the camera power button and the Wi-Fi button.
You can take better photos if you use the self-timer with a selfie stick or while holding THETA camera near the bottom, instead of directly pressing the shutter button with your finger. But, simultaneously pressing and holding two small buttons to launch the self-timer is very difficult when you’re on a cold snowy mountain. So, sometimes I couldn’t use it properly when I wanted to.
On the THETA SC2, there’s a separate self-timer button on the camera, so I can use the self-timer stress-free. I love that!
【Iwane Sanso, Nagano prefecture – captured with THETA SC2】
You can see in the photo above how I’m trying to hold the camera near the bottom after I pressed the self-timer button on the camera in order to reduce the size of my hand in the photo.
【Image that was taken with THETA in the photo above】
The fact that you can take out THETA and smile in a place like this… Suzu, you’re amazing!
Also, when I first took a few test shots with THETA SC2 in my room, I was surprised at how good the quality is in the dark areas in the images compared to THETA SC.
This time, I used the THETA Strap Attachment and used the camera with the strap attached. Since you need to carry a lot with you on a mountain, easy access so you can take a shot when you want to is essential. I think the strap is really convenient when you’re in the mountains.
Compared to THETA SC, THETA SC2 is extremely easy to use on a snowy mountain. There’s a big difference and I love it!
Thank you, adventure-lover Suzu! We’re looking forward to your future challenges!
Models used: THETA SC / THETA SC2
*This article is an interview of Suzu, who was asked to try out THETA SC/SC2 and share episodes from when she used it.