Yuji Hirayama: What I’ve Learned

Yuji Hiramaya: Best onsight effort on Salathé for 21 years; Won 1998, 2000 World Cups; Did 5.15 FA. Owns Base Camp Gym. Hidaka, Japan.

By Alison Osius (Interview) | January 4th, 2021

Yuji Hirayama wears his try-hard face on an 8a+ in Kalymnos, Greece. Photo: Eddie Gianelloni.
Yuji Hirayama wears his try-hard face on an 8a+ in Kalymnos, Greece. Photo: Eddie Gianelloni.

On family. My mom and dad ran a small factory. They worked 12 to 15 hours  a day. I grew up seeing them like that every day and sitting down at a table together every meal. They taught me discipline to achieve something I want. If I wanted a tent, I worked in the family factory, then I could buy the tent. I could always ask my parents what I wanted to know. They taught me how to live and be a warm family.

***

On first climbing, at 15. My first day of climbing had a big impact on my heart. I knew climbing would be forever for me. I imagined rock waiting all around the world. I couldn’t climb all of it, but I would follow the rock. I trained and trained to be ready to climb hard.

***

On competitions. You can learn a lot by pushing your limit at the cliffs, but to push yourself at comps … you have to perform with the right decisions at the right moments.

In 1990 François Legrand [later multiple world champion] and I trained very, very hard. We climbed at the cliff during the day, and after that we trained at home till 1 or 2 a.m. It was not the right idea for me. I was so tired every day. But maybe for François it was a good way!

***

On the only onsight of the Sphinx Crack (5.13c, access closed 2006), South Platte, Colorado, in 1995. It showed me my unique mix of skills … serious U.S. trad, also European sport and comps. I thought I could mix all those skills and create something new. Onsighting Sphinx Crack was the idea to try to onsight the Salathé (VI 5.13c, 35 pitches) in 1997.

***

On the Salathé, best onsight try until 2018, when Adam Ondra fell twice. I fell three times. First at Teflon Corner … then I onsighted the Huber  variation. Second fall, start of headwall pitch. Third fall, second pitch of headwall. Second go, I sent it. I learned a lot. When I came back from El Cap, I thought I can be better in comps, also at the crag. …The Salathé increased my focusing level, my fighting level and my ability to negotiate rock.

***

On onsighting and downrating Mortal Kombat, at Castillon, France, the first 8c/5.14b onsight, in 1999. …. I downrated it [to 8b+/5.14a] because it was my true feeling, and I guess I just wanted to be honest.

***

On world’s first 8c/5.14b onsight, White Zombie, Baltzola, Spain, 2004. I trained to build up physical condition, from explosive power to long endurance, and transition the focus to skill and adaptation on the rock. For onsighting … I started from 5.13, and day after day I challenged [myself with] harder routes.

***

On FA of Flat Mountain, Futagoyama, near Tokyo, 9a+/ 5.15a, in 2003. I traced the line in 1989 but I couldn’t imagine [it] realistically. Then I moved to France for seven years. … When I jumped on this line in 1999 my imagination was totally clear to do it. But it takes time. I tried seriously in 2002 and 2003, and finally my imagination came true.

***

On three Nose (El Capitan) speed records with Hans Florine. It’s kind of a fun game. I’m so happy and proud to make something with Hans. I learned his skill of speed and the details from him. Team effort makes a special kind of satisfaction.

 


This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 266 (November 2020).


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