First Ascent: 53-Year-Old Yuji Hirayama Sends 5.14d ‘Peaceful Mountain’

This 53-year-old climber from Japan relentlessly defies age, again putting up a stunning first ascent.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Explorersweb.

Yuji Hirayama, a highly skilled veteran from Kunisaki, just made the remarkable first ascent of “Peaceful Mountain,” a 5.14d sport route on Futagoyama — also known as Mt. Futago (1,165 m).

If Hirayama’s name seems familiar, that’s probably because he made similar waves in the climbing world just 3 months ago by establishing “Hanabi,” 5.14 b/c. “Hanabi” and “Peaceful Mountain” reside at the same crag.

Both lines will likely stand as respectable test pieces for elite sport climbers in the area.

‘Peaceful Mountain’ First Ascent: 5.14d

In grading the new line, Hirayama drew upon his experience with neighboring routes, stating simply, “I think it’s easier than ‘Flat Mountain’ 9a/a+ and harder than my recent ‘Hanabi’ 8c+ and ‘Time Machine’ 8c+, so that’s why I propose 9a for this route.”

His explanation behind the name “Peaceful Mountain,” however, goes considerably deeper:

“Mt. Futago is a mountain where peace reigns. Here, you encounter endless smiles, friends, human relationships, creativity, routes, a community of climbers, freedom, and challenges. In addition, my surname suggests it: 平 ‘Hira’ (peace) 山 ‘Yama’ (mountain).”

He went on to indicate that the timing of his ascent — which coincided with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine — influenced his choice of name, as well:

“Now I realize that peace is really precious. And even that a dictator is enough to ruin this peace… Suddenly… Stupidity… Sadly… Peaceful Mountain is the place to be.”

Extra Credit: Hirayama As a Renaissance Climber

But the man is not bound to Mt. Futago — quite to the contrary. A quick internet search of his name reveals that the 53-year-old crusher has embedded himself in the global climbing community for decades. He also appears to be close friends with British climbing legend James Pearson and American climber/filmmaker/general wild man Cedar Wright.

In light of that, it’s little wonder that Hirayama has kept in such remarkable climbing shape. He’s tackled — and, more to the point, kept his skills sharp in — a number of climbing styles. These include sport (of course), trad (British trad alongside Pearson, no less), big-wall, and the lesser-known but infinitely fascinating sawanobori, or waterfall climbing.

Sawanobori is a centuries-old Japanese discipline. Due to its incredible difficulty and the elevated risks involved (slippage, mudslides, unstoppable torrents of water), one is inclined to assume it was born out of necessity.

You’ll get a taste for just how impossible the style seems and how adeptly Hirayama climbs over moss, mist, and fear in this brief and wild film from 2019. Enjoy.

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Watch: First Ascent on Faroe Islands 'Biggest Sea Cliff in the World'
Cedar Wright, James Pearson, and Yuji Hirayama climb the biggest sea cliffs in the world on a remote set of islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The team encounters choss, puking birds, and sheep on the way. Read more…

Jilli Cluff

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing — and life would never be the same. She now works as a contributor, gear tester, and editor for GearJunkie and other outlets within the AllGear family. She is based out of Atlanta, Georgia where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.