At 53, Yuji Hirayama Stays on the Cutting Edge

Yuji Hirayama is a 53-year-old climber from Japan. And let me tell you, he’s not to be trifled with. The highly skilled veteran from Kunisaki just made the remarkable first ascent of Peaceful Mountain, a 9a sport route on Futagoyama — also known as Mt. Futago (1,165m).

‘Peaceful Mountain’, 9a first ascent

If Hirayama’s name seems familiar, that’s probably because he made similar waves in the climbing world just three months ago by establishing Hanabi, 8c+. 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.

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 many years. 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 Mr. 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, including 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.