Location: Horai, Japan
FIRST ASCENT: Dai Koyamada
Byaku-Dou, meaning ‘The Road To Heaven’ in Japanese, is a 22 move boulder problem in Horai, Japan. Dai Koyamada established the boulder problem in 2003, a time when the Japanese bouldering-specialist was putting up various problems in the V15 grade range, including Hallucination and The Wheel of Life.
Image by Kazuma Ise
Table of Contents
The Byaku Dou Bio
Byaku-Dou begins with a feet-first start into a traverse across a 40° roof overhang, with approximately 11 moves of 8B/V13 climbing, made up of technical moves on tricky, crimpy pockets. The second part of the problem, which intersects with the upper section of Bachelorette, a slightly easier 8A+/V12 with a redpoint crux that involves powerful dynamic movement from a left-hand mono-pocket into an iron cross position.
From here, there are another 7 moves before the route finishes on a jug at the top of the headwall.
Second Ascent – Motochika Nagao
After Dai Koyamada’s first ascent, the route went unrepeated for over 12 years until Motochika Nagao’s claimed the second ascent in 2015. Nagao’s ascent gave an insight into how hard the problem is and why it went unrepeated for over a decade. The Japanese climber spent over two years working on the problem prior to his ascent, expressing the difficulty of the problem both physically and mentally.
Nagao stated that the undercling, one of the first moves in the starting sequence, is extremely difficult, even as a single problem on its own. After this initial crux, there are approximately another 9 moves of 8B, before reaching the hugely power-intensive single mono-pocket dyno.
Motochika is an experienced boulder, having claimed the second ascent of Babel (8C/V15) as well as other long boulder link-ups, although he states he had never experienced a problem that had a crux in both the first and second section of the problem.
Third Ascent – Mishka Ishi
The most impressive ascent of Byaku-Dou was in May 2019 by the then-13-year-old crusher Mishka Ishi. Ishi’s impressive ascent of Byaku-Dou not only made her the third female ever to achieve the grade of V15 but also the youngest person to ever climb a boulder of this difficulty. This was a record previously held by Ashima Shiraishi and her repeat of Horizon.
Perhaps even more impressive, the 5-foot climber only spent 20 days working on the problem across both the 2018/2019 seasons before eventually claiming her ascent. When she first started working on the problem in 2018, it became quickly apparent that she didn’t have the reach to use the same toe hook that Koyamada and Nagao had used to complete the lower crux sequence.
This led her to find her own beta for the crux, through the use of a barely-there foothold. On her final blast of the 2018 season, Ishi made it through both the starting sequence and mono-pocket dyno, and came within touching distance of an ascent, although an unfortunate slip on the final moves stopped her from claiming the third ascent of Byaku-Dou in 2018.
Armed with the advantage of a little extra growth and knowledge of the route from the previous season, the young Japanese crusher returned in January 2019 for a second attempt. Ishi quickly realized that her new beta was now unworkable due to the little extra height making her too scrunched up in the sequence.
Undeterred, Ishi took to the gym, simulating the crux sequence until she had the moves dialed in. Eventually, in the early hours of the 3rd May 2019, she eventually clinched the third ascent of the legendary boulder.