BITD... Hidetaka Suzuki stories


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Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 11, 2018 - 02:01pm PT
For a few years around 1990 Hidetaka Suzuki was a regular at Josh. I was his belay slave on a few memorable occasions. And sometimes we just hung out, often with Too Strong Dave.

On one occasion in 1989 I was hanging in Hidden Valley Campground with Hidetaka. We were having an unmotivated day, just watching people for a while. Up ran Too Strong all excited about this great new route in the Hall of Horrors (Jane’s Addiction.) He insisted that he should show it to us, so we piled into the red van and motored on over.

Too Strong had already done the route at least once, and went first doing the powerful moves easily. I watched carefully, pulled the cord, and led clipping his draws. Hidetaka had watched us both. You could see the gears turning in his head… If these two guys can fire it off it can’t be too hard.

“I think I free solo.” He went up casually, cleaning the draws as he went.

When we went out climbing, Hidetaka would usually do a 5.11 to warm up. I’d either follow or pull the cord and lead depending. Then he was ready to get down to business. So, one day we headed up to Pat Adams Dihedral. Suzuki had his eyes set on Toxic Waltz, a wild steep arete to the right. The FA was by Tom Gilge and Mike Lechlinski. Randy’s old Josh West book gives it .12a. It’s more like .13a. We did Pat Adams and moved over to the arete. The start is overhanging, and about 15 feet up there’s a bizarre horn about the size of a banana which protrudes from the arete with a slight upward curve. It’s quite phallic.

He began climbing the arete straight on, using holds on both sides and toeing the arete. He passed the horn and then realized he should have gone out right. Disappointed, he settled down to sit on the horn. It couldn’t have been comfortable and as he weighted it he groaned. It was quite a sound with his Japanese accent. Back at the base he lit a cigarette, rested, and then did the climb perfectly on his second try. Belaying, I watched as he committed to very hard moves with real fall potential. After the send he was quiet for a few minutes while I took care of the rope. Then, “You know Kris, I think I am pretty bold climber.”

This next bit is politically incorrect, if it doesn't belong here I'll edit it out. But it was really funny.

One day he mentioned a new route in Indian Cove called Kalashnikov Culture. This is the steep 5.12 slab to the right of Genuine Cowhide. Big Al’s old guide says unknown, but I had heard the FA was by Dave Bengston. Its four bolts have since been removed, I have no idea why.

For some time before this Too Strong Dave had been referring to any climb not actually overhanging as a “homo route.” Hidetaka had picked up the expression but having somewhat spotty English, he began using the term as if it meant “Great climb!” This was entertaining, and no one corrected him.

When he went down to try Kalashnikov Culture he drew a small entourage of climbers as well as a group of campers who were nearby. I think Too Strong was belaying. All assembled watched as the master patiently unlocked the crux moves. He stepped up on one foot and back down. Then up with the other and back down. The moves are thin, steep and committing, and his ability to hang in there and work it out was impressive. Finally, he took a smaller intermediate step on nothing and moved through the rest of the pitch quickly.

Standing on top he turned and looked down on the crowd, threw his fist in the air and triumphantly yelled “HOMO ROUTE!!” The campers were stumped, and we climbers laughed heartily.

I’ll wrap it up with one last tale. Several of our little band were hanging out over by British Airways. My plan was to do Rule Britannia, the second route to the right. It’s a rarely climbed Johnny Woodward route. It’s pretty wild. After I did it Hidetaka came walking up. He’d spotted us and was curious about the climb. “Kris, edging shoes or slippers?” I showed him the Megas I had just used, good edging shoes. To my surprise he put on a pair of Ninja’s, light slippers. But who was I to question the master. I did mention that double ropes would be a good idea. He eyeballed the horizontal traverse a third of the way up, agreed, and used mine. As I belayed we all watched as he floated the traverse and climbed a hard section of steep patina. Then he disappeared from sight onto the very cruxy and runout slab to the top. For a moment the ropes stopped moving.

“Krees! Krees!! Edging shoes be much bettaaa!!!” Of course, after sufficiently chastising me he cruised to the top. I never knew if he was serious or just kidding around…


Trad climber
Feb 11, 2018 - 02:17pm PT
Maybe 1987? in Josh
Hidetaka was sporting a cast due to a broken ankle and was toproping hard routes on the Baby Apes wall with a rock shoe on the good foot and stoes sticking out of the cast on the other.
He floated
My wife and I camped with Suzukis in Yosemite in 1980. They were lots of fun
Mike Honcho

Trad climber
Glenwood Springs, CO
Feb 11, 2018 - 02:21pm PT
Really great topic/thread idea. One of his nicknames was "Hideous Taco" instead of Hidetaka.

The 1st time I ever laid eyes on Yosemite, '91. I was on a roadtrip with Kurt Smith on the way to the Emeryville Competition. Kurt stepped out of his trick van and hiked a lap on Midnight Lightning like it was nothing, then when a crowd gathered, he did it again and skipped most of the footholds.. I was dumbfounded.

The next day he took me to the Cookie Cliff and we were hanging out and trying Cookie Cutter, 13a/b whatever. Hidetaka shows up at the base of Crack A GoGo and starts to climb. I've never seen anyone so smooth in my life. He placed two small wires and a cam halfway and cruised to the top. We all stared at each other for 10 minutes.


Social climber
Mountain View/Boulder
Feb 11, 2018 - 05:50pm PT
Somewhere I have slides of Suzuki leading Wendego(5.12) on Rincon Wall in Eldorado Canyon. It's a gear climb and he looked pretty smooth all the way up probably because it was way below his top grade. But, man was that dude skinny. He could benefit from a trip to Nicely's all-you-can-eat fried chicken in Lee Vining.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 11, 2018 - 06:20pm PT
A local climber in Josh told me she'd follow him around the supermarket trying to find out what he ate. I guess he was used to it and gave her the slip. She did see tofu and lettuce...

Edit: Dig out those slides if you can. Those would be great to see.
Tom Patterson

Trad climber
Feb 11, 2018 - 06:43pm PT
I think it must've been around 1998-2000, or so, when my son, Joe, went with me to the Phoenix Bouldering Contest. Joe was just 7 or 8, and had a fake "coonskin camp," ala, Davy Crockett/Daniel Boone. Suzuki was really taken with it, and struck up a really fun conversation with him. I asked Joe if he knew who Suzuki was, and upon filling him in on his reputation, Joe was in awe. Suzuki, in a cool turn of focus, said, "I'm going to make sure I get some great photos of you climbing today, Joe!" Joe was pretty awestruck.

Ice climber
hartford, ct
Feb 12, 2018 - 05:38am PT
Whatever happened to the Suzuki's? They still around?

Trad climber
Washington DC
Feb 12, 2018 - 06:08am PT
Only met him once. I was in the Rostrum notch getting ready to take yet another prospective girlfriend up the regular 5.6 route. Hidetaka and another Asian climber rapped down and we let them solo up to the top. They then rapped off and climbed the 5.12 last pitch of the regular route. Not sure if was Alien or not as I couldn't really see them. Didn't seem like either had any trouble.

Mountain climber
Feb 12, 2018 - 06:52am PT
Whatever happened to the Suzuki's? They still around?

Here's a post from 2007 that mentions Hidetaka living in Oahu, along with some other great stories on the thread:

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 12, 2018 - 07:51am PT
Here's a post from 2007 that mentions Hidetaka

That's pretty funny. I had completely forgotten about that thread or posting on it. At least my stories align pretty well seven years apart ;-)

The Scrutinizer was up at Toxic Waltz that day for sure. He was quite a character.


Trad climber
Tribal Base Camp (Riverkern Annex)
Feb 12, 2018 - 11:08am PT
I slaved for The Master a few times, more specifically at The Gorge. Austin Archer had a rental north of Bishop and we would crash there over the weekend. I'll never forget Hidetaka interrupting me while chatting with Austin and shoved a plate of raw orange roughy in my face, eye ball staring at me, and asked, "You like feeesh?" No, not really, but thanks just the same, I replied. " for me then."

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 12, 2018 - 02:34pm PT
I haven't seen the Scrute in years. He and a sister had some rental properties down in San Diego. He might have gone down that way?

Edit: Last I saw he was living on high protein monkey chow from the feed store down the hill from Yucca. That always made me wonder, there's a demand for monkey food in the high desert?

Feb 12, 2018 - 06:12pm PT
I did quite a few climbs with Hidetaka years ago.

Such a polite gentle man.

One time we went to do the Crucifix and I wanted to test him if he could keep up going up that steep trail to the climb.

I was crankin and he kept up although barely so I slowed down.

Pretty impressive for a chain smoker I thought as in those days I could fly up steep slopes and approaches.

When we got to the base I asked him if he was hurting but he laughed and politely said he was huffing a bit.

He was a funny polite good man and always positive .....

Gold Canyon, AZ
Feb 12, 2018 - 08:13pm PT
Had a lot of fun climbing with Hidetaka and Michiko back in the day, mostly at JT.


The Good Places
Feb 12, 2018 - 08:27pm PT

f*#king geckos.

keep 'em coming!

Trad climber
Feb 12, 2018 - 09:39pm PT
One day after sending a hard climb; “First two try, I no get. Third time, on-site frosh.”

Trad climber
Feb 12, 2018 - 09:56pm PT
How about the story of him falling off Big Moe? Soloing alone on a cold weekday with no one around, he popped off on the mo move and hit the deck hard breaking his leg/legs. He then proceeded to lie there, groaning and waiting for someone to happen along and rescue him. After a long and lonely wait with darkness approaching, he finally dragged himself to his pickup truck and drove himself to the hospital. That’s the way I heard it. Any truth to that story?

Trad climber
Feb 12, 2018 - 10:11pm PT
At the crag he would often eat rice cakes and/or canned tuna with crackers and little relish packets. He helped support his climbing lifestyle by going back to Japan once a year and working on his family’s almond farm, or selling loads of both pro and bro deal shoes at Nomads.

Social climber
Feb 13, 2018 - 04:24pm PT

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Feb 13, 2018 - 06:56pm PT
Is it just the photo, or is one of these guys whose thighs are the same diameter as his arms? I've never seen such skinny thighs, he looks like a famine victim.
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