BITD... Hidetaka Suzuki stories

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Ksolem

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…

AP

Trad climber
Calgary
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.

BruceHildenbrand

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.
Ksolem

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
Seattle
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.
fear

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

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.
kunlun_shan

Mountain climber
SF, CA
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:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=480779&msg=482006#msg482006
Ksolem

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.

mooch

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. "Good.......mo for me then."
Ksolem

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?
WBraun

climber
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 .....
Curt

climber
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.


Curt
thebravecowboy

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

f*#king geckos.

keep 'em coming!
Garboni

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

Trad climber
CA
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?
Garboni

Trad climber
CA
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.
shylock

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

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.
shylock

Social climber
mb
Feb 13, 2018 - 07:37pm PT
i can only tell you that it takes some serious lower body strength, among other things, to stem right there.
Gunkie

Trad climber
Valles Marineris
Feb 14, 2018 - 04:59am PT
I hear he took up kiteboarding, never looked back

That guy probably only needs a 3m kite to get flying.
Rollover

climber
Gross Vegas
Feb 14, 2018 - 09:27am PT
[Click to View YouTube Video]

Skip to 24:10 for Hidetaka.
Rollover

climber
Gross Vegas
Feb 14, 2018 - 09:30am PT
[Click to View YouTube Video]

Skip to 11:15 for Hidetaka.
maldaly

Trad climber
Boulder, CO
Feb 14, 2018 - 10:06am PT
I was guiding for Colorado Mountain School in Estes Park the years the Hidetaka and Michiko were there. I was always awesome to watch him climb but that’s not the point of this story. They were living in Komito’s basement and eating birdseed, rice cakes and wakame and whatever else it took to maintain his skeletor physique when we invited him to party with us at the mountain school. I don’t remember exactly who was there but the cast of characters likely included Billy Westbay, Aaron Walters, Doug Snively, Harry Kent, Randy Joseph, Scott Kimball, Mike Caldwell, Mark Wilford and maybe Bill Wylie.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t long before we decided that it was time for Hidetaka to get stoned. It worked and all I remember of that night is that we spent the next few hours trying to get him to say Rick Ridgway.

And so it goes.
VinylRhino

climber
Oakland, CA
Feb 14, 2018 - 10:41am PT
Heard this story once. When asked what he thought of the Tuolumne climb Grenade Launcher, his response was, "Green Egg Rancher. Very hard name!"
Gunkie

Trad climber
Valles Marineris
Feb 14, 2018 - 10:49am PT
"...maybe I have a small brain?"

Yeah, me too.
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Feb 14, 2018 - 10:54am PT

His climbing is very relaxed and confident. Even when he's pushing hard I can see his point about holding birds... He's walking the talk...
HandCrack

Trad climber
Joshua Tree, Cal.
Feb 14, 2018 - 01:56pm PT
I met Suzuki long ago, maybe the late 1980's, in Joshua Tree. Though our climbing skills were worlds apart, we became friends due to my connection with Japan. Some times on his rest days we would climb together. After I would claw my way up some 5.8 or 5.9, he would tell me to just drop the rope. By the time I had done the descent and returned to the base of the climb, he would have coiled the rope, then soloed, cleaned and downclimbed the route, and be patiently waiting for me smoking a cigarette.

Brandt Allen
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 14, 2018 - 02:29pm PT
This is great. Keep 'em coming. Hidetaka is a class act, and whatever he is doing today must certainly fit that standard. A master.
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
Feb 14, 2018 - 06:25pm PT
His thinness is unrivaled... that is the operative of this story.

Hiddy was supposed to be filmed doing some climbing in Yosemite for a commercial that would show in Japan. I can't remember the product, but something like Fuji Film or something.

So, they send over a crew to do the filming and all that, but needed some local knowledge to get the job done. Enter J. Long and Tim Powell, myself, and few other hired hands. Somehow we all end up in Yosemite with rooms and an expense account.
For some reason, it is decided, late in the day, that Hiddy and someone should do the DNB... hahaha... sounds like an epic from the get go. We hoof it up to the base and somehow Tim Powell, who has not climbed a lick in years, is going to partner with Hiddy and go up the DNB with a Hi-8 camera to film the event. We will be on the ground getting long shots and "nate-yooor" shots in the meadow.

So we find the base and send them on their way. Nobody really thinks this is that great of and idea, but there is a language barrier making it happen anyway. We hang out and film while they do the first pitch or two, which were not done that efficiently! hahaha! We go down to the Valley floor to get the long shots and soon it is getting dark. We go to the bar... we are sorta worried, but they are grown men and all that. It gets really late and we ditch the bar to go to our rooms at the Lodge... around midnight someone is knocking on the door... It's Hiddy! He looks like sh#t and we are trying to get info out of him. Seems they topped out, in the dark, and then started working their way along the CatWalk. That did not go that well and Tim decides he can go no further... Hiddy decides to keep going and get back down to the Valley, and he did, around midnight.

And here is the punch line... we ask him about why he did not stay with Tim up on the Catwalk... he sorta motioned with his hands to take a look at his body, clad in shorts and a tshirt... and then says, "Bivy suit not so good..." hahahaha! That was it, and how right he was! There was not a calorie left in that carcass to burn for fuel! Then he headed off to his room and that was that.

As a funny aside... Tim showed up the next day and looked pretty rough too. The night out did not go well for him and after covering himself with brush and leaves, filmed an obituary speech on the High-8 camera... Never saw the footage but I hear it was beyond hilarious...
msiddens

Trad climber
Feb 15, 2018 - 05:25pm PT
I met him BITD as he came up quietly as my buddy and I flailed on Electric Africa on the back of Pywiack in the Meadows. I recall how quiet and very polite he was. So kind and also impressive as he hiked the route after we backed off.

Also- so skinny! His thighs couldn’t have been larger than my arms!
jonnywoodward

climber
Feb 15, 2018 - 07:22pm PT
It seemed like Hidetaka was always at every crag you went to in the 80s. I can't believe there was only one of him. He was on a mission to do every climb of consequence in America and if Hidetaka was there it somehow validated the crag. Unlike most of the other Japanese climbers, who seemed to outnumber everyone else 2 to 1 back then, Hidetaka usually didn't spend too long on routes. He did however monopolize the John something special. Every morning he'd be in there for at least 45 minutes. God help you if you needed to go. Maybe that's why he was so thin - perhaps more came out than went in.
ionlyski

Trad climber
Polebridge, Montana
Feb 15, 2018 - 08:59pm PT
Gawd Russ that was a great story. So well told. And Johnny Woodward thanks for taking us into the very personal realm. Ah, the 80's.
Arne
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 16, 2018 - 10:55pm PT
Johnny that's f*cking hysterical.
bentelbow

climber
spud state
Feb 17, 2018 - 02:54pm PT
I remember when he was hanging out at the limestone at Riggins. He would take a dump before every burn. He had these little metal tubes with insence that he would rub on his forearms to depump. The guy wouldn't dyno for anything if he coudn't do it static it wouldn't go. Also super nice and low key. Very cool to watch him send.
Curt

climber
Gold Canyon, AZ
Feb 17, 2018 - 06:55pm PT
I definitely remember his typical breakfast being an orange and a couple of cigarettes.

Curt
AE

climber
Boulder, CO
Mar 16, 2018 - 12:26pm PT
I loved that iconic photo of Suzuki in the Grand Illusion roof dihedral, and thought about a new route homage to both, by way of a bad stereotypical accent mangler. If anyone should find an appropriately similar and difficult route, feel free to use it:
Gland Erosion
namaste

climber
Vegas
Mar 30, 2018 - 02:08pm PT
Enjoyed both climbing and conversing with San Hidetaka on the outskirts of Vegas. Soft spoken, smooth, methodical footwork and a classic sense of humor often made even more hilarious with his accent.

The picture that comes to me is him up at the Hood with a deep sense of peace on his face, sitting in a cave catching some sun to stay warm as he contemplated moves while cigarette smoke rose upwards to the heavens... perhaps as offerings. Whatever he was doing, it sure seemed to work!

Would love to catch up with him again someday and possibly get in some kiting also, which I'm sure he has also mastered. Arigatou San Hidetaka for the laughs, lessons and good times.
Bugle

Trad climber
San Diego
Apr 10, 2018 - 10:18pm PT
Okay Fish. I rarely ever read (let alone post) on this forum, but the Hidetaka DNB story needs a bit of a refresh. Here is what really went down... Yeah, hadn't climbed a lick in years, but wasn't worried about the bottom 15 pitches, just the 5 squeeze chimney pitches near the top. The client, Mr. Otani, said we needed to go all the way to the top for the story. We got the usual early start, about 10:30, with hideous heat. Fortunately, I was traveling light so that I could carry the camera and batteries, so I only brought a small bike bottle for water. Only 21 pitches in Yosemite heat... what could go wrong? Suzuki shows up with two or three funky stoppers and a rope, so there might have been a few (most) belay anchors where I was just standing there trying to get some shots, but otherwise we were getting some good stuff, even though it felt like simo-soloing much of the time. We cruised past the catwalk and the squeeze chimneys were like rotten, dirty, flaring vertical sewer pipes that were too small to get in. No wonder nobody ever does these pitches. I had long since given up on saving the camera, so it was just bashing back and forth. One pitch from the top, Suzuki tells me he wants to downclimb to the Catwalk, rather than finishing the route. It's almost dark and no headlamps, so I talk him into finishing the job, and the route. I haven't drunk a lick of water since probably 10:45am. We head over to the Cathedral Chimney and I am looking down a dirty, rotten, death chute in near darkness. I opt to bivvy in the notch. Suzuki opts to downclimb the chimney in the dark. I give him the rope, and tell him I will do the walk-off in the morning. I also tell him to let everyone know that I will be fine as there is a non-technical descent, just send someone to pick me up in the morning on the road below Middle. I find a comfy spot in the Middle/Higher notch, totally dehydrated, and looking at cascading falls across impassable slabs, envious of tons of water just out of reach. As I lay there, I start hallucinating that I can see a gallon jug of water in the darkness, down at me feet. I stare at it knowing it is just a mirage. After about 10 minutes, the temperature drops and it starts to get cold. As I am shivering, the water bottle mirage starts shaking too. What!? The sound of the water from the Bridalveil Cascade is deafening, but it might as well be a million miles away, and I'm dying of thirst. Finally, I can't stand it, I go to the mirage, grab it in desperation, and pull up a handful of dust. Sh#t, Then I get the idea of pulling down some pine tree branches and covering myself to stay warm. I snuggle into the new nest, and pass out. I wake up at dawn, laugh at how ridiculous I look and how nobody will believe this story, then get the idea to "re-create" the "nesting" scene with the so-called farewell message. Great stuff. I pull on my slippers, and set off on my quest to get back to the valley floor before you and Largo launch a full-scale rescue. A quick solo to the top of Higher, interrupted only by a cloud of millions of grasshoppers jumping on me, then a bit of easy downclimbing, then I'm on the "trail" down to the valley floor. As I come out of the woods at the road, Werner and Mary are there with Werner's car. Werner says (in that unique voice of his), "Oh Tim... we thought you were dead. We were coming up to the base to look for your body!" Of course, I apologized for the disappointing news that I am still alive, and Mary stuffed me full of water and muffins on the trip back to the lodge. When we got back, Suzuki was eating his usual two heads of lettuce for breakfast, Mr. Otani was relieved, and you and Largo were still making jokes about Suzuki's bivouac suit. All-in-all, a worthwhile epic.
Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
Apr 11, 2018 - 08:16am PT
^^^^^^
hahahahaha!!!!!

Good Lord! The Bugle has risen! Me and KP were just talking about you on Saturday! Salut!
dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
Apr 11, 2018 - 03:46pm PT
Oh my god!

Classic stories from all.

Glad to hear that you, Tim, are still alive.

I spent many nights at Gordo's original Josh pad with Hidetaka. He was always super mellow and low key. But yes, he did enjoy tobacco.

This was during the period when he was working on the "Stingray" crack. There is definitely some controversy regarding that baby.

amyjo

Trad climber
Apr 13, 2018 - 02:50pm PT
Dear Marlow

re : your post on February 14,2018
Even when he's pushing hard I can see his point about holding birds... He's walking the talk...
Would you please be so very kind as to expand a little on this,
the holding birds part of it. I can make it up,
but then it's just me talking to myself,
as it were...

Thank you.
Amy Jo

or anyone else
Ksolem

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 13, 2018 - 03:13pm PT
That's one of Hidetaka's wisdom's,

"Touch each hold as if it is a little bird."
amyjo

Trad climber
Apr 17, 2018 - 05:30pm PT


Thank you, Ksolem

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