Diary - June

Friday 1st June
Day 110 - 0km

Here in Hikone

More dinner at Cannery rowBen - "By the time I crawled out of bed, Tom had cooked up a shed load of pancakes, Paul was happily singing in the shower and Tim had been and come back from work. I just can't cope with all this efficiency so early in the morning. Tom and Paul went to Cat's and did more email, whilst I waited with Tim for a very important parcel to arrive.

At noon the Fedex man delivered a box, the contents of which, our team had been longing for after a blistering time in the Southern Alps.

My mum had worked wonders for us (and our feet), by contacting the makers of Compeed, (see sponsors page for link) - the best blister plaster money can buy!! She also arranged their sponsorship of the trek. Compeed's generous support will without doubt ease and prevent much pain and probably help speed us up too. The evening was passed eating far too much at the same Italian restaurant that we ate at last time in Hikone."

Saturday 2nd June
Day 111 - 0km

We're still here!

Ben - "Cat kindly let me email through the night and even gave up her bed for me. I repaid this kindness by having a nosebleed on her duvet!

Tom and I did the shopping we needed for the Central Alps, whilst Paul sorted out our flights, which needed extending. Another package arrived, this time it was spare batteries from our sponsor, Sharp, for our digital camcorder (see sponsors page for link).

I also received some sad news from back home in Lancaster. My friend Jo had died and I found it a complete shock. It brought me crashing back to earth with the realisation that life as I knew it, was still happening, but that I am not in touch.

I was glad of the good company that night and Tim's great Chinese cooking skills."

Sleepy headSunday 3rd June
Day 112 - 0km

We really are leaving now...

Ben - "Leaving Hikone this time was like saying goodbye to old friends. Tim, Cat and Lynne were with us as we packed and walked us to the station. We sat on a number of different trains for a number of hours and arrived at our destination at the foot of the Central Alps - a long time past our bedtime.

Sunday had drifted by and with it, so had the end of our rest in Hikone...onto the mountains!"

Utsugi (2864m - Mt No. 26)
Monday 4th June
Day 113 - 16km

Paul – "It is often hard to get walking again after even a normal Sunday off. Getting going after our break in Hikone was hard work.

Having kipped under a bridge after our long but uneventful train journey, we set off for the trail head into the Central Alps under blazing sunshine. The trail climbed steeply through trees at first, leaving us all drenched with sweat, so we dumped bags and had a break at an ‘Observation Hut.’

The strident warningThe hut was surrounded by trees, had no view and no boards to tell us what we should be seeing, so we observed nothing, but had a good rest. The temperature eased as we got higher and the walking became more interesting, the path glued to the side of the ridge winding its way ever upwards, over scrambly sections and up ladders. We even passed a sign that told us of ‘Regular Fatalities’ on that section of the ridge and so we all watched our step!

A fairly casual Ben and Paul
click here for more pictures

We broke out of the trees after a lunch break infested with flies and a brief section of rotten snow and clinging trees - nothing like as bad as the Southern Alps though. Once out of the trees the views were gorgeous, the peak was visible and the walking enjoyable on gravelly paths. Having been climbing all day, some 2000m, we briefly considered stopping at an open emergency hut just below the summit.

Feeling good however, we pushed on, summited by 4:30, took our picture and headed down the steep and rocky path to another hut nestled in a saddle of the ridge. This one wasn’t open but they did have an emergency shack which was a little better than squeezing into our tent. A good day: dry, long and enjoyable."

Kisokoma-ga-take (2956m - Mt No. 27)
Tuesday 5th June
Day 114 - 19km

At the top of Kisokoma-ga-takePaul - "We summited our first peak of five that day within half an hour, climbing straight up loose grit from the hut. Ontake, our next hyakumeizan after today’s target, could be seen floating above the cloudy haze away to the north.

The height of luxuryWe had a great day of ridge walking, no snow, only knee high trees, plenty of ups and downs but nothing too major, a good intro back into the hills. On the summit of the fourth and most exciting peak, a craggy peak demanding scrambling, we met 3 mountaineering rugby players. Three great guys, so friendly and interested, who emptied their bags of all the goodies they could think of that would be of use to us: biscuits, chocolate, water, toilet paper, alco-pops etc.

After that peak the actual hyakumeizan was a bit lump-like and it started raining as we were taking our proof shot. The rain turned out to be a blessing however, as without it we would have had to spend a waterless night in the most luxurious hut we have found to date. Tatami, futons, blankets, and only about an hours descent the following morning to finish the Central Alps."

Wednesday 6th June
Day 115 - 33km.

Sleeping with the dead.

Tom – "The heavy rain of the day before had subsided over night and we began a short but beautiful walk off the mountain through rural Japan. We found a store to stock up with enough food to cover us for the last two mountains before we got to the Northern Alps. After shopping we sat down for a quiet lunch only to have a politician pull up in his campaign van in front of us and shout through a megaphone for half an hour as the rain started to pour.

The peak of Mt OntakeThe next couple of hours were spent walking along a very busy road getting splashed by big trucks before we turned off onto the road which would take us up to Mount Ontake. Mt Ontake is considered to be a very sacred mountain and is covered in shrines and temples which are visited by the pilgrims who climb it. This was especially useful to us as we found an excellent place to sleep under a covered area in a graveyard!"

Mt Ontake (3067m - Mt No. 28)
Thursday 7th June
Day 116 - 22km

Ben practices his bellringingTom - "After a rainy night we set off up an overgrown trail. Ben’s head was causing him grief all the way up the mountain and the smell of sulpher from the volcanic vents couldn’t have helped.

The mountain is covered in huts balanced on steep slopes, which we though gave the mountain a very Tibetan appearance. We reached the top at 12 and sunbathed for an hour.

On the way down Ben decided to have a bash at taiko drumming on one of the many massive bells hung up by the temples. The descent from the mountain was on a steep bendy road that led us out into the bottom of a valley. We camped by a river and I went for a swim/wash taking care not to lose my shorts like I had last time!"

Friday 8th June
Day 117 - 35km

Just another days walking reallyBen – "Just another days walking really.

No one could accuse us of neglecting our hygiene, first thing in the morning and all of us were washing bodies and clothes in the river. A scorcher of a day soon dried our clothes (that we were already wearing - we only have one set!) and continued to bake us as we walked.

Both Tom and Paul proved their superior food management skills, by saving some for lunch. I though, have no such skill and scoffed all my ‘GORP’ (good old raisins and peanuts, plus a few biccies and chocs) during our morning break. How glad I was to be given a beer and some onigiri by the guy who owned the fishing farm we stopped by for lunch!

By the end of the day we had reached the trail head for Norikura dake. We sat and talked for ages, just relaxing and telling stories. We sat by a small fire in an attempt to keep midges away while we ate our noodles with added wild veg that I had picked in the hope that it was edible (I had seen some ladies picking similar looking stuff at the side of the road)."

Mt Norikura-dake (3026 - Mt No.29)
Saturday 9th June
Day 118 - 20km

Ben – "Sweat seemed to pour off us as we climbed through the humid morning. The climb started in forest, the path turned into a stream and winded its way through thick bamboo that lead to a ridge covered in low growing pine. We climbed a rocky shoulder and on to the ridge of a volcanic crater. I was a bit behind the lads and cloud blocked my view, but I could hear lots of people!

I reached the summit and was greeted by a mass of excited Japanese walkers. Paul and Tom had already been mobbed with questions and people feeling the weight of their packs. Some people knew who we were from an article in the paper and we were asked to be in about 30 different photographs. (Click here to see pictures from the summit).

Mr Yamazaki's lovely familyWe left the peak highly encouraged by the enthusiastic reception and proof of our growing fame. We descended quickly only to realize we were on the wrong side of the mountain. Even famous climbers make little mistakes!

We had planned to go to Takeyama to buy all the food for the Northern Alps but instead we hitched a ride to Matsumoto with a lovely family."

Sunday 10th June
Day 119

All your noodles please.

Paul – "A chilled morning of tasty food, letter writing, and train riding, found us in the center of Matsumoto looking for a shop with a massive stock of instant noodles.

Packing all the noodles for the AlpsEventually after cleaning out two stores and seriously reducing the stock of a third, we had our 88 packets of noodles, 4.5kgs of oats and enough biscuits, peanuts and raisins to make up 14 days of hill food.

Only one shop manager and one cleaner had actually asked us what we were doing. Many, many people hurt their necks looking at us as we emptied noodles into zip lock bags, and organised lunch food, sat first outside one store and then under a roofed entrance to a closed bank as the heavens opened in a summer storm.

The very kind Mr Yamazaki drove back into town for us to return our phone to us when we were finally able to get through to it mid-morning. Packing accomplished and having retrieved our phone from shop management (a cleaner obviously didn’t appreciate it recharging in the toilet) we waddled into MacD’s with massive packs and pondered our next move while dipping biscuits into coffee.

Too late to hitch back into the hills and unable to change Travellers Cheques on a Sunday, we beat a homeless man to his patch under a bridge and settled down for the night."

Monday 11th June
Day 120 - 18km

Kita Alps here we come.

The gracious TomokoPaul – "By 12:00 we stood outside a petrol station (much to the amusement of the pump attendants) on the main road back to the hills with our thumbs out and best smiles on.

The morning had disappeared under last minute phone calls, letter posting, and money changing. After an hour in the blazing sun we were still outside our petrol station but as we started to walk further out of town Tomoko blocked up a lane to allow us to squeeze ourselves, and all our kit, into her car.

Another kind giver of liftsFrom where she dropped us at the end of the rail line, we quickly got another lift right back to the free onsen the Yamazaki’s had picked us up from a couple of days before. A good soak later and smelling of sulpher, we walked onto a sky road that would take us deep into the hills.

The attendant taking tolls waved us through but warned us that it was a whole 8km’s to the next onsen restort. We thanked him for his concern and didn’t try to explain - we do live a crazy life.

18km’s later, with tired shoulders; we cooked our dinner at the trailhead as we waited for some construction workers to clock off so that we could pitch our tent on their parking lot. 14 days of hills ahead of us."

Mt Yakedake (2455m - Mt No. 30)
Tuesday 12th June
Day 121 - 12km


At the top of Mt Yakedake
click here to see the views from the summit

Tom - "We started the day with 2 cups of porridge each - something we’d be doing for the next 2 weeks (along with GORP for lunch and noodles for dinner). The path up to Yake-dake took us through some steep forested slopes up to the hissing volcanic summit.

The views from the top were awesome. The peaks of the N. Alps stretched ahead of us and the snowy slopes of Norikura-dake behind.

From the peak we headed north along a forested ridge which became increasingly steep and rocky. We stopped on a flat patch just big enough to pitch a tent and melted snow for noodles."

Mt Hotaka-dake (3190m - Mt No. 31)
Wednesday 13th June
Day 122 - 7km

At the top of the the highest peak in the Northern AlpsTom - "We had hoped to complete the ridge we camped on in a day, but we found the going a lot more difficult (and fun!) than we had anticipated.

After 4-5 hours of scrambling up steep scree, knife-edge sections and near vertical rock we reached Hotaka-dake (the highest peak in the N.Alps). After the peak the ridge became even more challenging and it started to rain. There were some chains and ladders on some sections, however the rain made these very greasy and we found them more of a hinderance than a help and avoided them wherever possible.

At 5.30 we decided to call it a day and pitched the tent in a deep steep sided col. At the end of the second day we were already half a day behind schedule."

Yari-ga-take (3180m - Mt No. 32)
Thursday 14th June
Day 123 - 15km

Ben – "This weather is minging, and 4:30am is no time to be awake.

A slightly misty Mt Yari-ga-takeTom braved the strong wind, rain and thick mist first to retrieve the cooker just in time as the wind guard nearly blew it away. After breakfast we continued along the fantastic ridge enjoying it all the way in spite of the elements.

Before we reached Yari-ga-take, two big rocks fell on my feet. Although a complete shock and very painful, my Scarpa boots protected me well.

Yari is an impressive rock spire that is easily distinguishable from the rest of the peaks on a clear day - however today was not clear, so we moved swiftly on. We walked for more than 10 hours, during which time the weather remained consistently pants. So we were glad to find a hut.

Due to the unpredicted severity of the first ridge we had lost a day so we had to start rationing our already rationed food. It is scary to think that on day 3 we are already a day slow!"

More poor weather at the top of Jonen DakeJonen dake (2857m - Mt No. 33)
Friday 15th June
Day 124 - 23km

Ben – "We left our packs in the hut and spent the first half of the day climbing Jonen which is situated out to the east on its own. The continuance of the poor weather had to some extent dampened my spirits as well as all my clothes, but a good chat with Paul on the way back from the peak lifted me. We then headed back towards Yari. I found some climbing hardwear, so that only added to the increasingly good mood, which helped me through the cooking of dinner with cold wet feet." - (perhaps you should have used a spoon - ed)

Kaki-ga-take (2897m - Mt No. 34)
Saturday 16th June
Day 125 - 27km

Paul – "The views from the tent in the morning almost made the dire nights sleep crammed into the tent worthwhile. It’s really not nice waking crushed into the side of the tent with a puddle of water under your mat.

Anyway, the sky was a vivid blue behind Yari’s impressive summit, and the clouds were hanging in the valleys between us and the peak we climbed yesterday - beautiful.

The peak of Yari-ga-take evrerlooming
click here for more of the view

Yari’s rocky peak dominated the skyline all morning as we headed north. It is easy to see why it is such a popular peak. Dumping packs outside a sadly open hut we took only the essentials and raced off with only one sac towards today’s hyakumeizan.

According to the map it was a 10.5hr round trip, and we had 7hrs of daylight max! The walk to the peak was long but enjoyable, two ridges joined by an awesome corrie for which, thankfully, the clouds lifted. In misty conditions it would have been virtually impossible to figure out which way to go in the snow. Stopping at the hut just below the summit we were given a box of juice by the builders doing reconstruction work. They had been helicoptered in and thought us completely mad.

Sitting comfortably on top of Kaki ga take The peak was nice enough but misty so we got our photo, finished our food and headed back. I for one was struggling to keep moving forward when we eventually stumbled back to the hut in the twilight. Having been specifically asked not to use the emergency hut as the actual hut was open, we ate a quick dinner, had our first problems with the cooker and then squeezed into the tent for the night."

Kashiba-dake (2924m - Mt No.35)
Kuro (suisho)-dake (2986m - MtNo. 36)

Sunday 17th June
Day 126 - 15km

The snowy climbPaul – "The most mountains climbed in one day and the shortest walking day - all in all very satisfying.

The morning dawned clear and cold but soon warmed up. Most of us burnt at least our noses during the snowy traverse to the hut where we were going to dump our sacs at today. Thankfully this hut was shut. A quick inspection and the removal of one nail saw us creeping into the dark silent building in search of more room for sleeping than our little tent.

Yes, we broke in but we really did need a good nights sleep. The day was still gorgeous, so we didn’t even take a bag of essentials with us, instead simply carried extra layers, the cameras and of course, some food.

Mt 1 - Kashiba dakeFood is always on our minds in the hills and is often the topic of long conversations. Today it almost crippled Ben who made a dive at a can of tuna on the floor and tweeked something in his back. Unfortunately, the tin was empty so he spent a day of discomfort for nothing.

Mt 2 - Kuro dakeThe walking was easy along a ridge running parallel to the main backbone of the Northern Alps. All in all it was a very casual day out in the hills marvelling at the views surrounding us, which were dominated by Yari’s dramatic summit.

Walking finished at 3:00pm allowing us to wash socks (a blessed relief), reproof boots etc. The day ended very happily with a candle lit game of yahtzee."

Mt Kurobegoro-dake (2840m - Mt No. 37)
Monday 18th June
Day 127 - 15km

The summit of Kurobegoro-dakeTom - "After Ben had treated us to cinnamon porridge we set off along a long traverse along the side of a snowy peak to Kurobegoro-dake in blazing sunshine. After a hot and sweaty climb we reached the peak and took a well deserved sunbathing break.

The ridge after the peak was gentle and rolling and would have been easy if we hadn’t lost the path and had to bushwack through thick patches of dwarf pine. As the day wore on the weather got worse and we were glad to find an open and empty hut below our next peak. We spent the evening drinking coffee and chatting around the kitchen table, before climbing under blankets and sleeping on futons."

Yakushi-dake (2926m - Mt No. 38)
Tuesday 19th June
Day 128 - 15km

False alarmThe real top of Yakushi-dakeTom - "The weather was misty and wet as we set off to Yakushi-dake. We got to a peak, took photos and then 5 minutes later came across the real summit, and so had to repeat the proof photo process all over again!

The slope off the peak was steep and icy and our ice axes saved us from a messy end on a number of occations. The weather got worse and the rain became horizontal stinging us through out Gor-tex clothing. Once we were off the snow slopes the paths became torrents of water and we got totally soaked through.

When we found that the emergency hut we had planned to stay in was boarded up, luckily Ben saw that one of the 2nd story windows was open and, with the help of a makeshift ladder, we were inside 15 minutes later.

Once inside we lit the wood stove and dried our cloths and warmed ourselves next to it. Sleeping in the hut was not unlike being in a boat as the gale force wind rocked it all night."

Tate-yama (3015m - Mt No. 39)
Wednesday 20th June
Day 129 - 10km

Ben – "4:15am I need a wee - could it not wait until breakfast in half an hour?

A cloudy Tate-yamaStormy weather in the night had shook the hut violently and once again we were thankful for a roof. Wind and rain was nearly as powerful as in the Southern Alps and I got really quite cold.

Just before the summit of Tate Yama (one of Japan’s 3 most holy mountains) we came across a hut that wasn’t marked on the map. It turned out to be a temple shop and the guys who were working there were very interested in our trek. We talked with them for half an hour and one of them showed off his horn blowing skills (many mountain priests produce such strange and eerie noises from shells that we hear in the hills sometimes). They also fed us some An soup (sweet bean soup) and gave us some bells that signify the successful climbing of the mountain.

We left feeling much encouraged and headed off from the peak which was rocky and exposed, moving on quickly to find a camp site. I have always found the sound of rain on the tent soothing and I fell asleep without even managing to get in my sleeping bag properly."

Tsurugi-dake (2998m - Mt No. 40)
Thursday 21st June
Day 130 - 18km

The long looked-forward-to Tsurigi dakeBen – "Leaving packs at the camp we headed for one of the peaks we have been looking forward to for ages. Tsgurisan has a mass of great rock and impressive ridges fleeting off in all directions.

One small icy tunnelThe rain had stopped and we found ourselves sandwiched between two layers of cloud. Below us a white sea filled the valleys from which ridges rose like the fins of dolphins. To top it all off we were climbing all over decent rock. After the peak we had to drop off the main ridge into the valley to gain accesss to a tunnel through the base of our next mountain. The path down was a melt water river that ran between very steep sided cliffs. If only we had had the time to rock climb.

We made it to the tunnel at 6pm and cooked up dinner before walking through. Under the cover of darkness we plunged into the freezing tunnel emerging an hour and 6kms later, having just pulled off our longest illegal tunnel walk. The only difference between us and James is that at the end of a hard day we get to snuggle up to one another instead of a nice Bond girl!"

Kashima-yari-ga-take (2889m - Mt No. 41)
Friday 22nd June
Day 131 - 14km

Paul - "I found it a really weird sensation walking into the toilets of a full-on bus station, complete with restaurants and souvenir shop, all in the middle of the mountains.

The whole start of the morning really felt like we were leaving the Alps. But no, we were just about to start climbing up to our second ridge. During the climb we passed a whole climbing club of over 60’s - I hope I am still able to climb in the big hills at that age. We met them again at the first hut on the ridge. They greeted us with big smiles and listened with interest to what we are doing.

Thinking of food at te top of Kashima-yari-ga-takeClouds were blowing around the tops all day but we were given a quick glimpse of our summit just as we were starting the final climb. On the summit we all flopped in the warmth, all of us fairly tired, and all of us wishing we had a bit more food to eat.

Eventually we worked up the energy to take our photo and head off towards the third hut of the day hoping to find a roof to sleep under. After a really interesting bit of ridge we dropped down to a hut locked up like Fort Knox. Tom and I after a good look round figured camping would do, but Ben wouldn’t be beaten.A makeshift rope of slings, a down climb and some attention to a couple of nails later he greeted us from a side door.

It should be said that we always leave the places just as we find them and being able to stretch out properly is so welcome."

Gorju-dake (2814m - Mt No. 42)
Saturday 23rd June
Day 132 - 12km

Ben and Paul at the top of Gorju-dakePaul – "It was only going to be a short day today but we’d finished what we had intended for the day by 1:00pm, including climbing Mountain No. 42, so we adapted our plans and pushed on.

Gorju-dake was an interesting peak involving a good bit of scrambling and a whole load of plodding up steep scree slopes, climbing upwards into the mist. From the summit it was a quick walk down to the hut we had intended to stay at.

Sitting outside to eat our lunch, we realized that pushing on that afternoon would free up a days worth of food, as we would be able to drop out of the Alps the following day. Lunchtime was a feast!

The path aheadAccording to the map we were about to enter a tricky section of ridge but, compared to what we had already experienced, no trickiness ever really materialized. We finished the day about an hour and a half away from our final summit.

We pitched our tent for a final ridge camp in a slight breeze but nothing to really be considered. After 3 hours of trying to get the cooker to work (the thread on the pump had completely stripped) we said a desperate prayer and the cooker spluttered into life! By 11pm were finally able to settle down having eaten a couple of days worth of noodles."

Shiroma-dake (2932m - Mt No. 43)
Sunday 24th June
Day 133 - 19km

Tom – "After one of the longest days and latest nights of the trip so far we had looked forward to an hours lie-in (5.30pm instead of 4.30pm!).

During the night the wind changed 90 degrees and picked up to gale force. The rain started to come through the worn seams of the tent and soon an inch deep puddle had formed on one side of the tent.

By 2.30am the wind had taken all the pegs out of the sandy soil we’d pitched on, the porches had blown open and we had lost some of our kit over the side of the ridge (2 water bottles).

We spent the next 2 hours holding the tent up from the inside to prevent the poles from snapping and the fabric from ripping.

At first light (4am) we packed up all our kit without eating breakfast and headed off for the next peak at 5am.

Thick cloud caused us to lose the trail almost as soon as we started walking. About 2 hours later we got to a toilet block below the peak and ate a few handfuls of GORP.A chuffed ben at the top of the final Northern Alp

By 7.30am we were on the summit of Shiroma-dake, the final mountain of the N.Alps.

The descent from the mountain took us past an emergency hut that we ducked into, and spent 2 fruitless hours trying to get the cooker to work to make porridge. We left the hut hungry and proceeded down an icy 2km snowfield strewn with rocks (no glissading!).

At 12.30 we were on a road, pulled off our boots and slipped into our sandals in preparation for a 10km walk into Hakuba (the town where the Nagano winter Olympics were held). Once in town we let ourselves loose in a department store and bought ourselves a shed load of food to fill our rumbling stomachs.

We sat in the store for 3-4 hours eating, relaxing and trying to get in touch with either Tim Craft or Rachel Hills, who had offered us places to stay nearby.

At 8pm Rachel pulled up at the train station in her tiny 550cc car, we squeezed in and roared off at high speed to a gorgeous house, a gorgeous shower and a gorgeous meal."

Monday 25th June
Day 134 - 0km

Pancakes & dinner parties

Ben – "I do not know what possessed me, but I got up before 7am, and Tom soon joined me to make pancakes for breakfast. I don’t think that Rachel will ever see a pancake in the same way again - we cooked and ate about 40. In fact even by the time she left for work we were still munching strong.

Yet again we experienced stunning kindness and trust as Rachel gave us free reign over her car. Paul then drove us to Tim Craft's house and we let ourselves in to start a very productive admin session. Around midday our studious atmosphere was interrupted as the front door opened and a tall dark handsome young man walked in and exclaimed ‘honey I’m home’.

This was our first meeting with our host whose computer we had monopolized and house we were preparing to use as an office for the next few days. He was with one of the teachers from his school who found it amazing that complete strangers were welcoming Tim into his own house.

As the days typing came to an end we found ourselves to be guests at a Mexican feast where we met some of Tim’s close friends. Already the Alps seem a good long way away."

Tuesday 26th June
Day 135 -0km

JET generosity

Paul – "Tim Craft had contacted us months ago to say that if we could drop by he would try and organize a fundraising party as long as we could give him some advanced notice - we don’t really know where we are going to be the next evening!

But when we contacted Tim just before entering the Northern Alps he said that if we could get to his place for the 26th, he should be able to wangle something on the charity's behalf, linked with a party that was already organised and going to take place.

There were times in the Alps we didn’t think we would make it, but here we were guest speakers at the Nagano-ken JET leavers meeting. Following that meeting we were allowed to go to the meal and then the after party at which we were allowed to ask people to donate to the charity as they entered the bar.

The meeting went well. My mind went blank as I tried to explain about the walk, but Tom and Ben stayed calm and clear and an incredible amount of people thanked us for talking. The meal was wonderful - as much as you could eat and drink for 2hrs at a restaurant with a massive food and drink selection.

Party timeIt has to be said that the three of us ate a lot!

Ben, unfortunate enough to enter the restaurant with him, got given an immense amount of evil cocktails by Adrian Grey. Being on a mission to have a bit of R&R after a tough 2 weeks in the Mountains, Ben took on the challenge and drank the drinks.

We have some stunning video of a certain Mr Davies getting less and less coherent. By the time we moved to the after meal party Ben was making no sense and friends with everyone.

Tim, Ben, Rachel, PaulTim, Rachel and Frankenstein(?). Grr!!

Tom and I stood at the door like bouncers, watched Ben wobble in, and were amazed at the immense generosity of Nagano JETs who gave the recommended amount and more. On a personal level everyone was so welcoming and so interested in what we were doing - it was brilliant. On the whole it was a wonderful evening only minimally tainted by the fact that Ben disappeared for 2hrs, which caused a bit of a search.

He was finally discovered slumped in the Ladies Toilets sicker than he has been in many, many years."

Wednesday 27th June
Day 136 - 0km

Typing, map reading and surfing

Tom – "None of us felt like moving out of our beds, but we still had to finish the write up of the past few weeks. After a round of French toast, we crawled out of Rachel’s house stumbled into her car and cruised over to Tim’s for another session of typing, working out our route for the next three weeks and surfing the net. In the afternoon Tim came home from school with a parcel from Thom (our man in Tokyo) containing our 3 pairs of sponsored Brasher GTX boots (the lightest leather boots on the market - see sponsors page for link), our one-man tent and a spare cooker. Tim then treated us to macaroni cheese and some awesome chocolate brownies for dinner."

Thursday 28th June
Day 137 - 0km

Off again!

Tom - "This was a day for sending e-mails to family and friends (plus finishing the web page write up and emailing companies), posting letters and buying food for the next four or five days in the mountains. In the evening we went over to Rachel's for dinner (a very good mushroom stroganoff). By 9pm the three of us and our bulging rucksacks were in her tiny car heading towards Hakuba, where she had picked us up on Sunday night. After saying our goodbyes we settled down to a good nights sleep in the shelter of a supermarket loading bay."

Friday 29th June
Day 138 - 26km

Heavy Legs

Tom - "We were awoken by a sushi delivery at 6.00am and decided to pack up. Most of the morning was spent packing food into zip-lock bags, making phone calls, posting films and video tapes, putting the 70,000 yen raised by the Nagano JETs (English teachers) in the charity account, and trying to find a map so we could work out how to climb Mount Takazuma.

Our legs felt tired as we walked out of Hakuba and the baking sun sapped our energy. We had been spoilt by all the mountains in the last month and a half and we were back to dreary road walking. Fortunately the temperature dropped during the day and we managed to reach the trail head for Mt Amagasari. We pitched camp in a gravel car park."

Mt Amagasari (1963m - Mt No. 44)
Saturday 30th June
Day 139 - 9km

A rather blurry picture of the rainy, cloudy summitBen - "We walked to the trail head in a drizzly rain and met some Japanese blokes who had driven a long way to climb this mountain, however due to the 'very heavy rain' they were about to turn around without even attempting the mountain. We continued and quickly reached the summit that despite the bad weather had many people climbing to it.

The next summit was just a ridge walk away (our plan was to spend about 4 days bagging the next 4 peaks) so we began climbing down to it. The vegetation and torrential rain reminded me of that film with Michael Douglas in it - Jewel of the Nile - I think. The slope we were coming down got steeper and steeper (as much as 80 degrees) and was lined with mud and slippy grass.

I was in front and slipped, I remember thinking as I fell that this was going to hurt, and sure enough after slipping, bouncing and free falling 25 metres I was pretty sore.

Neither Tom or Paul saw me fall, but Tom was soon next to me trying to understand why I was saying "Ow!" so much.

I had not actually found my injuries yet so asked Tom to check my legs. When he shouted out a loud 'Damn!!' I knew something wasn't too good!

Ben's woundBen's stitches

My main cut was about 10 cm long and 2-3 cm wide in the top of my thigh, so Paul helped me get patched up and we abandoned the mountain to go and find a hospital.

Walking down did hurt, but trying to stay positive was my main problem and I began to worry about how this would affect my ability to keep up and still climb.

The hospital was well over an hour's drive away which for us would be a day's walk! Yet again though we were subject to amazing kindness as a Japanese couple borrowed a car to take me for my stitches. The lady even held my hand as I was sewn up.

Yet again Rachel (the English teacher who put us up after the Northern Alps) came to get us and we all went back to her house."

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