Tuesday 1st May
Day 79 - 19km

Legal Aliens

Hikone seems to be the place to register as an Alien. There were lots of people doing it, and with Lynne's address we were quickly processed and told to come back in 3 weeks - a pain, but much better than having to take a trip to Tokyo. Towards evening, after trying to get as close as possible to Mountain No 12, we were hailed by a man with no teeth. This fact was quickly exposed to us by the amazing faces that he regularly pulled! Seeing our packs, he decided that we must be heading to 'Green Park', and told us that we were going the wrong way. The place sounded alright, so we followed his directions.

That evening he found us, and told us that we were stupid idiots not to have camped where he had told us - Tom had been unable to catch that part of the directions. He was, even so, happy to have found us, and poured us many glasses of Sake, got very drunk, and told us again many times that we were idiots, pulled faces, gave us lots of rice, and drove home. An interesting evening. Tom says that trying to understand him was like trying to understand a drunk Glaswegian, with no teeth!"

Ibuki-san (1377m - Mt No.12)
Wednesday 2nd May
A very cloudy summitDay 80 - 25km

Ben - "I must admit that I awoke a little hazey after all the Sake, but clear heads prevailed as we began climbing the second smallest peak, Mt 12, Ibuki-san. Although only 1377 metres high we climbed the steepest side, which lead us to the summit in time for the late morning break. However the weather closed in and wind and rain chased us quickly from the top via the otherside of the mountain. Heavy rain continued for the rest of the day and swollen gutters aided the birth of the ultimate wet weather walking game - 'Surf Stone'. which involved stones and a gutter and a variation of Pooh Sticks. We were all glad to find a gazeebo to sleep under out of the rain.

Thursday 3rd May
Day 81 - 37km

Protecting the tent from the rainRain and a belly full of fruity tasters

I think there are only two things worth mentioning about today. It stopped raining ten minutes before we left our sheltered camp, and I single-handedly rid the supermarket of its fruit tasters. Camped by a lovely wide river and enjoyed Tom's
noodle skills."

Friday 4th May
Day 82 - 45km

Swimming sleeping bags

Tom - "We decided to cover as much distance as we could today up a road that headed deep into the Mountains. The highlight of the day was watching Paul leap into a river that
we had stopped by for lunch, to retrieve his sleeping bag,
which had been blown in by a gust of wind.

Arashima (1523m - Mt No 13)
Saturday 5th May
Day 83 - 44km

Arashi DakeThe morning was spent walking towards the trailhead to our 13th mountain, Arashi Dake. Afer dumping our rucksacks and stripping down to our shorts we set off up the trail. After crossing a few snow fields we reached the top - which we shared with 10-15 fully clothed Japanese climbers. After reaching the base of the mountains we headed off to Ono city to buy food and to find a suitable campsite for Sunday.

Sunday 6th May
Day 84 - 0km

Campsite - Dumpsite

Ben models his improvised rucksackConsidering that this campsite was found in the dark, we didn't do too badly. Yes, we were sleeping rough on a concrete path next to a landfill dump, and yes, the birds of the air honed their skills as they dappled us and our belongings. But this hasn't been a bad place to rest; noone has bothered us, although the Police have buzzed around a bit, and just 5 minutes walk lead us to a huge store that sold everyhing from bendy gnomes to microwaves.

Once there we promptly set up a command position in the toilets, and washed our stinking bodies in preparation for the purchase of 2 crates of pot noodles - our food for Hakusan. The rest of our time was passed with Tom's ingenious creation of the ultimate rope crampon (we haven't picked up our gear for the Alps yet). Ben put some straps on his dry-bag to form a makeshift rucksack ( his pack has a fault, and has to be sent back - so the team is down to two proper rucksacks), and Paul finally got up to date with writing his log. All that's left to say is
that we worked on our butt tanning!!"

Paul - "Week Summary: Monday and Tuesday were all about R & R, internet access, and red tape. From Wednesday onwards, with thoughts of the Alps in our minds, we worked hard and covered 151 km and climbed mountains number 12 and 13."

Monday 7th May
Day 85 - 37km

Postage and preparations.

Tom - "We woke to find 15 policemen staring at us from across the river. We later found out that they were part of a search party, as they came over to ask us if we had seen a lady with a limp.

Once In the next city we sent on all the equipment that we wouldn't be needing for the Alps (harmonica, fishing tackle, Homer's 'Odyssey' etc) to Thom, and Ben's rucksack to New Zealand for urgent repairs.

After loading up with the 3 days worth of food that we would be needing to climb Hakusan (Mt14), we set off up a steep mountain pass. Our first view of Hakusan was awesome, as the peak was still covered in snow. We camped by a river, where we saw our second Serow of the trip.

Hakusan (2702m - Mt No 14)
Tuesday 8th May
Day 86 - 21km

None of us slept well, as we were all crammed into 1 tent. We had sent the one man tent to Thom's the day before. At the start of the trail we met some construction workers, one of whom had been a porter on the mountain taking food up to the huts in the days before helicopters were used. The trail was covered in deep snow and we soon lost it, so we headed up a steep slope of snow and loose rocks to a hut at 2000km where we stopped for lunch.

We decided to leave our kit in the hut and push for the summit with one rucksack. It took us an hour and a half to reach the summit from the hut, and just half an hour to get back as we glissaded (slid) all the way down. Although we all felt good about bagging our first 2000km peak of the trip, the weather had been poor all day and we hardly got to see any of what is a very beautiful mountain, which was a little disapointing."

Wednesday 9th May
Day 87 - 20km

click here to see the views
on returning from the summit

All the ingredients for some...Mountain madness!

Ben - "What's this. Ben up first to cook breakfast?!

For any normal breakfast one might suspect some form of shennanigans or sudden unexplainable illness. but happy is the Scouser when Quaker Porridge oats are his breakfast - just a shame about the lack of Mars bars to melt into it.

After melting snow for the day's water we began our descent of the mountain. The Hakusan National Park is both large and secluded, and we needed to traverse a decent portion of the mountain range to avoid more road walking. After reaching the main plateau we had some very steep glissading (sliding on your bum) into a col where moments later a mountain rescue team were dropped off by helicopter - thankfully they hadn't been called to save 3 foreigners - and they went about their training exercises.

We climbed and descended following the mountain ridge until about lunch time when the weather closed in and we had to switch to the ridge that we were to exit the mountain on. I am sure that Tom told me that this sort of weather doesn't happen in Japan. Minging is the only word to describe the very poor visibility and heavy rain. the ridge we wanted eluded us for some time as we worked hard with our map and compass, but once upon it we were on an easy, although slippery trail to the foot of the mountain.

It was a good time to think back on the beautiful ridges and cornices that we'd seen, and how the whole mountain, although drenched with cloud and rain, had proved to be one of the most exciting and enjoyable experiences that the team had had in the wilds of Japan. We certainly had all the ingredients for a class few days in the hills.

Thursday 10th May
Day 88 - 42km

Excuse me Sumi.

We walked out from the mountain down a beautiful river valley. Tom tried to explain that the reason he couldn't eat last night's dinner wasn't due to the pigeon size of his belly, but to the ridiculously huge quantity of noodles that we were planning to eat in the Alps. Neither Paul nor myself struggled with the meal...we think that it's all in Tom's head.

A builder stopped and spoke with us in English. His name was Sumi. He had been a martial arts teacher in England in the 60's. He offered us a place to stay at his that night, and gve us his phone number. Unfortunately by the time we came to camp, we couldn't get past the engaged tone on his phone. A riverside camp had to suffice."

Friday 11th May
Day 89 - 42km

Manic Lunchbreak.

Paul - "The morning was dominated by the climbing of a pass which took us high into the hills. The pass presented us with beautiful views of the town that we had just walked through, nestled in the valley, with its castle perched above it. For luch we stopped in what we though was a sleepy little town.

We were promptly surrounded by 20-30 kindergarten children on some excursion from the classroom. Ben felt exhausted after lunch, having had to spend the whole time trying to keep the children away from our stove - the teacher was much more chilled about the situation. That evening we squeezed into the 2 and a half man tent, except that this time we made one of the porch doors into a roof so that one person could sleep partly out of the tent. More space equates to more sleep.

Saturday 12th May
Day 90 - 22.5km

Lazy Afternoon.

Our rest day was split between Saturday, Sunday, and Monday this week, so as to fit in with the terrain and Sharna's schedule. Today was a half day with serious walking finishing at a supermarket at 12.00pm. The afternoon was spent sunbathing, swimming, bouldering, and letter and log writing on the sun-kissed banks of a clear river. Nighttime found us eating some of the mountain of food that we'd bought earlier - weekends mean food treats - and dreaming of the new biscuits that we had found for our breakfast - a big excitment for us!

Sunday 13th May
Day 91 - 35km

Must I swim again?

Our biggest Sunday walk, covering the pass that would have made yesterday's journey immenense had we not stopped when we did. Lunch time saw us munching egg butties and gazing at the Southern Alps in the Far distance. It was the third cloudless day in a row and hot. So it only seemed right to stop by another river for a bit more bouldering and swimming. You must realise that we don't enjoy swimming in mountain rivers - we only do it to stop smelling!

We fell asleep, after testing a different type of noodle for the Alps, on the rocks, by the river, under a starry sky.

Week Summary: On Monday we prepared for our biggest Mountain yet. Hakusan. Mountain Number 14. Standing 2702m high. On Tuesday we peaked in the mist and rain. On Wednesday we descended taking in another 5 peaks along the way. Again in mist and rain. From Thursday onwards we enjoyed beautiful weather, wandering down wide valleys, over a number of passes, and through an assortment of towns, on our way to meet Sharna Tischler and our Alpine gear."

Monday 14/05/01
Day 92 - 16km

Hobnobbing with the Rotary Club

Ben, Shana, one of Shana's friends, and PaulToday truly started at 5:00pm when we met up with Shana Tishler, the English Teacher who had kindly stored our alpine gear, and held our letters from home from the last 2 months.Shana invited us to join her for her English conversation class that evening which, happily for us, was having a meal out.

The morning's 16km into Nakatsugawa under a baking sun were quickly forgotten under a mountain of food and drink and conversation that merrily continued until about 11:00pm.

All the members of the conversation class were Rotary Club members who showed a lot of interest in the walk and wouldn't let us pay a penny for the evening.

Yet another experience of Japanese generosity - and that of Shana, the English Teacher, who was letting us stay in her apartment that night.

Members of the Rotary club with Ben and TomTuesday 15/05/01
Day 93 - 17km

Cooked Breakfast

Rotary Club generosity did not end with the previous evening. Being unable to afford the time to accept the offered full day of sightseeing, (or the offered lift to the trail head), we happily accepted the offer of a cooked breakfast in the coffee shop run by one of the club members.

Consequently we were picked up promptly at 8:30am and whisked off to enjoy thick wedges of toast and bacon and eggs Japanese style. We were also presented with a posh bottle of Sake, 10 cans of tuna, 2 English Newspapers and offers of help whenever needed. From smelly vagabonds to honored guests; the variety of worlds this walk causes us to move in is astounding.

The rest of the morning and much of the afternoon was filled with re-packing our bags with alpine orientated gear, and sending yet another parcel of unneeded clothes and equipment back to our long suffering and much appreciated 'Man in Tokyo' Thom James.

By mid afternoon we were once again ready to turn our backs on civilization and head for the hills, aiming to get close to the trail head of Mt Ena, mountain no.15.

Mt Ena (2171m - No.15)
Wednesday 16/05/01
Day 94 - 20km

We woke to the sound of rain on the tent and set off up the trail that followed the course of a river. As we climbed higher up the mountain the weather improved although the path got worse. We spent a frustrating two hours walking through thick forest on rotten snow that collapsed beneath our feet after every other step.

We reached the summit, at 12.30 and took a break for lunch at a hut near the top where we read the letters from home which we had picked up at Shana's (thanks guys!).

On the way down the mountain we decided to take a 500m steep bushwhack to avoid a large 4-5km loop. After 45 minutes of fighting with thick bamboo and scrambling down loose rock we hit the road and soon found a suitable riverside campsite for the night.

Thursday 17/05/01
Day 95 - 30km

66 bowls of instant noodles please!

We had decided that we would try and buy all the food we would need for the Southern Alps in Iida City. Today was also a day for more generosity as we were given a box of chicken nuggets by one of the girls who worked at a convenience store we stopped at, and a lady we spoke to briefly spoke to about the walk came out of a supermarket with a bag of food for us!

Once in Iida we spent 4-5 hours buying and repacking food for the Southern Alps (nuts, raisins, banana chips, chocolate, biscuits, porridge, and 66 bowls of noodles!). We got a lot of interested looks from passers by.

On the way out of the city to find a campsite one of Tom's, a.k.a gear wrecker, sandals broke (after a goodly 1000km+ of action!).

Friday 18/05/01
Day 96 - 41km

To the trail...

As soon as we woke Ben was sneaking up to the beer vending machine he had unplugged the night before to retrieve the video camera battery that had been recharging, and also rang his Mum and Dad, who passed on some promising news about possible support from Compeed (these are the best blister plasters that money can buy...but we can't afford them!) and further support from Sharp (see sponsors page for links).

The wonderful Kazuko OnishiAt the top of a long, hot pass a wonderful lady called Kazuko Onishi invited us in for coffee and sandwiches in her café, and encouraged us greatly with her energy and enthusiasm for what we were doing.

We continued our walk closer to the trail down an extremely dilapidated road, stooping under fallen trees and tentatively crossing huge landslides. We had planned to find a place next to the trailhead to camp and take all day Saturday off, but slow progress soon led to a camp in the dark and cooking over an open fire to save fuel.

Saturday 19/05/01
Day 97 - 9km

Easy day and expectations

Ben lowers himself into the derelict tunnelA leisurely breakfast again over a campfire was a fine start to a short walk up an almost forgotten valley. The road had been swallowed up in large portions by landslides, at one point we had to scramble out of a tunnel that was almost entirely filled in.

We settled down on a riverbed surrounded by steep sides and large boulders and set about relaxing, washing and pondering what this long spell in the mountains would hold for us.

The main event of the day was when Tom came back from a river wash completely naked, "By Jove the boy's naked!" exclaimed Paul, Tom immediately accused Paul and Ben of stealing his shorts. But they had been good boys and had little, if any, wish to prolong the shoddy exhibition.

A search ensued and the shorts were found clinging to a piece of wood in the river. With the Alps finally upon us we sought an early night.

Tekari (2591m - No. 16)
Sunday 20/05/01
Day 98 - 19km

So this is the Alps

Saturday night was a night of great animal movement. Tom, who was sleeping out that night under a ledge, was bitten by a mouse and had to chase a raccoon or fox from his hanging food. Being up first to prepare breakfast it was also Tom who first spotted the trail of porridge oats heading down the river!

A third of our porridge, plus Paul's biscuits for that morning and his lunch for the day had been pulled under the tent fly sheet and taken gleefully by some sneaky creature. Many curses later (and much feeling of stupidity on Paul's part) and being energized by slightly thin porridge, we made our first steps into the Alps proper.

The tree-covered peak of MtTekariThe trail headed straight up through the trees for about 1400 vertical meters. Breaking onto the ridge that was to be home for the next week or so, we dumped our packs and walked south, under sunny skies and over end-of-season snow (wet and fairly rotten) to our first alpine peak some 4km away.

Two things were clear at the end of the day. There were more trees around than expected, and trees plus snow meant bushwhacking and slow tiring progress. Today was a good day though, beautiful views of big mountains to come and a fine, dry campsite to finish.

Hijiri-dake (3013m - No. 17)
Monday 21/05/01
Day 99 - 16km

The summit of Hijiri-dakeToday we saw Fuji-san looking dramatic in the distance, climbed our first 3000m peak, spent a large amount of frustrating time forcing our way through trees and snow and spent literally all day going up and down. Four peaks and numerous nubbins were climbed in all. We all briefly collapsed on the summit of Hijiri-dake after a long climb up steep scree that seemed to go on and on. Another sunny day with beautiful views that ended in us once again camping on a saddle between two towering peaks.

Akaishi-dake (3120m - No. 18)
Tuesday 22/05/01
Day 100 - 14km

Paul hangs on lest he's blown awayThe weather turned nasty and soon after we packed up camp it started to hail. The wind was so strong on our way up Akaishi-dake that Ben was blown over onto his back whilst he was filming the climb!

We had hoped to climb two peaks on this day but the wind, the condition of the snow and the thickness of the trees made this impossible. Fortunately we found an open hut to sleep in at the end of the day although the door needed to be dug out with our multipurpose cooking pans.

Once inside the hut we realized that the map had gone and had probably been blown a couple of kilometers off the ridge. From now on we would have to rely on some pretty sketchy maps in the two guidebooks we had with us. (The camera packed in at this point too - ed).

Warusawa-dake (3141 - No.19)
Wednesday 23/05/01
Day 101 - 18km

We woke to find the hail and wind of the previous day had changed to drizzle. We left our packs at the hut and set off for Warusawa-dake. An hour of ridge walking and scrambling later we were on the peak. The camera wouldn't work so we didn't manage to get a proof shot (you'll have to take our word for it!). After getting back to the hut we started a long decline down a huge snowfield and into the trees. Once in the trees we got lost and spent 2 hours trying to find the route to the next mountain. After finding the right ridge we set off up a long steep climb up a 2800m peak where we found a beautiful log cabin to spend the night in.

Shiomi-dake (3047m - No.20)
Thursday 24/05/01
Day 102 - 15 km

We left the 'Hilton' style hut and were quietly hopeful that the slightly improved weather would hold. Although the weather at times did afford us some views of the mountains and the trail, mostly we continued our trek through mist and rain. Late in the afternoon we ascended the exciting scrambling ridge of Shiomi-dake. This was our twentieth peak of the trek and as we arrived at the top the clouds parted for us and a five-minute break in the weather helped to lift spirits on this, Tom's favorite climb of the Southern alps.

The rest of the day was damp and extremely misty. We began to head down a ridge that was covered in thick forest, the amount of height loss began to get a tad concerning and some map work and a break in the weather revealed that the ridge we wanted ran parallel to us across the valley. We trudged back up the ridge to our first camp on the snow and all cozzied in together in the tent.

Aino-dake (3189m - No.21)
Kita-dake (3192m - No.22)

Friday 25/05/01
Day 103 - 16km

After three days of pretty nasty weather, the appearance of blue skies and views of the vast mountain ranges was encouragement enough to pull on cold wet boots and head out along the impressive ridge we could see before us, aiming for two peaks the second of which is Japan's second highest.

We made the top of Aino-dake for lunchtime and spread out our kit to dry in the sun. The rest of the climbing for today took us to the impressive 'north peak' or Kita-dake, from which we could see right back along all the ridges we had traversed in the Southern Alps.

The next peak we had to climb was on a separate ridge and so we had to again loose all our height. We climb down to 2000 meters where we spend the night in a hut that we find open.

Hoonzan (2764m, 2840m, 2780m - No.23)
Saturday 26/05/01
Day 104 - 20km

It is amazing how much better you can feel after a sleep - not that you are bursting with energy, but you can easily do something that would have been a trial of pain the evening before.

We descended quickly to the valley, an action that would have hurt badly the night before. The 'village' at the head of the ridge turned out to be two buildings, both shut and offering no plug sockets. We knew there wouldn't be much there but had hoped to charge up the camera battery.

Opting not to attempt the ridge between the next two mountains we dumped our packs at the bottom of the trail and took only one bag with minimal gear up into the hills. It is so nice to move without packs. The pace was not rushed, we were all feeling physically stretched at this point - the main ridge had been tough. Thankfully there was little snow in the trees then none on the tops. Instead we entered a land of rough granite boulders and blocks and sand!

It was unclear from our guidebook which peak was the hyakumeizan and unfortunately (or fortunately) we asked a couple of the numerous people we saw during the day, if they knew. It turned out that Hoonzan means 3 peaks. What had looked like a fairly easy day quickly turned into a day filled with an obscene amount of ascent and descent.One of the peaks was a granite obelisk that provided some entertaining climbing.

We all realized just how tired we were at the end of today, eating and setting up camp was a real trial. Ben's blisters were still growing and Tom's ankle took major offense to his boots, making all movement painful. At least it had been sunny today.

Kaikomaga-take (2967m - No.24)
Sunday 27/05/01
Day 105 - 16km

Food was low, bodies were exhausted, we'd spent an uncomfortable, sweaty night crushed in the tent and it was raining, as it had been much of the night.

The morning was spent walking the 10km along the road up to the pass between the final two mountains. It was a very quiet walk, each of us was internally battling with the question of whether we should walk out of the Alps today or struggle through the final two.

Two hours of walking didn't sort out the question and the rain just made us all cold. Life rapidly improved however when we discovered that the hut at the pass was open, and we had spent 10mins in front of the fire and also got permission to have a meal there that night without having to stay.

Food was sorted and it was going to be much simpler to climb the two mountains and walk out than trying to get back into the mountains later. We were able to dump all but one pack again today, a real joy.

Tom made the first winter ascent of Kaikomaga-take in sandals - his ankle was just too swollen to fit inside his boot. Fortunately there was not too much snow and recent footprints through it saw us quickly on the stony ridge. Once again we entered a weird landscape of stone and sand towards the summit, only today we couldn't see much, as the clouds sat stubbornly over the summit - it wasn't raining though.

Much of the descent was taken up with thoughts of the cooked meal awaiting us. The evening was yet another example of Japanese generosity. The food was lovely, the hut was warm, the host and hostess were incredibly kind and the day ended a lot more positively than it had started.

Senjo-dake (3033m - No.25)
Monday 28/05/01
Day 106 - 16km

The path we took up Senjo-dake went up the north ridge of the mountain, so about 80% of the path was covered in snow. There had also been a fall of about 2cm of snow overnight, so the mountain had a very wintry feel to it. Once again Tom was in sandals.

The views from the ridge were spectacular as we looked towards Kita-dake and the main ridge of the Southern Alps stretching southwards. We stopped at the summit for lunch and a spot of sun bathing.

Back at the hut the lady who ran the hut was shocked at the state of our feet, and kindly cleaned and bandaged them for us. She had been amazingly kind to us and saying bye wasn't easy as we set of down the valley out of the Southern Alps.

Tuesday 29/05/01
Day 107 - 27km

Back in civilization

After packing up our riverbank campsite we ate the remainder of our food and headed towards a village 12km away. Getting to a shop was a fantastic experience as we could buy food other than peanuts, biscuits and noodles!

We feasted in a bus shelter and then walked another 10km to a town where we proceeded to repeat the feasting.

After a pretty chilled days walking in the baking sun we found a campsite by a river in Ina city where we bought more food and checked the train times to Hikone city.

Wednesday 30/05/01
Day 108 - 12km

Whoa. we're going to Hikone

Weary and looking forward to good food and a break from the climbing, we scoffed an impressive array of biscuits, breadstuffs and hot chocolate to fuel our 12km walk to a little train stop near to the foot of the Chuo or Middle Alps.

By 10am we were sat on a bench awaiting the commencement of a 7-hour train journey back to Hikone to collect our alien registration and to take a break. We were well prepared with bags of crisps, nuts, fruit and 3.5 liters of the cheapest sake available, and beginning to feel quite relaxed and comfortable.

The journey became interesting at about the time Tom left the team wallet and train tickets on the train at our first change.

Picture for a moment a bearded man with ripped shorts and allover-engrained dirt, waving his arms above his head whilst running after the train.

So we went on a brief safari to collect the wallet and thus added another 2 hours to the journey. Tim our host met us at 7:30pm and led us back to his place where Cat had prepared a mountain of curry for us - it is so good to be back with friends in civilization.

Thursday 31/05/01
Day 109 - 500 meters!

Legal aliens. It's that easy

It hadn't been a dream, we woke up on Tim's tatami, and as he went to work we pressed play on the video player and became engrossed in Willow. We had only to stride 500 meters to the town office to pick up our alien registration, 'what would be the difficulty this time' I wondered to myself.

After some finger pointing and stareing by the clerk (probably provoked more by the huge size of my curly wig than anything else!) we were handed our lovely pink cards. No questions. No charges. Just a little pink card each.

Registration had proved to be far more difficult than we ever thought it would be but now it is finished, at least until October anyway!

A spot of email sapped the rest of the day away and the evening was spent preparing and eating Oconomiyaki, which is a kind of glorified omelet. Again Cat's cooking was highly responsible for a fine feeling of satisfaction and a point blank refusal by everyone to do anything more than simply digest food and enjoy good company.

The hospitality and support of people like Tim, Lynne and Cat whom we have met on this trek has undoubtedly helped us to feel that we can achieve the goals we have set here. Thanks again to all the people who have taken us in and shown us love and kindness, you are in our thoughts and prayers.

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