Day 202 - 40 km
Tokyo's gone man...solid gone
- I woke up feeling ill, my sore throat of the night before had
developed into a minging infection and my head is banging.
As we set off we are passed by hordes of children
on their way to school...on a Saturday? Apparently school always
starts on the 1st of September after summer hols, regardless of
the day...I would revolt!
We did some shopping in the 7-11 bin and the
supermarket for our day off tomorrow, and then I found a knackered
bike. I was feeling pretty grotty with my throat and head but
perk up once I get my new found toy on the road! It is rusty and
too small, but great fun all the same. Paul had a wee go but Tom
couldn't be persuaded.
Evening came and brought with it a pure stunning
sunset, photographs won't do it justice and so I sat down to write
a poem in the hope that words will record what I see in a better
way. I felt too ill to carry on walking past 7pm and camp alone
with the promise to come and find the boys tomorrow.
Sunday 2nd September
Day off below Mt. Tskuba
Ben - I stayed in bed until 8:30 am then headed
out to find the lads. With help from some locals (and very poor
Japanese on my part) and a call from Paul I find the camp by a
wide and heavily silted river, sporting a great view of our next
mountain. I must be honest and tell you that my day pretty much
ended there at 11am! My infection had exhausted me and I slept
all day. Paul and Tom both wrote journals and read a bit. Tom
also had a crack at fishing the river, but that ended abruptly
as he sank thigh deep in mud and struggled to reclaim his AWOL
Mt. Tskuba (877m - Mt No.65)
Monday 3rd September
204 - 27 km
Tom - Ben didn't feel much better in the morning
so we took it fairly easy up the mountain. On the ascent we passed
some Shinto priests banging drums in time with the infernal screeching
of the cicadas. This is the smallest of the Hyakumeizan and posed
The afternoon was passed walking north, the
stretch of road was dull and we did some filming to try and capture
the monotony we have to cope with at times. We stopped early and
spent the afternoon skimming pebbles and swimming.
Tuesday 4th September
Day 205 - 42 km
Good haul at Save On!
Tom - We woke to the sound of rain on the flysheet.
After walking 10 km's we took a quick toilet break at a 24 hour
convenience store called 'Save On'. I checked the bins and found
a full bag of pack lunch, onigiri (rice balls), pastries and mochi.
Needless to say we took it, stocked our packs with free food and
reduced the amount of garbage going into Japanese land fill sites...
Just call us 'Eco Warriors'!
Once again our day was spent trudging boring
roads, Paul and I popped in to buy Ben a birthday present and
call AAR to tell them we would be in Gunma Prefecture for the
next week, ( AAR will be contacting local press for us). We were
all wasted by the end of the day, and a flat patch in an orchard
made a great campsite.
Wednesday 5th September
Day 206 - 40 km
Ben Birthday Boy
Paul - Tom and I sang Ben awake at 5:30 am with
a harmonious rendition of Happy Birthday. Chuffed with his bottle
of whisky, Ben stated that the only way the morning could have
started better was if we had let him sleep in - never thought
midday we'd finally left the Kanto plain behind, cleared up yet
another haul of discarded food (well it would have been rude not
to, it being Ben's B-day and all) and finally been visible enough
for the poor reporter from a local Gunma paper to find us on the
road as we walked. A strange interview was conducted standing
by the fella's car, but he was interested and took an extravagant
amount of photographs as we walked.
Evening found us back in the hills camped across
the septic tank for some roads side bogs. There were phones handy
to contact parents and once you had got used to the cabbage smell
this was a decent, flat camp! 'Bin retrieved pre packed meals'
(actually quite tasty) for dinner, we know how to give someone
a b-day to remember.
Akagi - Yama (1828m - Mt No.66)
Thursday 6th September
Day 207 - 16 km
- The 'cold - sore - throat - banging head' bug that had been
plaguing Ben for the past week enveloped him again today, but
such trifles only slow Ben down, they never stop him. Consequently
we had broken through a misty layer of cloud and were sat on the
summit (or stood tanning ones buttocks if your name is Ben) of
mountain 66 in the sun.
Akagi rises steeply from a high and beautiful
mountain lake, the summit is 1000 vertical metres higher than
Mount Tskuba (mt. 65) but the actual off road climb is shorter
- the madness of Japan's high mountain roads. It was beautiful
on the summit looking out over a sea of cloud but our food was
back down on the road so we hurried down. Ben was not really in
a good way at the bottom of the hill so we decided to call it
a day and camped right on the shore of the Lake.
I had left a bright blue stuff sac (containing
the flysheet for the two man tent) at the edge of the road to
guide Tom (who had taken a bath in some far flung corner of the
lake) to the camp. Thinking no more about it I left Ben in peace
to sleep and sat writing my log book in the temple grounds enjoying
the peace that seems to surround Japanese temples.
Returning to camp as the mist rolled in across
the lake and the temperature plummited, I found Tom present who
had got to camp without seeing the stuff sac. We leave our back
packs every where, we've had our one thousand pound video camera
returned to us in the centre of Tokyo when we tried to leave it
some where, but for some reason our flysheet got moved. Two hours
of searching proved fruitless, and so we went to bed hoping that
someone had turned it into the tourist office, and I had a lot
of 'if only's' running through my head.
Friday 7th September
Day 208 - 35 km
Fly sheet wa doko deka?
Ben - Tom left camp as the shops began opening
and spoke to everyone he could find to try and locate the missing
and vital piece of our tent. Last night it had begun to rain,
I was fine in the one man tent but Tom and Paul lay in a leaking
tent until Paul retreated to the floor of the public toilets leaving
Tom to tough out the rain. Me and Paul scanned maps and our list
of local teachers to try and recruit help, there was just one
person in the close vicinity who could help, one Mary Feeney.
Tom's search turned up one big fat nothing so we pinned hopes
on Mary and Danielle who would have to send my spare tent to us.
Coincidence, fate or act of God - late in the
afternoon, as we were walking, a car pulled over...I had a bizarre
feeling and after a wee while summoned the courage to say "Hello
Mary!" The freaked out look that the driver of the car gave
me confirmed my suspicion that this was indeed the very same Mary
Feeney we were hoping to enrole as problem solver of the week.
We were invited into the nearby garage to continue
our seemingly chance meeting with added hospitality by the owner
who had read about us in the paper. We were served green teas
and given free reign of the phone to sort out what to do. I called
Danielle and arranged for her to personally deliver the tent to
Mary's house that night, and join us for the next mountain day.
So we walked on to buy food before heading to Mary's village.
At the supermarket we received celebrity treatment from the owner
who had read about us, she gave us so much fantastic stuff to
eat and drink and told all her customers who we were. We ate before
walking into Katashina late at night and talked with our host
and with Dan until the wee small hours.
Mary - I was driving in the pouring rain when
I spotted three foreign men with very large packs plodding up
the mountain road to my village. I was both shocked and excited
to see them. I never see foreigners in my rural village, let alone
hikers! I turned my car around to offer them a dry escape from
the rain. Thus entered Paul, Ben and Tom into my life.
After a short 5 minutes we found ourselves in
a petrol station sipping green tea and planning tomorrow's hike.
Of course they could not accept a free ride to their next destination,
but I could offer them warm showers, dry futons, and company on
a hike. I was so excited to have the company of three English
speaking hikers. My life in Japan has consisted of a lot of solohiking.
Shirane San 2578 m No.67
Saturday 8th September
Day 209 - 12.5 km
Ben - I had almost forgot that it was possible
to feel relaxed on a mountain.
course spending time with my lady and getting to know Mary is
ace but the day became more of an excursion as we talked all the
way up and stopped to chat to Japanese climbers and munch snacks
in scenic spots. My focus on the hill turned from one of speed
and distance to one of enjoyment of the present company, this
is certainly one of the factors that I miss in our general Japanese
climbing experience. We rounded off the day with a trip to the
Onsen (public hot spring bath) in Mary's village, a meal, and
some late birthday present opening as Danielle had brought some
surprises with her...hurray!
Mary - Today we all climbed Mt. Shirane. It
was a wonderful hike as we took our time and enjoyed the company.
We talked about everything and anything. Once at the top Tom,
Paul and I took an alternate route down and stopped at a lovely
lake. This was a nice treat, as it was too cloudy to get a view
from the summit of the mountain.
Sunday 9th September
Lazing on a Sunday afternoon
Tom - Mary was up at the crack of dawn to take
a group of 30 English teachers up a local mountain. It was raining
and none of us envied her task, or indeed thought to help! We
spent the day relaxing in her apartment, caught up with diary
writing, listened to music and watched T.V. We expected Mary back
at 3 pm but the hike took longer than expected and she rolled
in at 7:30, next on her list was a drive to the station to get
Dan to her train in time for teaching tomorrow. The girl is unstoppable!
Mary - Today I left three men, who have already
hiked some 70 mountains in Japan, in a deep slumber in my apartment
as I head off to lead 30 people on a hike up Mt Hotaka. The irony
of this situation is uncanny. I returned home after dark, both
wet and tired, to three very refreshed, and clean guests. I suppose
letting them take a day off was good for them, me, and my apartment
(which had begun to take on the scent of rotten socks).
Mt. Sugai (2144 m - Mt No.68)
Monday 10th September
Day 211 - 50 km
Rockfalls, landslides and raging torrents
Tom - During the night the second serious typhoon
of the walk hit. We awoke to the sound of wind rattling the windows
and the rain hammering the roof. On Friday we had been warned
that the road to Mt. Sugai was closed and dangerous. We have heard
many wellmeaning Japanese warn us of many various perils only
to find mountains/roads safe. We therefore decided to tackle the
road and mountain despite the weather.
We had a long walk in on a very basic road.
We were nearly hit by a rockfall and Ben nearly fell into a steep
gorge as the ground beneath him gave way - he was checking out
a way across a section of road that had been almost entirely taken
out by a landslide.
We reached the trail head after a 22 km walk.
The rain was still coming down by the bucket load and the map
indicated we would have to ford a fairly large river to get to
the peak. We formed a triangle with our arms around each others'
shoulders and edged our way across. The water was up to mid thigh,
had any of us slipped we would have been swept over a series of
20 foot weirs and sustained serious injuries or worse...
on the other side Paul commented, "the river should have
risen by the time we get back down...". The rest of the climb
involved a series of smaller river crossings and an easy climb
up a 30 metre waterfall. We reached the peak at 1:15, took a quick
proof shot, ate some soggy sandwiches and headed back down asap.
Back at the main river crossing we found the
water level had risen and after two attempts sought alternative
methods of getting back to the road. We decided to climb over
a steep sided spur that would hopefully put us near the road.
Going up was no problem but coming down was slippery and Paul
had started a small mud slide. Then a short bush whack lead to
the road where Ben and I did a spontaneous celebratory dance.
This mountain would be a doddle in good conditions
but had been positively life threatening today.
The walk out was a lot quicker than the way
in. We found a fixed rope over the landslide section of road.
It was dark when we got back to the village. Back at Mary's house
we were met by a group of concerned teachers. They had read about
us in the paper and had been checking our webpage with Mary. After
signing some autographs (no joke!) We showered and began cooking,
and Mary returned introducing a friend of hers called Summer (or
was it Honey?!) Who had been praying for us over the past few
months. The 5 of us chatted into the wee hours. It was 5am before
we finally settled down to a well deserved sleep.
Mary - Early this morning I said farewell to
the guys as they headed to climb Mt. Sukai. This was a very long
day of worrying. The most powerful typhoon to hit Gunma in the
last decade was gushing rain upon us all day. Everyone at my school
was worried about the guys. At first I tried to ignore their comments,
as Japanese people tend to excessively worry about safety, but
when 7:30pm rolled around and my volleyball practice was being
interrupted by rain coming through the gym roof, I began to wonder
if they would make it back safely. But of course, at 10pm, I returned
home, this time to three clean, smiling, and very tired hikers.
Day 212 - 31km
Rain, Rain go away
Paul - The most exciting thing that happened
today was that all of us including Mary - got a lie in. 50 km
and 13 hours in the rain had left us a little weary, and as the
typhoon was still depositing enough rain to close Mary's school
for the day, none of us was enthused to bounce out of bed and
The rain stopped just long enough for Mary to
walk us to the edge of Katashina's sprawling boundaries. As she
departed us at a run (for our benefit she had walked the first
half of her usual run) the rain started falling again, and with
it so did my spirits.
was still raining at 4pm when we stopped for lunch, after climbing
up what should have been a beautiful mountain road but was a virtual
river in places. Cold and wet we huddled in some public toilets
and warmed ourselves with hot soup and noodles.
thankfully the typhoon gave up its grip, and as we cleared the
mountain pass we were presented with a majestic and moody view
into a somewhat Scottish looking valley on the other side. We
camped right on a path within a copice of trees, which afforded
us some shelter from the winds hurrying over the nearby lake.
Nantai San (2484m - Mt No. 69)
Wednesday 12th September
Day 213 - 32.5 km
- Marvelling at how green the lake water we had used for our cooking
was we wandered happily towards mountain number 69, with the sun
on our back for the first time in a long time.
A 12 foot Samurai sword clamped 'King Arthur'
style in to the rock and a fierce looking warrior with mad hairdo
awaited us on Dantai's exposed volcanic summit. We sat in the
sun but the swirling clouds below hid the valley from view. Dear
Konno, our man in AAR who works tirelessly to interest the media
in our little walk, made up for the lack of view when he informed
us of a glossy magazine interview. Japan's Mountain and Valley
(Yamma to Kekoku) outdoor mag with 200,000 readers wanted to join
us on a mountain day!
I think I have only seen brighter stars on bitterly
cold nights in Scotland. With the rain gone we decided to put
our Snugpak sleeping bags comfort claims to the test and slept
out, with a low temperature of about 3 degrees we all slept well
and were all the more impressed with our Snugpak's. Camping to
my mind is so much more fun when it's not raining.
Thursday 13th September
Day 214 - 40.5 km
Just passing through
Ben - It is certainly getting a lot cooler,
I think we may need some of our winter clothing soon. We could
see our breath this morning as we ate breakfast in our shorts
(the only clothing I have really). My ankle was sore today and
was I generally in a bad mood due to the constant dull pain as
I walked...just weary I think. The road to Katashina is longer
and steeper than I remember it to be, and we stop to buy supplies
once in the village. No time to see Mary but we leave her a written
invitation to join us on the hill tomorrow.
Later that evening we got a call to say we would
indeed have another body joining us on Shibutsu San the next day,
we are always glad of company and a chance to tell our old stories
to a new person, we were even happier to have the chance to get
to know Miss Feeney better.
Shibutsu San (2228m - Mt No.70)
Friday 14th September
Day 215 - 24 km
Ben - Yet again this morning I am struggling
with my mood and my ankles, this is made worse by the cannibalistic
wee beasties that are chewing on my flesh and drinking my blood.
However my tent mate, Tom, is in a fine bouncy and inspiring mood
that is really quite infectious. When Mary arrived with milk and
fruit my conversion to a young and fun to be with person was complete.
As we climbed views came off and on and the
path lead to an open and rocky ridge. Plans that Paul and I were
making for a climbing trip back in the UK inspired me to solo
a lovely route up a 18 metre rock face near the summit.
I rejoined the guys they were chatting to a large group who had
photographs with us and were full of encouragement. Although strange
it is great to be meeting so many people who have heard about
us and are inspired to think deeper about landmines and what they
Once off the hill we headed for the trail of
the next mountain and after that returned to Mary's house for
showers and an early night.
Mary - Today I was able to take some time off
work to meet up with the guys for a hike up Mt. Shibitsu. Once
again, I was ecstatic to have some conversation as I hiked. Ben
was his playful self and managed to cut himself up nicely on a
few rocks. At the top I was able to see how they are able to share
information about Adopt-A-Landmine and AAR Japan as Tom talked
to a group of hikers from Osaka.
Hotaka-yama (2158m - Mt No.71)
Saturday 15th September
Day 216 - 33 km
Tom - As promised, Mary got us out of the house
by 6:30 am. We piled into her car, which had taken on the rather
pungent aroma of sweaty feet! Once at the trailhead we spent about
an hour looking for the route, (we had left a detailed map of
the area behind!). We reached the top at 1pm and gave out some
fliers to some folks there.
The route down was steep but I had bags of energy
so ran on ahead to get some film. Once at the bottom Mary and
Paul hitched to the car and Ben and I walked on towards the next
peak. A couple of hours later Mary and Paul re-joined us to give
us our packs that we had left in the car. Our plan had been to
camp but Mary's awesome generosity shone through. She offered
to drive us back to hers and drop us off again on Sunday evening.
We jumped at the offer and on the way back picked up a video (Billy
Elliot) and some beers.
Mary - Although Tom is too kind to mention this
in his diary entry, we walked a 6 kilometer loop before finding
our trail because I left the map at my apartment. Silly me had
thought it was in the car, and never bothered to double check.
They were all very good natured about the whole thing and said
they make these types of mistakes all the time. But still, I felt
just awful for making them walk around like wandering ants.
Once we were finished on My Hotaka (my second
time in one week), Paul and I thumbed a ride back to my car. Our
first lift was provided by a cute Japanese couple who were returning
home from their "driving date". He seemed keen to show
off his nice car, and stealth driving skills. Our second lift
was a family on vacation.
Unbeknownst to Paul, the two teenage girls were
giggling and swooning about him the entire way. Being with Paul
for the last week I have overheard numerous Japanese comments
about how cool, handsome, and cute he is. I suppose these are
statements that Tom has neglected to translate for him.
Sunday 16th September
Dinner party under a bridge
Tom - Today provided me with the opportunity
to go to church so I set off with Summer (one of Mary's friends)
who is a regular attendant. The service lasted from 10:30 to 14:30,
and consisted of: prayer, praise, a talk, lunch and Sunday school
(where a 5 year old taught me how to a make a paper crane). It
was great to have fellowship with the church, who generously donated
money for our fund raising efforts, and with Summer. She is a
truly beautiful person inside and out.
Mary and the guys met me at 14:30. They had
spent the morning resting and writing diary updates. We had offered
to cook a camp meal for Mary so we made a quick stop to get provisions.
After chilling in the sun and playing in a kiddies playground
we went to an onsen (hot spring). Feeling refreshed we headed
back to the drop off point.
On the way back it started to rain so we found
a relatively flat spot under a bridge and started to cook up a
pasta dinner. It was great to share a bit of our usual impoverished
existence with Mary so she could fully realise how much her generosity
meant to us. After a time of prayer we said our goodbyes and watched
Mary drive off into the rain.
Mary - Ahh, a day of rest. Lounging around and
relaxing with Paul, Ben and Tom is almost as fun as hiking with
them. We went to a park to eat lunch and play. Then to a spa for
a dip in the hotsprings. Of course, as lazy days have a way of
passing too quickly, it was suddenly dark. So we headed back to
camp where Ben made us a lovely dinner.
It was a wonderful meal, but I spent most of
the evening dreading the goodbye that was looming ahead of us.
It seemed like I was saying farewell to lifelong friends, and
not three men I had met in the drizzing rain a week before. I
suppose this is just a small indication of how many lives Ben,
Paul and Tom have touched both here in Japan, and throughout the
Tanigawa - dake (1963m - Mt No.72)
Monday 17th September
Day 218 - 20 km
- So we will be in next month's issue of Yama to Kekoku. A strange
interview, Atsuko and Toru spent all morning with us climbing
up to half way, but didn't ask any structured questions. I'm not
sure what they are going to put in the article! For any one who
is in Japan and is interested to find out what they wrote the
article is in the November issue out about the 15th October.
We left them after lunch to finish the striking
ridge that we were on. The rocky ridge wound its way into a seemingly
ever-present roof of cloud that sits on all of the summits, and
that was the direction we were headed. Tom decided that to prove
our strength we should blast away from Atsuko and Toru in a cloud
of loose rock and dust. Unfortunately he overlooked telling Ben
and I of his brainchild so instead of a strong unit of three rapidly
ascending into the mist, Toru's final pictures will capture a
lone figure sprinting ahead of a steadily moving duo. Sad but
mountain that swept up from the valley has a distinctly Scottish
look to it once above the tree line. It also sports the biggest
rock wall in Japan which is thought to have claimed more Climber's
lives than any other. It should have been a thrilling walk along
a rocky ridge, but once again after a cloudy proof shot we didn't
see anything of the reputedly stunning views.
After the main ridge to the summit we wound
our way along another ridge through thick bamboo grass until well
after dark. Mist aside, it was a great day in the hills. To top
it off we got free water from a paying mountain hut (usually they
charge extortionate amounts) and found an emergency hut to sleep
in. I was so glad to get out of the mist that was almost claustrophobic
as the world narrowed to the hazy beam of my head torch.
Makihata - yama (1967m - Mt No. 73)
Tuesday 18th September
Day 219 - 39 km
Paul - The trail for today's peak began just
off the back of the ridge we had spent most of yesterday on. At
10 am ish we were readying ourselves below the imposing steep
sided, forested slopes that seemed topless due to the cloud. Sweaty
steep climbing brought us through the trees to a grassy slope
reminiscent of the Lake District. At times the cloud would break
allowing glimpses of the scar-like paths that were above us.
and unmarked we walked straight past the Hykumeizan peak and on
to a further peak, the summit sign of which pointed out the era
of our ways. Konno phoned as we back tracked, informing us of
another magazine that want to run a story on us, the ball keeps
Back at our packs we washed our socks (that
truly smelt of death) with an audience of an old guy on a scooter,
then headed to the valley and civilisation. We had hoped to hit
town in time to shop so as to avoid hanging around in the morning.
We scurried around following various directions for various supermarkets,
all of which were shut. Tired and kranky we managed to beat a
young couple to a bench in the darkest corner of a park where
we cooked and slept.
Wednesday 19th September
Day 220 - 23 km
Ben - What an arbitrary time to open a supermarket...I
could understand it if it was a Sunday...Anyway we arrive as it
opens and buy up supplies for the next 5 days in the hills. It
has been a while since we spent a decent amount of time in the
mountains and I'm looking forward to it.
We had hoped to make the summit of Kuma-ga-take
by tonight but the late start coupled with the discovery of the
ultimate campsite changed our plans for the better. A two storey
building complete with: toilets, French windows and a balcony
awaited us. By all accounts a public building, jolly good show
old bean. The story gets better, our holiday home looked over
a river with a natural swimming pool and what is more there were
some great big boulders!
I donned my climbing slippers, inspired by
Tom's bare footed ascents and began climbing. I spied Paul skinny
dipping and before i knew it the exhibitionist deep within me
had removed all my clothes, leaving only my rock shoes and chalk
bag! The sight can and I'm sure will be seen by many due to Paul's
opportunistic filming, however the scene only really becomes complete
with the knowledge that Paul himself was completely starkers!
Kuma - ga - take Bear Peak (2003m - Mt
Thursday 20th September
Day 221 - 25 km
- Those of you who know me may also know my fixation with Bears,
I love the roving and powerful character they conjure in my mind.
This is one of the reasons for my excitement of this mountain
called Bear peak. The 1,500 metre climb was straight up a steep
spur, for the first time since getting ill about three weeks ago
I felt full of energy. If it wasn't for sore ankles I think I
could have run up this mountain.
the spur joined the ridge I stopped to make a quick sketch. The
aeroplane-type view that now spanned the distance between us and
the nearest mountains was made by the meadow of cloud that had
grown beneath us. The views soon disappeared, confined to memory
and a bad sketch, as cloud rolled over the peak. Soon after, rain
chased us off the mountain and we headed for the next. We had
heard about a free onsen somewhere on this deserted road and relished
in the discovery of it at the end of a great day.
Friday 21st September
Day 222 - 40.5 km
the Kringe it's cold!
Tom - The morning was spent plodding around
a reservoir and its numerous bays and headlands. The route could
easily have been halved if a few bridges and tunnels had been
built, 'but hey, every kilometer is extra money for the charities'.
We reached the trail head for Hira - ga - take at 14:00 and decided
to dump as much unnecessary kit (fishing rod, sandals etc.) as
possible and head quickly up for a high camp.
The climb would have been beautiful if clouds
hadn't completely obscured the view. We reached a plateau at 18:00
and made camp. I was bitterly cold and found myself using a 'Paul
Briffaism' By the Kringe it's cold! We put on all the dry clothing
we had and crawled into our Snugpaks.
Hira - ga - take (2141m - Mt No. 75)
Saturday 22nd September
223 - 26 km
Tom - We woke to find the zips on the tent frozen
shut and icicles hanging four inches inside from the condensation.
During the night we had heard strange noises
coming from Paul in the one man tent. Further enquiry revealed
that he had had to do an exercise routine to keep warm.
reached the peak at 7:30. During the descent the sun broke through
the clouds and gave a lovely view of the ridge and surrounding
peaks. By the time we reached the bottom I was sweating and it
was hot enough to put our kit out to dry.
We spent the afternoon walking to Hiro - ga
- take, which we reached at about 15:30. The temperature had dropped
again and we still had a 4 - 5 hour climb ahead of us. On top
of this Ben had twisted his ankle earlier in the day. With these
factors we decided to camp in an enormous car park. After writing
the log and eating we settled down to an early night in preparation
for an early start in the morning.
Hiro - ga - take (2356m - Mt No. 76)
Aizu Koma ga take (2133m - Mt No. 77)
Sunday 23rd September
Day 224 - 26 km
- Our interrupted sleep was due not only to the icy cold weather
but also to the masses of people noisily awaiting daybreak to
climb the mountain. Up at 4:30 and climbing by 6:00, we looked
positively ill equipped in comparison to the other people on the
hill as we charged up, fleeces tied around waists, and a plastic
carrier bag for our water bottles. We passed what seemed like
hundreds of Japanese climbers most of whom were hauling huge packs
- I do wonder what people take with them up the hills.
The views from the top at 8:15 were magnificent,
not a cloud in sight. As we looked around we could see for the
first time all of the mountains we had been climbing for the past
two weeks. We could even see a distant and snow capped Mount Fuji.
quick up and down of 'Hiro' took about four hours. We were spurred
on the whole time by continual remarks of 'Gambate' (keep going)
and 'Hiyai' (you're fast) from the other hikers we passed.
No sooner down and we were going up again. The
next mountain 'Aizu Koma ga take' is on the other side of the
valley and the last in this clump of twelve. We access the peak
by a gently rising five kilometre ridge that is bathed in the
last of the days sun. We look around and all we can see is beauty.
Views are not the only reason I climb mountains but having been
deprived of them for so long (by cloud) I'm reminded how inspiring
they can be.
We descended quickly, reaching the village at
the foot of the mountain as the sun sets. We sought the warmest
place possible in anticipation of another night below freezing...
....the toilets it is then!
Monday 24th September
Day 225 - 27km
Breaky in the bogs!
Ben - We can camp anywhere, it is a skill
you develop when you're knackered and don't care what people think
of you. It must be strange though to walk into a public toilet
and have an audience of three foreigners sit at your feet eating
porridge whilst peeing... One might even consider it perverted.
However we smile and engage in random chit chat and life carries
Winter is certainly on its way - at least
it felt that way until the sun rose high enough to fill the valley.
We have started a two day trek to mountain 78 but decided to make
a half day off the walking to catch up on internet entries. We
shop in a small village in southern Fukushima, and for the first
time I manage to explain in Japanese what we are doing and why
to the ladies in the shop.
Maybe it was my rugged yet handsome appearance (my hair continues
to grow wildly out of control and I have a beard in the making)
or perhaps we just looked desperate for some T.L.C. Whatever it
was, the ladies presented us with gifts of hot coffee, Nashi (Japanese
pears), apples and milk.
We walked on, Paul and Tom regaling climbing
stories from the book they are sharing. The team atmosphere is
buzzing, it is a rare thing but today I think what ever we might
have to do, we would do it well as a team.
Tuesday 25th September
Day 226 - 32.5km
- I woke really early to try and get a free wash at the rotemburo
(outdoor bath) next to where we had camped. I climbed over the
wall armed with a towel only to find the baths had been drained!
The rest of the morning was spent plodding along a road that
we had to ourselves due to an accident in a tunnel. During the
day we spoke to a number of people on the phone including Thom
- who told us our new sponsor Paramo (see sponsor's
page for details) had sent us some clothing, Mr. Konno from
AAR to tell us about 2 local newspapers who wanted to write about
the trek, Mr. Hattori, who had met us on Norikuradake and had
offered us a place to stay in Fukushima, and Mary, our awesome
host from Gunma.
Nasu-san (1917m - Mt No. 78)
Wednesday 26th September
Day 227 - 31km
- We walked up the road to a point where we could dump packs and
bag the peak. Ben's ankles that had been weak over the past week
or two were giving him a lot of trouble. The trail up to the peak
took us past a beautiful lake. After taking the proof shots on
the summit Ben headed off down and Paul and I waited for half
an hour to get a call from Mr. Konno about newspaper interviews.
Back at the bags we decided to call it a day and pitch on a flat
patch of grass. Unfortunately the ground was covered in spiky
chestnut husks which put small holes in one of the tent's ground
Thursday 27th September
Day 228 - 34km
Another Brush with the Law
Tom - We walked 10km to a station where we were supposed to be
interviewed only to be told by the lady who worked there that
it had been cancelled. We bought food for the day and set off
towards a city called Aizuwakomatsu where two newspapers had arranged
to meet us the following day.
The road walk was really boring and somehow we lost track of
the order we were walking in, so Paul and I were unsure if Ben
was in front or behind us
We stopped and he eventually caught up having stumbled on his
weak ankles and fallen into the road. By the evening we were all
exhausted and in need of sleep. We settled for a sheltered parking
area where we laid out our sleeping bags and cooked dinner.
We had been asleep for 30 minutes when a dog walker asked us
what we were doing. We explained and he wished us all the best.
5 minutes later he was back and persuading us to stay at his house.
as we were packing up the police arrived with flashing lights
and three officers jumped out demanding to know what we were doing
and wanting to see our passports. Our dog walking friend explained
that everything was all right as we were staying with him.
In the safety of his home we ate his wife's rice balls, chatted
and watched the news while the dog cowered in the corner. The
dog walker (we never learnt his name) told us of his travelling
experience and how this made him want to help us.
Friday 28th September
Day 229 - 32km
Shinbun Interviews Galore
Ben - Our first interview of the day was at 9:00am in a town
8 km's away. The lovely couple that took us in last night sped
us on our way with some more homemade onigiri.
I walked as fast as I possibly could so as not to be the reason
My ankles are ridiculous
I am struggling
to know what to do and constant pain makes me constantly think
what I should do.
get to the office of the Asahi Shimbun and have a great interview
but a terrible photo. We walk on to Bandai and the next interview
and the station. This interview was over quickly and we head on
to the mountain. On the way we receive a call from Mr Hattori
changing the plans for our meeting with him.
We have a team chat about what I should do, I am starting to
struggle to keep the pace and getting miserable with the pain
and not understanding the weakness in both ankles. I decide that
rest is the only real option that I have, and that the boys will
have to carry on in consideration of the fast approaching winter.
I will leave the lads after we have climbed Bandai San and stayed
with Mr Hattori.
Our friend Mr Hattori drove out to meet us with one of his pals
and also brought with him some parcels from our new sponsors Paramo
(see sponsor's page).
After organising the weekend plans Tom slipped into his Paramo
salopettes, mountain shirt and Jacket and danced like Billy Elliot
(Paul - all legs and hidden grace!). Also amongst the post was
a Mini Disk from my brother. I fell asleep to great music and
Eddie Izzard quotes.
Bandai-san (1819m- Mt No.79)
Saturday 29th September
Day 230 - 25.5km
Ben - I needed to get up two times to wee
First time I was naked and frozen by the time I got back to the
tent. Second time I was fully clothed but fell over due to my
ill functioning ankles.
climbed the mountain quickly and sat at the top in a frigid wind
chatting to three lads who work at Sharp and were pleased to see
that we had the best digital camera on the market (see sponsor's
page). On the way down a guy stopped and pointed at Paul and I,
"Norikura-dake?" he said.
We realised that this was one of the guys we had met at the same
time as Mr. Hattori in the Northern Alps. He took us into the
nearby hut where we drank beer and Meso (soup) and big fuss was
made by all. They showed us today's local paper and there was
that terrible photo.
returned to our bags and started the walk to our meeting place.
Once at Mr. Hattori's house we were party to a huge banquet of
sushi and KFC. We experienced a stunningly comfortable Japanese
table. Usually we are faced with the problem of dealing with dead
legs as we try to sit around the low dinner tables. Hattori's
was placed over a sunken, heated floor. A pleasure to sit at!
Sunday 30th September
Day off with Mitsugi Hattori
Ben - We were up early eating a traditional breakfast of salmon rice
and Meso in preparation for a day on the town. Mr. Hattori took
us to the opening ceremony of the Chrysanthemum Doll show. We
watched children marching bands, the coolest being a school playing
the Indiana Jones theme tune. Hattori-san took us for a traditional
Japanese lunch, an Onsen and to visit one of the houses that he
had built. After this we of course deserved another feast, which
is what Mrs Hattori had yet again prepared for us.