Instead of the yari hike that we had planned for, we did a traverse of part of the 多摩秩父甲斐 national forest.
Day 1 (travel day)
Took a 10:30 (kaiji) out of Shinjuku to Enzan (塩山) station. We got there about an hour and a half before our bus and so we had time to send Mark's bag along to the ryokan and grab a bite to eat. After a very nice meal we bought some beers and waited for the bus. We boarded a near-empty bus and proceeded to the end of the line. This bus, it turned out, didn't go the full route, so we had to switch to a different one. We arrived at the campground (西沢渓谷) around 3 pm and settled in. It's a fairly nice caping area with ramshackle bungalows and covered bbq areas. There was one other party two middle-aged women and a middle-aged man, but other than them we had the place to ourselves.
We headed out around 7:45. An hour or so into the hike we came to a river with a small dammed portion.
We took a short rest there and then started climbing in earnest. Like most first days in the mountains, we climbed basically all day. There were some nice stretches of gradual incline, but much of it felt like climbing a ladder with a load on your back. One great thing about this trail is that the entire day was spent below tree line. The shade and heat-sinking effect of the stands of trees made the hard climbing more tolerable than had we been on an exposed face. We arrived at 甲武信小屋 at about 3:00 on Saturday.
The night was a bit rough. A thunderstorm raged for a few hours after we hit the rack and there were a few strikes that had me jumping in my sleeping bag. It also rained on us a bit overnight, but not enough to cause any problems with wetness.
We headed out again around 8:00. Surveying the map, we knew that the day would be a climb (up to 甲武信岳),
then down about 300 meters, up 300 (to 国師ヶ岳),
and then down again to 大弛. This day also was almost entirely under tree cover and therefore mercifully cool. We made good time and stuck more or less to a strategy of climbing for an hour at a time with breaks in between.
Upon arriving at the 小屋/campground we had curry, then udon and beers.
The next morning we got a special treat (hamburg meal) that wouldn't be on the menu for a few more days.
After another day (mostly ridging) we made it to 富士見平小屋. Our final stop for the trip. We were lucky in that they had on offer some udon with mushrooms picked from the surrounding mountains.
The tent sites were also mostly empty, so we could spread out and dry our funky clothes.
The next morning we headed out for 瑞牆山 (without packs). What a joy to hike unencumbered! A more eloquent man would certainly write a sonnet or ode to that day for it was truly glorious and eye-opening. We all agreed that there need be more hikes in our future that don't engender sympathy for pack mules. Also, the reduced effort gave us more opportunities to take pictures.
After coming back down from 瑞牆山, we waved a last goodbye to the fine folks in the 小屋.
Why climb mountains? I climb because I want to climb; surely it’s a good enough reason to climb if one is moved to do so by some irrepressible instinct of the spirit. And if it’s objected that this is just like drinking, even though you know it’s bad for you, because you can’t help it, then so be it. For we climb mountains because we believe climbing mountains is good. Mountain climbers may from time to time compare climbing to a boozer’s drink or a smoker’s cigarettes but this is, in reality, quite absurd. If mountaineering is about gaining knowledge and hence solace from nature, then surely the most knowledge and the highest degree of solace is gained from solo mountaineering. This is because, if you have a companion with you, you sometimes forget to look at the mountains whereas, when you wander through the hills and valleys alone, no stick or stone can fail to captivate your heart. Or, if mountaineering is about doing battle with nature and prevailing, and gaining solace that way, then surely the battle and the solace thereafter are that much more intense when you are alone, counting on nobody but yourself. Rock-climbing is entirely different when climbing alone than it is when somebody else is looking on.
Ish has had to opt out of the hike this year. A few days back, Mark was struck ill and rushed to the hospital. He's been on pain meds ever since and as such is iffy at best for a trip to the mountains on Friday. I may be facing a week in the mountains alone.
When Mark was here last we did the breakdown of hours for this year's trip to Yari. It's gonna be our longest one yet at 8 days, and it begs some serious strategic thinking. We have a lot of options, I learned on the train ride in, as there are both huts and camping facilities at each of our planned stopping points. The next step is to consult the mountaineering guide (山の便利帳) from the January issue of 山と渓谷. We'll be looking for places with certain plusses, such as: showers, private rooms, drying rooms, etc.
Ish, Mark and I have been planning a trip for the weekend of the 18th. We were hoping to bag another 名山 with our current level of gear, but the cold wind that's been hitting Japan over the last few weeks has covered the mountains with snow. Both 雲取山 and 大菩薩 will require アイゼン if not the purchase of better gloves and/or other insulating layers.