• Nick

Another weekend - another mountain...

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

...Well not quite, but we did get our first summit under our belts. It was a great feeling after the disappointment of our first attempt many months ago. Poor fitness, a late start, and encroaching darkness and cold saw us abandon our climb to the summit of Mt Oyama with about 200m to go. Not so this time. We packed up the bike the night before, got up early and hit the road. By 8am we had unpacked the bike and secured it in a covered carpark at the foot of Mt Mitake. From there we caught the cable car up to a small village with plenty of Japanese style Inns and Cafes, and is also where we booked our accommodation. A lovely family run Japanese style Inn that was perfect as a base to leave our gear while we set off on our hike.

Bike unloaded and secure in covered parking - The cable car ride from the carpark up to the village - Deserted streets, partly because of the impending rain, and also reduced tourism due to covid19.

We were far better prepared this time around. Our fitness levels much improved, and plenty of food and hydration for the long day ahead of us. After checking in and leaving our food and alcohol for the evening, as well as other items not needed for the hike, we hit the trails. Actually, the trail starts with a steep road and and even steeper stair climb for about 100m. Warm up complete, we were on our way with no real decision made as to which of the various peaks we were going to conquer.

Nothing like a 100m stairway to warm you up for a mountain hike - Bemused children wondering why the crazy Gaijin lady was going 'that way' - What the trail was like 'that way'

As we made our way along we came to an ominous looking fork with the easy path gently sloping up and the narrow spooky Red Riding Hood path promising cascading waterfalls and abundant photo ops. I can tell you the detour was a thigh killer. An extremely challenging descent requiring ropes and chains as we clambered over roots and rocks down to a beautiful, but a bit of an anticlimax, trickle of a stream. We departed that spot knowing what we had just descended into, now needed to be climbed out of. We actually did really well and after an hour of toil we reached a lovely clearing set up as a rest area where others like ourselves had stopped for food and drink. After woofing down some of Pania's home made bacon and egg slice, assorted nuts, and Turkey Jerky, we were ready to hit the trails once again. For the first little while, the hiking was quite easy and we made the ridgeline where we could choose between two peaks. We were feeling pretty good and for better or worse decided upon the higher of the two, Mt Odake.

Although challenging, the trails were clearly marked and well signposted,

and the location is absolutely stunning.

Now I have a philosophy with motorcycling, that the ride is more about the journey than the destination. It's in my blood, and in my mind the most fun you can have with your pants on. Not so much with hiking. Yes the mini achievements along the trail, the time spent with those you are with, the scenery and tranquility and sounds of the mountain forest... but it's more about the destination for me. Hiking is hours of slog on old and worn out complaining knees, back pain, cramp, insect bites etc. The destination brings a sense of accomplishment, relief, and a shared camaraderie with those you meet at the summit. It's the amazing views to the valleys, rivers and towns below. It's the best tasting bacon and egg slice snack in the history of the world. And for a brief moment all the aches and pains fade away. And after a short period of elation, it's the trail down and the complaining joints of an ex rugby player reminding me I need to pop a few voltarin when we get back.

Challenging crossings - Well marked trails - A view from the top

About 200m from the end of our hike, just before reaching the village the weather closed in on us. Rain, thunder, lightning and hail with such intensity and abruptness. We ducked into a little ramshackle cafe on the edge of the forest and rode the storm out sipping chilled sake while the old Japanese gentleman proprietor regaled us of his international travels in barely legible English. I think i would have had a better understanding if we had been speaking Japanese. He was a top bloke though, offering plastic hoods to the dozen or so Japanese folk and their kids tramping with no wet weather gear even though storms had been forecast from mid day.

You can see Pania's little waterfall detour loop on the way up to Mt Odake.

Note: the top of the image was the start and finish.

As the rain subsided after about 30 minutes, we bid him fare well, and after much bowing and salutations we carried on to our accommodation. Komadori-Sanso. Super friendly service and a traditional style room with spectacular views across the valley. We brought our own food and alcohol to keep costs down and also so we could manage what we eat and drink better. We are still trying to get our weight down so feasting out on the copious amounts of rice these places serve would not have been helpful. They even doubled up the sleeping futons so a comfy nights sleep was had, although we were both so exhausted we probably would have slept through an alien invasion.

A few shots of our room and the view from our balcony - Well earned Lemon Chuhai

And any thoughts we might have had of a second climb the next day quickly diminished with us both waking up to sore legs and bodies. We did wander around the village and climb the stairs to the Mitake Shrine which is only 550m from where we stayed, but 400m of that is stairs. Yes, that's basically a 400m mountain side staircase. Well worth the effort though, and after a wander around we decided to head back to our room, pack up our things and make our way back to the bike and home.

Steps leading up to Mitake Shrine

Another adventure and more wonderful memories and experiences. We are already planning a day trip back to Mt Oyama this weekend to take care of unfinished business. No messing about with the train. We will get there early on the bike and plan to make the summit by lunchtime. Hopefully my poor old knees are right by then. Stand by for a report on that trip. Ja matta!

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