Time  one day 14 hours 51 minutes

Coordinates 2316

Uploaded April 20, 2015

Recorded April 2015

8,580 f
3,009 f
33.34 mi

Viewed 470 times, downloaded 4 times

near Ikawa, Shizuoka (Japan)

Grueling climb, aiming for Hijiridake, to give in to the weather conditions and stop a stone throw from the summit.

Take a 3-day course (summer time) go for it in snowy conditions, and squeeze the whole thing in 2 days and you have the perfect recipe for hard mountaineering and exhaustion.

It starts with a heavy pack (29 kg for mine) and a seemingly interminable forest road, of course we know it's 15 km, course time is around 4 hours. Yet since it's the fastest way to the summit and because we also know the weather is bad on day 2 and awful on day 3 we have no other choice.

After a boring 3.5 hours we reach the end of the road, the heavy load on our backs prevents us from being nimble and as overweight pachyderms we slowly make our way through the steep slopes for a few hundred meters. As it levels to a flat stretch we aimed for the ridge to follow up to the intersection with the East ridge (the original objective) yet the wind was howling fiercely even through the woods and we gave up the idea.

Now our plan was to reach Hijiri-daira hut via the valley. After some snow-free fast travel through traverses and flat stretches the trail became much steeper and snow appeared around 1700m, sporadically at first, then consistently around 1800m. After passing 2000m the level of snow was consistent and progress slow.

After a few easy traverses T-san fell and slid over 20 meters before coming to a stop. It was time to put on crampons, flip out ice axes and brace up for some more (a lot more) of these traverses, most of them more delicate to negotiate, some exposed (read as: you fall and no one would find your dead body ever gain).

At some point I decided we had had enough of traverses and tried following a ridge from which we could reach a small peak at 2300m before going down towards the hut. The wind got a bit stronger but we were well sheltered by the trees and progress was both faster and more secure. We got at least 30 meters higher than the peak and had to traverse again to get to another ridge and go down to the peak.

From there a short and quick downhill led us back to the GPS track, we were not far but it was getting dark and from there the vegetation was dense, we had to force our way through the bush, pushing branches on both sides. With a backpack wider and taller than oneself, it's not really an enjoyable task. When it as pitch dark I realized it may be much easier to walk directly in the stream, the water level was quite low and walking on the side, hoping on dry stones would be faster. Yet a layer of 1 meter or more of snow blocked the way at several points and I had to improvise a way to bypass these obstacles. We finally got to the hut at 19:40, 14 hours and 10 minutes after departure. What I thought would be a 7-hour stroll to the first camp turned out to be (at that time) my longest day in the mountains.

The winter hut was spacious and we could fit our tent in there. The perfect level of comfort one could thing of in winter: no wind, level surface, warm temperature, water nearby. We went to fetch some water and cooked dinner.

Day 2: 6 hours of sleep and we're up again. I fix my blisters from day 1 (due to using shoes way too warm for such a long day with warm temperatures) and we're on the slopes at 5:40 AM, it's already bright and the sun is above the horizon. I missed sunrise but it was cloudy so I had no expectations. I decide to go flat foot all the way on the uphill since front pointing was causing me pain. As long as the snow was hard enough that method worked wonderfully, it saved my legs and feet.

T-san decided to go back to the hut so I-san and I went to Ko-Hijiri, a 2662m peak just South of Mae-Hijiri (3013m). Around the summit on the most exposed face the wind reached 15 m/s. At this speed it's hard to breeze if the wind hits frontally but it doesn't cause one to lose balance. Time-wise we could have made it to the summit but we sensed it was just a matter of minutes before it disappeared in the clouds and the prospect of traversing under the rain was not really appealing, so we gave up the final ascent, returned to the hut briskly and packed the remaining of our stuff.

We now had to go back, do what we had done on day 1 the other way round, with slightly less weight to carry but under a threatening sky. WIth light it was much easier to manage the bushy part and we were soon climbing our way to the 2300m peak but it was already raining. The snow had softened and progressively it was becoming more sloshy, the long series of traverses was not appealing at all. Whenever we found our tracks from the day before it was relief but sometimes we could find a faster way to traverse or follow what seemed to be the trail. Yet we were relatively fast so we decided after passing all the technical parts than we could make it back to the car within the same day. It was around 3:30 PM when we reached the end of the trail and the start of the road.

Because it had rained for several hours and I didn't take any precautions to stay dry my feet we drenched, I removed as much water from my socks by squeezing them but it turned out bad, I had blisters at the front of the toes and at the hell and at the end also under my feet and repositioning the socks just made it awfully painful each time I set foot on the ground. I could barely drag my wet skin with my 25 kg pack and aching feet, but I had to do it for 15 km. For an hour or maybe less we were walking together but I was struggling to keep up. I was dropped when trying to fix my feet once more. From there adding to my plight solitude was factored in. It was not long before I started to shout at full strength in order to keep up my morale. The GPS indicated than my progress was ridiculous, the whole road would take 4 hours at the least.

As it grew dark things got worse, light reflectors deceived me when I switched on my head light, for a few seconds I thought it was the headlight of the guys walking in front of me, they were waiting for me… only they were not, the light I saw was just the reflection of my headlight. After than I saw cars, 2 or 3 parked on the side of the road. I could envision a second version of myself splitting from my body and that second version was setting off to destroy the f****** cars with the ice axes and large stones. I snapped back to reality and endured my pain, this time counting at full lungs until reaching 800 when I saw a bright pair of yellow eyes 5 meters away from me. Startled I kept shouting while realizing it was a kamoshika, the animal was visibly tense too but didn't move. Closing down on my objective I suddenly saw a pair of eyes about 100m in the distance, then 2 pairs, 3,4, 5 or even more. Probably deers but too far to tell. They were observing me, ran towards me and stopped midway, I still couldn't make them out and they ran away. The same thing happened a few minutes later with another group of what I think are deers.

I reached the car at 20:20, 14 hours and 40 minutes for the day, new record, my feet completely cooked, absolutely done in but satisfied I could be seeing my son and wife 1 day earlier than originally planned.

Overall it was a tough one, 29 kg backpack, almost 29 hours walking over 2 day. The weather beat us and forced us to stay away from the summit and go back in 2 days instead of 3.

More pictures here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8dPS_LBwxeLfnNaUGRKMjFSTjdOLUdfUXduQ1V3ZzhqY3M3WkdVUTRFRG1vUHc2Z0IwWU0&authuser=0

end of the endless road 8H41








back to the car 20H19


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