Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ibaraki-ken Tsukubasan 筑波山  877m No. 12

Set off for Tsukubasan at 3:30am to avoid the traffic from the obon holidays. It was also Jet's first mountain. Took about 4 hours to get down here from Fukushima. Tsukubasan is the smallest of the Hyakumeizan standing at only 877m. There is also a huge cable car taking lazy people most of the way to the top. This mountain did however have the most interesting start I've seen for a mountain so far.

Haruna & Jet at the start of the climb

As you can see in the pic, the climb starts from several huge tori gates and a few temples. At the top of the next set of stairs was some old lady doing some demonstration with a katana. Didn't stop too long to see what she was up to however. The climb starts out gradually climbing up a nice path over lots of tree roots. I was happy to see quite a few other climbers not opting for the nasty big cable cars running up and down the mountain.

giving a big F#$k you! too the cable car

The path continually got steeper and steeper. Haruna and I were taking terns carrying Jet on our backs in a baby backpack harness kinda thing. Some parts of the climb were pretty steep and a slip could be pretty dangerous, especially with Jet on our backs.

Sweating like crazy climbin these stupid steps with Jet on my back

So after a few hours we arrived at a plateau where the cable car dropped off tons of visitors. The site was a sad one. After a few hours of nice hiking through the bush only to arrive at what looked like back in town. There were restaurants radio towers and souvenir shops everywhere selling all kinds of crap. Wheres the Macca's & KFC I thought to myself. I wondered why people go on about protecting the environment and shit then go and put all this stuff up here.

Jet takin a break at the plateau with a bunch of shit in the background.
The summit is the high point at far back right.

From here it was just a few minuets walk further up to the actual summit. As I expected it was overly crowded with people. So after a quick survey of the surroundings and the summit pole photo we headed back down to have some lunch before making a slippery decent back down the mountain.

The decent although less exhausting was harder going down because of hundreds of tiny steps lined with logs that were very slippery when wet and became very annoying.

There were also some pretty steep rocky parts which were wearing my knees out so had to be extra carfull with Jet on my back. Got back to the car in a couple of hours and went soaked up the hot water at a nice hot spring at a local ryokan before driving back up to Fukushima.

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Iwate -ken Hachimantai 八幡平 1613m No. 11

We set off to "climb" Hachimantai first thing in the morning after Iwatesan. The reason I say "climb" is because this is one pathetic excuse for a mountain and I have no idea why it was included in the Hyakumeizan. I knew it wasn't going to take too much effort to get to the top of this one but really I had no idea just how easy. upon arriving in the car park to find hoards of people getting ready to hike, some wearing full climbing gear and backpacks, others in regular urban clothing. If theres anything I've learn't from previous climbs is that you should never treat any mountain lightly. So I took ample drink and food this time. Well it turns out that this one could be treated very lightly. The entire climb took 17 minuets from car park to summit.

Haruna crossing one of the most difficult sections of the climb.
A grueling relentless 20cm gap in the dangerously exposed concrete path. Many climbers have compared this section to the kumbu ice fall at Everest.

I said to Haruna as we started up the steps for the start of the climb "i bet there is a concrete path all the way to the top, half joking. Well sure enough I was right.

The only kinda nice part of the climb.

At the top there was no view at all, just a few trees. They even built a look out at the top which made it a few meters higher to try and get a better view. We quickly took the necessary summit pole photos giving the thumbs down and made our way back down in disgust. Well at least it was one more ticked off the list.

2 thumbs way down. booooo!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

2 more mountains done in the last week. Hachimantai-san and Tsukuba-san. i will post up the pix and info about the climbs tomorrow. ive been too lazy to edit the pix and write about them today. check back tomorrow for more updates.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


岩手山 2035m
We headed up north about 4 hours drive on the freeway to Iwatesan this month as I'm on summer holidays. It's also however Obon so everyone is on holidays and everywhere is pretty much packed with people. We managed to find a really nice camp ground right at the base of one of the starting points for climbing Iwatesan. And there werent too many people there to make it overly crowded.

From the camp ground there is a great view of the mountain and also this huge magma field.

On the drive here it was very cloudy and starting to rain but just as we got to the camp ground at around 500m altitude the clouds were all below us and the weather was perfect. Except being the middle of summer it was super hot. We set off at 7am into the bush before a gradual climb that wasnt too steep for the first hour or so.

After a couple of hours climbing through the bush we arrived at an awsome lookout and were able to see where we started in the distance. The clearing in and around the red circle is the camp area complete with Observatory and public hot springs. The big black area to the right of the camp area is the magma field mentioned earlier.

From this point the climb started to get a little more exposed and out of the bushes making it freakin hot apart from the occasional breeze sweeping up the side of the mountain.
After another hour or so we came out at a mountain hut and deicided to pop in for a rest and check the place out. It was pretty nice inside with room for about 20 people to crash out in for the nite. From here it was just an hour of steep climbing up to the summit rim of the creator.

At the top there were millions of dragon flys hovering around and spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains for hundreds of miles in all directions.

Unfortunatly we are kinda stupid and tend to underestimate the climbs we embark on and only took about 2 liters of drink with us. So by the time we got to the top we had about 2 mouth fulls left so were getting a bit worried about the decent with no fluids. Sure enough within 1 hour of coming back down we had totaly ran out of drinks and mouths were getting so dry we gave up on any conversation apart from the occasional sigh or grown when we slipped on the slipperly steep gravel. Haruna almost took a big fall at one point when she misplaced her foot at the edge of a sharp drop. Eventually we got back to the camp ground and set up camp while downing some beers and went for a bath. Ended up with some nasty sunburn and insaine muscle pain in the legs for the next few days.

Total time from camp ground to summit: 4hrs


Friday, August 03, 2007


Fujisan 富士山 3776m difficulty~3 scenery~4

Haruna and I set out from Fukushima to climb Japan's highest mountain in september of 2004. We found a camp area right at the base of the mountain. To my astonishment there were only one other group of campers sharing the same grounds. They had showers in the camp ground but charged a crazy amount of money per minute for use.

So we put our money in the machine and for the first minute came only freezing cold water so we deposited some more money, still cold water. We decided to just get under it for a quick dip to wash the sweat off us. We planned to start climbing Fujisan at 12:00 this night so tried to get some sleep as early as possible. I had only had a couple of hours sleep the night before also as we had set off at 4am to get here. So after another 2 hours sleep our alarms rang and we got up and got our things ready for the long night climb ahead.

We drove up to the 5th station on the mountain to the starting area. We had a gander around a shop selling all sorts of Mt Fuji souvenirs. Haruna and I got a Fuji stick each. These are traditional walking poles that you can get stamped from various stations the further you make it up the mountain.
The climb itself was pretty straght forward. Just keep following the zigzaging path up! every hour or 2 we would come across a rest area selling ramen and drinks. Some other climbers were crashed out on the tatami floor inside. By the time we got to the 8th station it was starting to get bloody cold and windy so we put on our GoreTex rain suits as we didnt have any other warm clothing.

We pushed on for another few hours before we saw the first dawn light starting to come over the horizon. We were hoping to make it to the summit before the sunrise but we missed it by about 40mins. The sunries was amazing vibrent colours and below us was a sea of clouds. We made it to the summit by about 5:30 and so did a few hundred others. Freezing cold, tired and hungry so we found a bit of floor in a hut to chill for a while and eat some breaky. After some food we had a wander around the mini town they have up there, post office, weather station... I jumped into a queue for the toilet and when I got in I was glad I only had to do number 1's. This was the nastiest dunny I've ever had to use. Basically just a hole into a wooden box overflowing with dunny paper and humans droppings.

The crater of Fujisan was huge, maybe 2-300 meters deep and on the top of the ridge on the far side was the weather station. Looking out to the horizon we could see lightning flashing below us around the place and off in the distance were the sothern and northern alps in Nagano.

We headed back down and made it back to the car in about 4 hours then headed off to toward the next highest mountains in the alps. Unfortunately the rest of our trip was rained out and we weren't able to climb any more of the mountains we had planned as we were told they can be pretty dangerous in bad weather. So went rock climbing insted at some great places around Nagano.


Zaosan 蔵王山 1841m difficulty~1
Solo climb

Zao is a very popular ski area in the winter. In the other months people come here to drift on the touge (mountain roads) or to see the huge crater called Okama crater (funny name! okama means gay in Japanese) This is
maybe the easiest mountain I've done so far. It only takes 2 or 3 hours to get to the summit and back from the car park. On the day I climbed the wind was furious and cold. I've never felt anything like it before. On several ocasions I lost balance and almost rolled down the hill side. I was very glad a had my new North Face down jacket that I had just bought the day before. Works great! The summit was kinda spooky. I was walking around in this really old shrine and haunted looking hut up
there, no body around for miles. I thought I could hear voices a couple of times, it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up pretty quick. But I figured I was just trippin and it must have been the wind howling in around the walls of the shrine.
Gassan    月山    1984m   difficulty~2 scenery~4

I climbed Gassan in autumn with my Dad in-law Machan. Unfortunately we got lost big time on the drive there, lost alot of time and were forced to use the ski lifts if we wanted to get to the top before night fell. I plan to climb Gassan again next autumn without cheating. Anyway the Autumn colours were amazing. The entire mountain was bright red, yellow and green. After the lift ride we still had a 3 hour climb ahead of us with plenty of stops for photos of the landscape. The climb itself was pretty relaxed most of the way. It got pretty steep on the last strech toward the summit. When we eventually got to the top dripping wet with sweat we ate some onigari (rice balls) and had a wander around a small shrine. Every now and then we got

spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and landscape.

Yamagata-ken :

Nishi Azumayama 吾妻山 2035m difficulty~3 scenery~1
Solo climb

I set off to climb Azumayama by myself one cloudy morning. I got lost a few times trying to find the mountain so stopped of at a local "combini" (7-11 etc.) to get some breaky and some directions. Not one of my better ideas but I opted for a tasty looking peice of fried chicken. Apon bitting into the chicken I soon realized it was 90% oil & fat 10% chicken. Somehow a big dolop of oil found its way to the crotch region of my shorts and left a nice wet spot perfectly resembling someone who just pissed themselves. As you can probably guess oil dosent dry as quickly as pee might so when ariving at the car park for the mountain I had to walk quickly past the hords of other climbers getting ready to board the ski lifts. So I found my way to the trail head to start the long climb. It took me about 3 hrs just to get up to where the ski lifts where taking all the lazy climbers. I was glad when it started to rain because most of the less determined climbers headed back down to make the climb more of a quiet relaxed one. After trudging on a few more hours the path became forked on a few occasions and I had to resort to my trusty map. The hard part is reading the kanji on the signs to know where I am. Eventually I found my way to the top after passing several false summits. There was no view to speak of from the top, just a few trees, clouds, me and my still oily wet crotch. I quickly headed back down to the car park to try and beat the night, happy to get out of my boots and eat lots of food and a beer. The climb took about 6-7hrs in total.
Bandaisan     磐梯山 1819m difficulty~1 scenery~ 2
climbed twice

Bandaisan erupted back in 1888 killing hundreds of people and changing the landscape into what it is today. It also formed the amazing 5 colour ponds around this area. The first time I climbed Bandaisan with Haruna, we (without knowing) took the longest route. This route started at an onsen (hot spring) and winded up through overgrown bush at some parts the track was impossible to see. We eventually climbed up into a crater about 5 acres in size. From there we pushed on up higher seeing a few deer on the way to the summit, in total taking about 6hrs.
2nd time climbing was with good mate JB. This time we took the regular route, this route takes around 4 hours to summit. About half way up JB starts to doubt his victory over the mountain but pushes on like a trooper none the less. Unfortunatly on this day there were hundreds of school kids out for the climb also, this made for quite an unplesant and noisy summit experience although the weather was great so we had fantastic 360 degree views. Chatted with Haruna back down the bottom somwhere via walkie-talkie for a bit. After eatting a great well desirved lunch we headed back down. JB got wicked sun burnt and Haruna left our good Sigg water bottle at the car park. Well done.
Adatarayama 安達太良山 1709m difficulty~1 scenery~3
climbed twice

Mt. Adatara is only about 30mins from my place. The first time we climbed it the weather was great, clear views for miles around. Haruna and I climbed it again in July 06 in the pouring rain just for fun. A few days earlier some school kids where climbing here and one girl broke her ankle and had to be air lifted out.

Visibility was very poor on the day we climbed, often only a few metres during white-outs. The climb and decent itself was very muddy and slippery. Just aswell we both have GoreTex boots otherwise it would have been a very uncomfortable climb. We summited in about 3 hrs had some lunch at the top and chatted with a few old dudes who kept asking me if I was a ski instructor and if we were on our honey moon for some reason. On the way down I managed to slip on my butt twice and Haruna once making our rain suits muddy as hell. Great fun!

Hiuchigatake 燧ヶ岳 2356m difficulty~3 scenery~3 14/08/06

Haruna and I set off from Fukushima at 4am for our 3 and a half hour drive south/west to the border of Fukushima and Niigata prefecture and the Oze wetlands, home of Tohoku's tallest mountain Hiuchigatake. As it was Obon holidays here in Japan the place was pretty busy with people on holiday from all over Japan. After finding a place in the 1000yen car park we set off for our 4 hour climb to the top.

After an hour or so of rather steep hiking and rock scrambling we came to a plateau with a wooden path and many small ponds and flowers around. After another climb up
through forest and another plateau we were on the final summit climb. It had been raining quite a bit so the path was very muddy and slippery. At the summit there was a small shrine with a few coins and somebodys forgotten car keys placed in it. It would really suck to get back down to the carpark and realize you left your car keys all the way back up at the summit.Most of the time there was no view at all because of the clouds surrounding the peak but after about 15 mins it cleared and we got nice views down to the big lake ( Oze numa) and surrounding mountains.
The weather was starting to turn bad so we headed down jogging down the wood path
sections and trying not to slip or twist and ankle on the steeper bits. It started to rain after about 15 mins into the decent. We managed to get back to the carpark 1hr 30mins. Then straght to a local onsen (hot spring) to soak the legs in preperation for the climb the following morning.

Aizukomagatake 会津駒ケ岳 2133m difficulty~3 scenery~4 15/08/06Got up at 4 this morning to start our climb by 5 am. My legs were still pretty tired from yesterdays asent of Hiuchi. The climb is very steep pretty much right from the beginning. Haurna was feeling a bit under the weather and decided to head back down to chill at the camp site. After a couple of hours of climbing up dirt, tree roots and rocks I eventually came to a wooden path and first views of surrounding mountains and clouds below me.

After another 20mins on the wooden path I found a good rest spot and sat to eat some rice balls, chocolate and rehydrate. Just before getting ready to head off again Haruna came trudging up the path. Ohh you made it! She said she felt better once she got back down to the car and decided to try and catch up to me. So we continued up stopping now and then for photos of the landscape before arriving at a mountain hut and a large pond. From here it was just another 20mins up to the summit and spectacular views for hundreds of miles. We made it to the summit in 3hrs 14mins with a few breaks to chat, catch breath and take photos.

On a very clear day you are able to see Mount Fuji from up here but unfortunately not today. I could however see some of the peaks in the southern alps way down in Nagano with the aid of binoculars. We hung around near the summit for an hour or so chatting to other climbers including a group of 5 very talkative elderly ladies, eating noodles with hands (forgot chopsticks) and dodging the huge bees.
There were loads of bees, dragon flys and other insects flying around near the top and we were lucky not to get bitten by anything. We made our decent at a relaxed pace as our quads and calves were killing by now. Made it back down to the car in 1hr 40mins to pack up our camp and drive back to Fukushima.

Nasudake 那須岳 1917m difficulty~2 scenery~5 20/08/06

As we headed of on the highway for Nasu it started pissing down rain at 5am but as we drove up into the mountains to the starting point for our hike blue sky started to preveil.
At the carpark there were only a couple of other cars there at 5:30am most probably because the huge cablecar to the volcano rim didnt start until 8:30.

Nasudake is an active strato-volcano with hot steam hissing out of the ground in various places. Our main goal was not the crater rim summit however. No our summit lies a further 5km hike along ridges and up and down smaller peaks to Sanbonyaridake, all for an astonishing 2 meters elevation gain higher than the main crator rim. All the books tell me this is the summit you need to get to if your doing the hyakumeizan. The crator rim's high point is 1915m and after 8:30 in the morning is frequented with family's, young kids, people in sandles and some who look like they just stepped out of the office thanks to the cablecar that runs visitors most of the way up the volcano.
The hiking on Nasudake is very different to the other mountains climbed so far on the hyakumeizan list as there are no trees so its easy to see where you are going. But there are lots of rocks to walk over so there is a high possibility of twisting an ankle.

During most of the climb visibility was very bad as we were in the thick of the
clouds. One section of the climb had some dangerous exposure mixed with slippery rock and so was equiped with shiny chains to hang onto. This was a traverse around towering rock that we were unable to go over. The traverse was in 2 sections of about 15 meters each. The interesting part was you could only see down for about 20-30 meters then a thick layer of cloud so it kept me wondering if slip of this ledge how far until I come to a stop somewhere?

After a couple more hours of hiking up and down peaks, across 2 valleys and through bush full of bees (nice enough not to bite us) we made it to the main peak of Sanbonyaridake (三本槍岳). At the top there was thousands of dragon flys and one other hiker, a lone guy in his 40's who kept entertained by talking to himself constantly. Haruna and I wern't sure if he was talking to us half the time. Perhaps the years of climbing Japans mountains has made him a bit crazy.

So after some lunch we headed back down to near the starting point before making the short hike to the top of the volcano itself, a very straght forward climb up loose rock and boulders, some with hot volcanic gas coming out from under them. Had a quick look around the summit and crater before getting down as quickly as possible to head back home. The carpark and road at the base of the mountain was dead quite just a few hours ago but now at lunch time was packed with tour buses and cars from all over Japan so it took more than twice as long to get back to the highway as the trip up this morning.
Nasudake is highly recommended for its amazing rock features and landscape. You can safely skip hiking all the way to Sanbonyaridake without missing too much, unless your doing the 100 mountains challange.