Photo above – the summit of Minami Komagatake (2841m).
A 3 a.m. start hiking up Minami Komagatake in the Chuo Alps. thinking I’d be the only one on the trail. But you are never alone in Japan, even in the middle of the night on a mountain. Frustrating yes, but reassuring too.
This hike was without doubt the hardest I’ve done so far. None of the hikes in the Japan Alps have been easy, but this climb from Inagawa Dam on the west side of the Chuo Alps was relentless. Straight up, straight down, no messing around. And as it’s the rainy season the lower slopes covered in forest were wet and slippery after the previous day of heavy rain. Thinking I’d be back home for lunch was a huge mistake as I finished in just under 14 hours, 6 hours later than expected. But I did see my first bear after almost two decades in Japan.
I used to think cycling was the most gruelling form of exercise, especially on a long climb, but now I’m not so sure. After all when on a bike you are on a machine which technically makes you part cyborg and there’s usually a downhill to look forward to, but with hiking – especially on difficult hikes – you are on your own. Completely. The downhill was harder than the climb. There was nowhere to hide.
Minami Komagatake destroyed me yesterday. I can hardly walk today and am being out-paced around the house by my 7-month old daughter. But you know what, I’m fine with that. I will eventually feel stronger and as with any adventure in the mountains (on foot or bicycle) I always come away feeling humbled and appreciative of the natural world.
So I’ve just ordered a fancy trekking watch in preparation for the next big one in a few weeks.
A link to the data can be found here or by clicking on the screenshot above and there’s a short video of the summit and route here.
*For some reason the English and Japanese names of many mountains seem to differ on Google Maps and other places but I’ve decided to write them as they are read in Japanese. Do your own research though if you think I’ve made a mistake (and let me know!)