Eboshidake in the Minami Alps behind the clouds.
This was the third time in succession that this hike hasn’t gone to plan. See here and here. The Minami Alps usually offer spectacular views of Mt. Fuji and the other big mountain ranges of central Japan but once again the weather had other ideas and the views remained hidden.
Recently returned from Queensland I had a few days to spare before ‘real’ work started so decided on a weekday hike thinking that would mean fewer people on the trails. One of the main reasons the Minami Alps are appealing is because they are less accessible than the Kita and Chou Alps so potentially offer more space and solitude, but once again the full carpark surprised me (but it shouldn’t anymore). You’re never alone when hiking in Japan.
The hike was wet, slippery, and dull despite the mountain weather app I rely on informing of clear skies.
After the two-hour climb to Sampukutoge Lodge I asked at reception about water at my final destination for the evening, Okouchi shelter, another two hours away south along the ridge line, only to be told that it wasn’t open and the only place to fill up was there at Sampukutoge. The initial plan was to sleep in Okouchi shelter so I didn’t know what to do: carry on regardless and camp outside (which you’re not supposed to do), camp at Sampukutoge Lodge (¥1700 per night), or go home. None of the choices were appealing. I decided to continue for another hour to Mt. Eboshi, take a look around, and then decide. So I filled up both hydration packs I’d brought at the nearby mountain spring so as not to go through what happened on the other Eboshidake and continued on. Always fill up when you get the chance.
Carrying sleeping gear, food, water, and camera gear meant my pack weighed over 10kgs and I was feeling it. Hiking to the summit of Mt. Eboshi was a drag but on the earlier climb I was awestruck after passing a lone woman, likely in her 70s, with a much bigger (and therefore heavier?) pack than mine. Elderly Japanese in the mountains are as inspirational as it gets. Live your life with the aim of being like one of them even if you have no intention of hiking. You will not regret it. I also passed another lone women descending from Mt. Eboshi, probably in her mid-thirties, again with a bigger pack than mine so I shed the self pity and carried on. I’ve found that that’s the best solution when you are feeling this way: just shut up and get on with it!
Mt. Eboshi was bleak, so bleak that my camera stayed packed away. There was no point in continuing on to Okouchi in this so I headed back to Sampukutoge Lodge where I planned to camp. But I didn’t do that either.
Arriving at the campsite I got a whiff of cigarette smoke and saw – depressingly, but unsurprisingly – a middle-aged man sat outside his wet tent puffing away on a cigarette. It was the most depressing view that day and I decided there and then to descend back to the car and call it a day. There was no way I was spending the night in the vicinity of a smoker in what should be some of the cleanest air in all of Japan. Besides, the rain was getting worse.
Hikes don’t go to plan. In fact my current success rate is pretty low. But it’s better that way. Staying in your comfort zone is one of the most depressing things you can do. Making decisions in the face of adversity* is when you learn more about yourself and your limits. Long may that continue until I can no longer walk.
Next week: Hououzan in the northern Minami Alps. I wonder how that will turn out?
You can see the data for the hike here on YAMAP.
*I’m fully aware that it sounds ridiculous to refer to any kind of hike as adverse.