Thursday, September 05, 2013

Japan vacation, hiking day two.

It's pretty crappy outside when we get up for breakfast at 5:15, but at least it's not raining any more. After a good breakfast (again fairly varied contents of the plate), we pack our stuff up and are underway by 6:15. We are in a cloud and things are wet, but it's not raining and is pretty warm. The plan is to do the first bit of ridge, across one hairy bit, to the next hut and then decide there what comes next. We would like to do the Daikiretto ("big gap"), but since it is supposed to be somewhat hairy, we are holding off the decision until we see the conditions.

After climbing up to the peak of the Karasawadake (3110 m) just next to the hut, we start to descend along the ridge. This is definitely entertaining walking/scrambling. Too bad we can't see anything and everything is wet (footing is still fine though).
along the ridge
We do some ladders and some chains and some plain old scrambling up and down the ridge. After a bit we hit a group of nine coming against us over a scrambly bit. We hang out for a few minutes to wait for them to pass (cannot imagine what this must be like on weekends in the high season!) and then continue on our way. A short bit later we hit another big group; this one we weave our way through. Onward and onward we go with more great ridge scramble-walking, the weather steadily improving, until we get to the peak of the Kitahotakadake (3106 m) and right underneath the Kitahotaka hut. By this point we can actually see bits of blue sky and have a view along the Daikiretto, past the Minamidake hut, to the Minamidake peak (3032 m) and even the Yarigatake (3180 m). Conditions are good! Let's do that ridge! After a short break and a snack we set out.
view along the Daikiretto with the Yarigatake peaking out though the clouds
At first we have to head down a good bit until we get to the first scrambling and chains. This isn't that much more dramatic than the first piece we did, but it sure is great to see something and have most everything dry. The first stretch is primarily down about 300m, we cross a couple other groups coming up, but its not overly crowded. Eventually we hit the low point, continue on for a bit, and then do a quick lunch break in a sunny wind sheltered spot, before starting the climb up the other side. We've got lunch boxes from last night's hut (rice, fish, egg, and some vegetables wrapped in a leaf with some kind of stewed whole fish in a separate bag) and enjoy the first half of them immensely.
scrambling down...
...and scrambling up

After lunch we start climbing again. This is another good mixture of scrambling, chains, and ladders and takes us up pretty quickly the 300m to the next small peak. Directly behind this is the next hut, the Minamidake hut. We don't stop here except to figure out which way to go at the crossing (the guy from the hut helps out here by pointing us in the right direction. Up, up, up we go on a normal path to the peak of the Minamidake (3032 m). Now the weather is starting to turn; we are in clouds and not twenty minutes after we finish the Daikiretto the rain starts... Now that is timing. The last bit we spend in the slowly increasing rain, following the ridge up and down, mainly walking, but with a bit of scrambling, until we hit the tent spaces for the Yarigatake hut. Through those and then we hit the hut itself. Ahhhh.... It's nice to be dry and in the warm. We check in, change clothes, get stuff in the drying room, eat the second half of our lunch, plan the next couple of days (well, plan as much as we can given that the weather is a great unknown), and then have a rest before dinner.

Dinner isn't quite as good as the previous night, but it does feel somewhat less hectic... maybe we are just getting better at ignoring the Japanese eating speed. ;-)

This was a really excellent day of hiking. It was tremendously fun to have the long ridge pieces that required concentration.

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