Saturday, September 07, 2013

Japan vacation, hiking day four.

When we get up for breakfast at 5:00 the hut is in cloud. We both hope that these are just low clouds and that we will be able to climb past them. After a nice breakfast we are underway by six. We set out in the clouds and head off across the plain, through the scrub bamboo and evergreens, climbing gently. After a bit we end up on a narrow path through forest (a real change), where after a painful "whack", greg learns to start keeping and eye out for over hanging branches. 
forest walking for a change

We gently climb a couple hundred meters, never leaving the cloud, until we reach some rocks and the way starts to climb more steeply the last couple hundred to the ridge. Up top we are not, unfortunately, out of the clouds. Continuing to hope against hope, we climb up the last bit to the peak of the Kurobegorodake (2840 m). Still not above the clouds, of course. Ah well, at least there is a cool Buddhist shrine thing (not really a shrine, but we don't know what the proper term is).
shrine on top of the Kurobegorodake
Back to the path we go and continue on our way with abut of steep descent and then some ridge following. This is all in clouds and, to be honest, somewhat tiresome. Andrea made a good point on one of the earlier days: the primary purpose of hiking is too see cool stuff. We aren't seeing much of anything. After a while we switch over from clouds to heavy clouds. A while after that it turns to light rain. This postpones our lunch plans (we have nice lunch boxes from the Kurobegoro hut, but there is not much point in stopping for lunch in the rain. As we start to descend the ridge towards the next hut we hit a stretch of nice wood walkway that is reminiscent of the Hohe Venn in Belgium. The real bonus with this is that it's good for fast walking, which becomes important now that it is really raining. We get to the Tarobei hut (at 2330 m) and do lunch there; it's great to get out of the rain and eat something warm. 
wood walkway in the clouds
After some discussion and planning, we decide to continue on to the next hut, the Yakushidake hut. It is only about an hour and a half and that way we can try to preserve our overall plan. So, full of a warm lunch, we set out in the rain. It's not particularly pleasant going, so we move pretty quickly and make good time on the interesting trail up to the next high bit of the ridge. It's too bad the weather is such crap; this bit would be fun. The last bit to the hut has a really nasty wind from one side that drives the rain in... Great. Boy is it great to get to the hut, take off the wet stuff, change into dry clothes, hang the wet stuff in the drying room, and get checked in. We are the only people there so far. We have read that this area is not heavily traveled, so we are expecting a quiet night. This changes over the course of the afternoon as one group after another of soaking wet hikers arrives. By the time we get to dinner time, the hut is mostly full and dinner has to be done in shifts. We didn't factor in that it is Saturday night and that this hut is the logical overnight stop for the two-day trip up to Yakushidake.
as of yet empty sleeping room
This is our first taste of chaos in Japan. The Tokyo subway during rush hour is unbelievably full, but everything is very orderly. This hut is no longer orderly: the drying room is a complete chaos (it's not much of a drying room anyway, with no vent to the outside, the little dehumidifier in there doesn't stand a chance); the first shift of eating turns into chaos as we have to all queue up to get rice, miso soup, and tea; and the sleeping rooms are packed and loud (there isn't much common area in these huts, so people seem to hang out and talk in the sleeping rooms). I shudder to think what it must be like at one of the bigger huts. :-)

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