As I begin to melt snow, I notice the flame growing weaker with every passing flicker. “Oh, why didn’t I bring a full can of gas,” I scream, regretting my decision to wait until the last possible minute to pack. I’d brought one other canister, but could easily use that one just melting snow. The 3rd thorn on this unpredictable trip. Conserving as much fuel as possible, I manage to cook dinner and breakfast the next morning while melting enough snow to fill up my 2 liter platypus. Off to bed to dream about my impending ascent.
“Damn cedar pollen!” These are the words that first came to mind after a long night of sniveling and sneezing. I left everything in my tent and stuffed my platypus, energy gel, and a few snacks in my bum bag for the 3 hour climb. The other climbing party had been drinking heavily the previous evening, so I had the peak all to myself. Following a clearly defined set of footprints, I clamber over half-buried trees before climbing up to the spur. The higher I climbed, the heavier my bag seemed to become and the wetter my back became. One quick inspection revealed that my platypus bottle had leaked over a liter of water into my pack. If I got any more thorns on this trip I’d surely turn into a rose.
Low on water and drenched from the leakage, I pushed on. “Time to start eating snow,” I proclaimed, stuffing a handful of the frigid ice into my parched mouth. Upon reaching the spur, I was greeted with Hakusan’s brilliant edifice on my right, as well as a steep drop to a saddle before the final summit push of Mt. Oizuru. I slid down to the saddle, being careful to stay away from the gnarly cliff edges on my right. The final climb began: kick, step, kick, step, kick. At this rate I’d be lucky to make it up before dusk. Slowly but steadily I thought about what would happen if I gave up this far into my attempt. It was those thoughts that eventually landed me on top of the bald summit, where I collapsed and ate a late morning snack. The Kita Alps and Mt. Norikura were clearly visible on the horizon, a blanket of haze between here and there.
I retreated back the way I came, passing by my camping neighbors who’d gotten a much later start. I make it back to camp in time to cook up some noodles and melt some more snow. Luckily, I had a couple of PET bottles I could use in lieu of the torn water pouch. Refueled, I broke down camp and retreated to the steep valley far below. I’d had a hard enough time climbing up the ridiculously steep spur, but made my way down without any notable mishaps. Back at the parking lot, I spy a beautiful park across the street and quickly investigate. It looks like an amazing place to camp, with lush green grass and flowing river. “Best to set up camp after dark, just in case,” I mutter, opting for a visit to the nearby hot spring.
I woke at dawn to the sound of screeching birds outside of my tent. Unzipping my tent fly to investigate, I am shocked to be surrounded by a pack of wild monkeys, chasing each other and foraging for food in the early morning light. Monkey claws and tent fabric don’t mix, so I did my best not to attract attention to my newly-bought tent. Fortunately, the creatures were more interested in playing in the trees and concrete suspension bridge than raiding my food supplies.
I pack up my things and wait by the main road, thumb outstretched. After a half an hour of cars whizzing by, I notice two figures with abnormally large backpacks walking towards me from the other direction. They’d just come down a monstrous ascent of Hakusan, and immediately offered me a ride. Along the way, we picked up another hiker and all went back to Kanazawa together. What an adventure this Golden Week has been, and I’m only on my second day. Little did I know that my adventure were about to become a lot more perilous on the steep slopes of Mt. Kongodo. Stay tuned….