“May I see your passport?”, inquired the stern police officer outside of Yatsuo station. “Why?”, I instantaneously retorted, resulting in a rather lengthy and embarrassing interrogation that I’ve grown uncomfortably accustomed to. I’d expect this in Osaka, but not in the middle of Toyama Prefecture! Cops with ego trips don’t sit well with me, but luckily I kept my cool long enough to avoid detainment. Thus begins the second stage in a Golden week that had quickly become tarnished.
After a long ‘bus’ journey (the bus itself was basically a converted minivan), I arrived at the start of the hike to Mt. Kongodo, ready to set up camp and dive into some dinner. The storage shed of an emergency hut was unlocked, so I forwent the hassle of setting up the tent in lieu of the concrete comfort of the dilapidated
dwelling. Coughing and squirming most of the night were my punishments for the first of many ill-fated decisions that would come back to haunt me.
Early the next morning, I awoke to the sounds of dripping water. Upon opening the door to the hut, I found myself staring out into a foggy, wet abyss: hardly ideal hiking conditions for this dreary morning. I left all of the nonessentials in the hut and started up the steep path. I caught my stride within the first km or so and was making good time until WHAM – a sudden feeling of lightheadedness.
I dropped to my knees and tried to balance myself. I pulled out my water bottle along with some snack food. “Perhaps I’m just a bit deydrated”, I thought, working my way extremely slowly up the terraced trail. My chest felt a little tight as breathing started to become a bit difficult. Foolishly, I pushed on, trying to convince myself that everything would be ok. 50 painstaking meters later, I sat on a pile of melting snow, completely defeated. Zapped of energy and completely exhausted, I make a decision that would ultimately save my life: turning around.
As I sat on the snow, a figure appeared on the trail below me. I explained my predicament and the kind gentleman offered to give me a ride back to civilization after his ascent of the peak. I could now descend with the comfort of knowing that someone would be calling the search party if I failed to return to base camp. Slowly, I crawl back down the mountain, having knocked off over 500 vertical meters before my attack. I somehow miraculously retrace my steps to the trailhead, where a deserted picnic bench and bowl of hot noodles awaited. My breathing had returned to normal but my energy was entirely depleted.
Diagnosis? Asthma! The first time in my entire life I’ve been afflicted with this potentially lethal condition. Medication for prevention and an inhaler for the attacks, I face a new hurdle and the possibility of never being able to get into the alpine again.