As the shinkansen whisked its way towards Koriyama station, I pored over the maps and reflected on the mayhem of Nikko. Why couldn’t I just accept the fact that I’d knocked off 2 gargantuan peaks over the last 2 days, and head back to Osaka in peace? Logic and determination aren’t the best of friends when a man is on a climbing mission.
The last train rolled into Inawashiro station shortly before midnight, and I quickly scouted out a dark and quiet area just north of the station to roll out the sleeping bag. I was tempting fate by not putting up the tent, but fortunately the weather deities continued to be kind to me. I awoke before dawn with an unobstructed view of my target peak. I pulled out my camera to capture the scenery, realizing to my grave horror that I had only 4 exposures left and no extra film. 1 photo would have to be saved for the summit sign, so that left just 3 photos for an amazing mountain with foliage at its peak on a clear, cloudless day.
I meandered through deserted streets until finding the path at the bottom of one of the ski lifts and started the steep climb. I’d like to have a talk with the cruel soul who decided to lay a trail up the black-diamond run without a single switchback, but I guess it saved a bit of mileage in the end. Gaining elevation quicker than Boeing 757, I reached the summit of Mt. Akahani around 7:30am, where the towering figure of Bandai’s volcanic summit came clearly into view. Click. 2 more left on the roll and lots of incredible scenery ahead.
The path descended into a vast area of marshlands, with pockets of active thermal vents hidden in the dense undergrowth. This col is actually the remains of an ancient caldera, and the high point of Mt. Bandai is just one of several peaks towering on its rim. Warning signs had me sticking snugly to the trail, as had tales of less fortunate victims succumbing to the deadly gases. Click went the shutter at the low point of the flatlands, as I stowed the camera deep into my pack, lest I should give in to a sudden impulse. “The last of the film will be used on the summit”, I declared.
Once out of the col, the course turned south, following the flank of the main ridge to the summit. Paint marks on the rocks were a reminder of the foul weather found throughout most of the year, but on this particular day you could clearly see where you were going. A short while later I reached a large trail junction connecting the peak with the more popular route from the north. A small hut selling refreshments sat in the pint-sized clearing, but alas they weren’t stocking film. The crowds also increased somewhat on the final push to the high point. Lake Inawashiro, my starting point earlier in the day, sat calmly below, while Mt. Azuma and Mt. Iide, ny only 2 unclimbed peaks in Tohoku, watching on with eager eyes. Snap, snap. The sad sound of my camera rewinding the depleted roll. Despite having taken the least number of shots out of any of the 100 mountains (except perhaps for Mt. Ishizuchi, where I couldn’t even take my camera out in the torrential downpour), I still have a strong memory etched into my brain, for I can close my eyes and retrace the exact route, 3 years after the fact. The power of a long but unforgettable weekend.