I woke at the crack of dawn, anxious to inspect the weather and trail conditions for day 2 of my frigid traverse. The snow that fell the previous night was, thankfully, too wet to settle and I was facing the exact same conditions as day 1: a light drizzle and strong winds.
Eating a light meal, I bade farewell to my hut companions and crawled up to the summit of Mt. Shirouma in complete solitude. There was absolutely no view to speak of, sans an interesting rock formation resembling the profile of Abe Lincoln:
Cold, wet, and utterly miserable, I followed the mist covered path, skirting the side of Mt. Shakushi before ascending rather steeply to the top of Mt. Yari. I dropped my oversized pack for a quick break on the lofty summit, when I noticed a sudden break in the cloud. Raising my lens, I snapped a memento before the thick cloud swooped down for good.
I reached the trail junction for Yari-onsen, dreaming of the comfort of the hot open-air bath lying somewhere below. “I’ll just go for a quick look,” knowing quite well that if I dropped off the ridge I’d lose all motivation to climb back up. Chains in the steep bits helped on the slippery rocks, and 40 minutes later I found myself staring at a large mass of wooden planks wrapped in blue tarp. Yet another mountain hut had been dismantled for the long winter season. Directly to the left of this unsightly mass, a flash of turquoise caught my eye as I parted with my gear to investigate. Two meters below the path sat a small, deserted, stone bathtub filled with ultramarine liquid. “Perfect”, I yelped, but would the water actually be warm enough to bath in?
I scrambled down to the shore, stuck in my hand to test the temperature, and immediately stripped naked. There’d be no more hiking today, I resigned, as I pitched the tent right underneath the basin.
I spent the remainder of the day and night alternating between the arctic environs of my tent and the subtropical comfort of the hot spring bath. Tomorrow I’d have to make the difficult choice between continuing on to Karamatsu or accepting defeat by retreating to Sarukura, a decision based solely on weather conditions.