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Archive for March, 2014

Hyakumeipan

Back in October, I found myself on the losing end of a battle with a respiratory ailment. The culprit turned out to be none other than the notorious mycobacterium tuberculosis. The verdict was guilty and I was sentenced to seven weeks of isolation in a TB ward here in Osaka. With so much free time on my hands and an abundance of white bread that made an unwelcome appearance on my breakfast plate, I set out to render all of Japan’s venerable Hyakumeizan in bleached flour form. I called my new invention the Hyakumeipan: the profile of all of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountain sculpted out of my morning toast.

While I did not get to complete all of the mountains, my daily posts were a hit with both active and closet mountaineers alike. Below you’ll find some of the highlights from my time spent in hospital dreaming of Japan’s esteemed peaks:

Snow-capped Fuji

Snow-capped Fuji

Mt. Yufu

Mt. Yufu

Mt. Kuro

Mt. Kuro

Tsurugidake

Tsurugidake

Mt. Rishiri

Mt. Rishiri

Utsukushi-ga-hara

Utsukushi-ga-hara

Sakurajima

Sakurajima

Mt. Ibuki

Mt. Ibuki

Mt. Meakan & Akan-fuji

Mt. Meakan & Akan-fuji

Mt. Yari

Mt. Yari

Fuji above the clouds

Fuji above the clouds

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Conquering the fear

When you have a winter mountaineering accident and come to terms with your own mortality, it’s a humbling and frightening experience. As much as I learned from last winter’s debacle, I knew the that the best way to overcome my fear of winter mountaineering was to get back up on that white horse and face the music.

winter1

This winter I have something in my arsenal that I failed to carry with me the previous year: a GPS. This is by far the single most important equipment I have bought and it has saved me at least a half a dozen times when I encountered poorly-signposted terrain. I carry this thing with me on every outing and have learned how to utilize it to my advantage.

The other thing that I carry with me is knowledge of conditions. In the days before a planned outing, I scour the archives of Yamareco in search of recent trip reports. Web cams have also kept me abreast of current snow depths and I have also been wiser in my choice of mountains. This year I decided to only go for peaks that others have already visited.

winter5

With the recent winter hiking boom, it means mountains that would usually never see any traffic are suddenly having visitors in the ‘off season’. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t needed to blaze my own trail.

winter3

The other thing I rely on is companionship. I decided to avoid hiking alone during the snow season. It only makes sense to have a friend along to help in the decision-making and to share in the memories.

winter6

Next winter I will still approach snow-capped peaks with the same conservative philosophy: there’s no point in heading head-first into an alpine blizzard. I have winter ascents of both Mt. Asama and Mt. Tateshina under my belt, and that’s enough to keep me satisfied for a lifetime. I don’t need eternal glory.

winter2

What I do need, however, is a supportive life partner that continues to support my endeavors. Kanako is much more at ease when I err on the side of safety.

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