September 15, 2008

I don’t want to get up. It’s 3am, and I can see the glitter of stars in the sky and a light frost on the bivvy bag. I was climbing these mountains almost 24 hours straight yesterday. But something pushes me out of my sleeping bag, and shivering in the cold morning I look towards Mt. Kurobe, it’s head still shrouded in low cloud.

The double basses start as I cross the boulder strewn moraine. So low you can barely hear them above the wind, a murmuring sleeper in the pre-dawn. Gorecki’s 3rd Sy...

September 7, 2008

If Mount Fuji didn’t exist, the Japanese would build it anyway. I’ll leave it at that.

This stratovolcano juts out of the western edge of the Kanto plain, asserting itself as the highest peak in the Japanese archipelago. And for reasons lost in the mists of a climb up Mt Daisen, we have come here to climb and renew our vows on the tenth anniversary of our wedding.

The north side of the mountain is divided into nine stages, one every six or seven hundred feet vertical. The masses disgorge f...

August 9, 2008

I run through the dark, through Mt Mizugaki’s primordial forest. A Freudian nightmare of a pitch black mountain. I’m all alone, and unseen creatures scream and howl in the night. The forest beats a tachycardic rhythm of raindrops as it shakes the last of the rain from its leaves. On and on I run, praying for that first turn of the sky from deep black to dark wine. Suddenly it was upon me, and the dawn reaches for my shoulders and seems to pull me to the summit just as the sun clears the near...

August 3, 2008

Like newborn horses the stream of climbers reach the summit of Mt Ibuki, slick with sweat and on legs skittery from the short, steep climb. Some forget to stop climbing and continue to lift their feet high over non-existent boulders, so baked are their brains by the August sun. They soon disappear among the crowds of day-trippers who had driven, or been driven in enormous souless tours, to the summit via the road that has been shaved into the back of Ibuki’s head.

This head, and its rocky s...

July 22, 2008

The bells of Daisen temple rang from the valley below, and were answered by the bear-bells that adorned the pack of every climber making their way up the mountain.

“Hard course or easy course?”, I ask Yuka as she comes back to the tent.
“I just threw up. Easy course. I don’t think pretzels make a good breakfast.” she replies. I was impressed she wanted to go at all. We set off, and by the mid-point she was back on form.

We’d come to the Chugoku region to climb its mountains, but it was i...

July 13, 2008

The short climb up Mt Ryokami did not exorcise the demons. Under the summer canopy the air was humid and still, a warm and comforting bath when what I really wanted to feel was cold and alive. It took a little under two and a half hours to climb the 3,500 feet to the summit, where I gazed out at the explosion of deep green life that the Okutama region had put forth. Fuji hid its head in the cumulus that poured off the Pacific and mighty crashes far off held the promise of thunder storms adva...

May 19, 2008

Looking around the hut you could tell the ones who had just been to the summit of Yari. They had the burnt-out, shell-shocked look of veterans. Bloodless fingers nervously flicked the ice from the sharp points of their crampons, axes caressed lovingly against their arms. A cigarette crackled and spat in the thin air as its owner sucked it down in one long inhalation.

An hour and a half later I had acquired my own Yari-induced thousand yard stare.

Yari is named after the Japanese for spear....

May 6, 2008

I saw my soul at nine minutes past six in the morning, as I climbed the ridge between the summits of Nokogiri and Kaikomagatake. It floated like a phantom in the clouds billowing up the north face. It was clearly mine; I waved at it and it waved back. Its elongated arms and legs matched my movements. Like a shadow but surrounded by two, and at times three, perfectly circular rainbows.

It walked with me as I made my slow way through the snow and up the ridge. At close to 10,000 feet the air...

January 28, 2008

The key element to extreme sports is that once you've really pushed yourself to the limit, maybe even risked everything, it provides a new way of seeing the world.
Like a snowboarder who's sailing 30 feet off a mountain, I've seen these guys, you can't breathe while they're moving it's so hairy.
Or the guys who ride big waves. These waves are half the size of a fuckin' hotel.
If you screw up there, you're dead.
After those experiences, how are you going to disturb a guy like that?
He wakes u...

January 15, 2008

Who is it that carries for you this lifeless corpse of yours? Hsueh-Yen's koan comes to me often in the mountains. I look up at a distant peak and know that by nightfall I will be at its top, but I do not know where the will comes from or how it must happen. Something stirs and pushes me on.

I lay in the tent listening to the light patter of snow on its canvas in the pre-dawn. Much against my will something drags me from the soft, warm down of my sleeping bag and plunges my feet into icy bo...

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Climbing, mountaineering & hiking (mainly) in Japan

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