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Yuka is hooked. Butterscotch candy bribery and the promise of a peak “only 20 minutes further on” got her to the top of Mount Kinpo on the Yamanashi border by 9am on Sunday. Now she knows what drives her husband to get up in the middle of the night and spend long days at cold altitudes. The plan was to climb both Kinpo-san and its neighbour Mizukaki-san over the two days, but with the sun out and the snow covered Southern Alps rising in the distance Saturday just wasn’t a day for rushing. Instead we pitched the tent, broke out the bagels and cream cheese before heading up to hang out on the rocks at Dai-nichi at little further up the mountain. We sat and contemplated the peaks of Mizukaki to the north and knew that it would wait for another day. Kinpo would be enough this weekend.

Litter on Japanese mountains is a problem. Mount Fuji was denied World Heritage Site status due to it being a 3776m mountain of discarded cans and wrappers. Reputedly a high proportion of the litter on Everest is of Japanese origin, and our campsite was no exception. I don’t know what particular aspect of the Japanese psyche it is that drives people to litter with such abandon when no-one is looking, but it is one of the less endearing national character traits. I’ve carried bagfuls of litter home in the past, but this time the volume and insanitary nature of some of it called for other action – and with no-one else around to disturb, a decent fire was soon underway, making flickering orange ghosts of the silver birch trees around the perimeter. We named all the stars and drank hot chocolate until the fire died and it got too cold to stay out any longer.

Sunday was a day for crampons, as the last snow and ice of winter still clung to the the cliffs at the top of Kinpo. Scrambling over rocks 8000 feet up in the cold spring air while Mount Fuji roaring up from the clouds in the background was what hooked Yuka I think. She had that look on her face, the one that says “I never want to go down, but if I must then I want to come up high again as soon as possible”.

I know she’s hooked now. She knows how small life is when you come back down to the city, how petty all your problems really are. “Next time I want gaiters like yours.” she said.

She knows she’ll get them.

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