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Page history last edited by Phil Baraona 14 years, 8 months ago

Tuesday, Sept 29

Today we hiked. After breakfast at the ryokan, we stopped for snacks in town and then headed for the trailhead to Mt Nantai. There is a Shinto Temple at the trailhead and they charge 500 yen to climb. This trailhead is one of the more impressive ones you are likely to see. You walk through a very nice courtyard and under a Tori (i.e. gate) to reach the steps at the base of the climb.

The climb itself was quite challenging (at least for me). You start out from an elevation of slightly more than 4000 feet and climb up to over 8000 feet – all within 2.5 miles. This means you are essentially climbing straight up the mountain – very few switchbacks here. The leaders had set a turnaround time of 1pm (this is an out & back hike). At noon, I wasn’t sure I was close enough to the summit that I was going to make it there before the turnaround time.

Fortunately, I ran into David and he told me we were at over 7,000 feet at that point. This made me realize two things. First, I was going to make it since I could get close enough to the summit in the next hour that I would just finish it. Second, this is the highest climb that I have ever done (at least until next week). Katahdin is my previous highest mountain and that is “only” 5,267 feet. I must admit that I felt the altitude on this climb. I did not get light-headed or anything like that, but I was breathing pretty hard. Towards the top, I felt like I was stopping every couple of hundred feet to catch my breath. But I did make it. And was glad I did.

The views are stunning. Mt. Nantai rises up right out of Lake Chuzenji-ko and we had a view of the lake at many spots along the way. There are also quite a few other mountains in the area and we had some great views at the top. The only downside: it was a cloudy day and we had actually climbed above the clouds. While seeing the “under cast” in spots was pretty neat, the clouds did obscure our views at times. Fortunately, they also cleared enough while we were at the summit that we managed to catch a couple of glimpses of Mt Fuji. All in all, I have no complaints about the views we had on this hike.

One thing I have not mentioned: we also had some rain on the way up. It never rained hard enough to put my rain jacket on, but it did make the trail quite slippery on the way down. There were 8 (out of 14) people who made it to the summit and I left to come down with the last group (at around 1:15). Shortly after leaving the summit, I was by myself with two people behind me. It stayed that way for essentially the entire trip down. It was actually kind of nice walking through the woods all alone in the middle of a country so far from home.

The only minor hiccup that I had on the trip down is that I bent my hiking pole. I was momentarily distracted when I saw an older Japanese man in front of me. I slipped and fell in a spot where there was no reason anyone should ever fall. I could immediately tell that I was not hurt but, when I stood up, I was surprised to find the hiking pole in my right hand was bent in the middle at about a 20 degree angle. We tried to straighten it when I got to the bottom, but didn’t have any luck. Oh well. It will still function for the rest of this trip.

Once everyone arrived back at the bottom, we took a short walk over towrds Kegan Falls. Unfortunately, the fog had rolled in so all we could see was a solid wall of fog about 30 feet in every direction. All that I can say about the falls is that they sounded nice! We headed back to the ryokan for another great dinner and then 4 of us went back to the onsen to sit in the tub. The hot water felt even better today after a long day of hiking. And the beer afterwards tasted good. This time, we saved ourselves some money by buying it out of the beer vending machine. Yes, they have beer vending machines in Japan. Is that a great idea or what?

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