22 August 2010

Tateyama to Kamikochi - Day Four

9 August 2010

Today was the latest we slept in for the whole trip - 5:30. We were pretty slow about breaking camp too and didn't get on the trail till 7:00. But today's hike was pretty easy - an ascent to 2800m that would take 4 hours from camp and then a 3 hour descent into the valley and the next camp - so we weren't in a hurry.

By 9:00 we had our first negative interaction with water. Not the rain that would hound us for 6 hours on the next day. Not slipping into a creek and having wet feet. It was something much more sinister - a leaky water bottle.

Hiking up and down mountains produces a good amount of sweat, especially when the sun is beating down. So Aimee didn't give much thought to the water that was making her shirt cling to her like plastic wrap; nor did she give much thought to it while it slowly spread from her shirt down to her shorts. Only when we stopped for a water break and slung off our packs and she noticed the accumulation of water in the bottom of her pack did she - and I - finally give it some thought.

Aimee: I think my water bottle is leaking!
Mike: Shit.

Sure enough, the threads of Aimee's ancient water bottle had finally become so stripped that the lid wasn't sealing. Almost 1 litre of water had run from the top of her bag down to the bottom. Fortunately, her clothes were in a plastic bag, her sleeping bag was in a waterproof compression sack and the only food she had were granola bars (and her loving boyfriend was carrying the tent, his sleeping bag, most of the food and the stove). Luckily we had picked up a 500ml bottle of water from one of the huts since we knew we had a long and sweaty first half to hike today.

We had no further incidents between the mystery of Aimee's wet shorts and ascending to 2800m to eat lunch. Here we ate the last of our delicious walnut bread (it was sorely missed for the remainder of the trip) and complained about having to hike downhill once again. Downhill sucks. Uphill is hard and sweaty and tires out the muscles but extended downhill sections make me want to hurtle myself off the mountain.

We hung out in the valley below for a while because it was the best spot on the trip up to that point. There was a creek we could get water from, there were no people, there was lots of vegetation, there were no people, we watched the mist roll down into the valley from the peak we ate lunch on, and it was quiet because there were no people. And there was a cool boulder.

It was huge. That black speck on the top right corner of the left piece is someone's small backpack. A man had climbed up the back side and was enjoying some solitude. We wanted to do the same but we didn't want to disturb him. The boulder was split right through to the ground - as if Zeus had cleaved it in two with a lightning bolt. More likely it was split by the glacier that dropped it there but geology (geography? both?) just doesn't make for exciting narrative.

We made camp about 2 hours after leaving Zeus' boulder and ran into Glen again. Despite having been one of the first people to arrive at camp he had managed to secure the worst tent site. Draw a straight line. At the bottom of that line put a circle. The line is the path, the circle is the boulder. Glen pitched his tent to the left of the circle, thinking people would take the right hand side around the rock. But that side was more precarious so everyone opted to take the 1 meter path between his tent's door and the rock.

We talked with Glen about hiking, growing organic foods, the problems with the 9-5 lifestyle and all the other problems in the world. He's a very interesting man. He also told us about the 50 acre plot of land he and his wife have on an island in Australia. They're planning to start a farm and possibly host international students. It sounded like an interesting lifestyle. More importantly, he told us about the typhoon that was building to the west of us.

By the middle of the next day the area we were planning on hiking to (Yarigatake) would start to get torrential rains followed by a typhoon. This would be problematic for us since Yarigatake was the jewel of our trip. But there would be no point in summitting it if we did so during a torrential downpour. The split boulder had shown us the awesome power of Zeus' lightning (or, if your inner child is dead and you have no imagination, the awesome power of glaciers moving a centimeter a year) and we had no desire to see what he could do with a storm (or, what would happen when a low-pressure system met with rising warm air). So we plotted an escape route to the south in case, when we reached the fork that would take us east to Yarigatake or south to safety the following morning, the weather was bad. And then we slept.

Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Five
Day Six

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