The height of summer is upon us, with daytime temperatures exceeding 35℃ becoming the new normal.
The last few days of school were a mixture of rush and slack, with things I needed done but with the help of other people – and the things I needed help with were not high on their list of priorities.
Suddenly I received two invitations for the first three days of the four day weekend that announced the start of the summer holidays (Yay!) and the start of the Olympics (Boo! Hiss!)
Workmate Joe asked me if I would help referee a karate competition he was holding for his club. I haven’t trained in karate for six years, and I studied a very different ryuha from the one Joe teaches, but it sounded like fun.
Seeing kids in competition was a bit of an eye opener, not to mention the difference in kata. I enjoyed the experience and was both disappointed at how much skill and knowledge I had lost and surprised at how much I had retained after those six years.
The one more relevant to this blog’s usual content was an invitation from Goat to join him and Y on an overnight trip up Mt. Kumotori – Kumotoriyama, (雲取山), literally “the cloud grabber”.
It would be a drive to the Mitsumine Shrine car park, hike to Mt. Kumotori and return the next day.
I had done Mt. Kumotori three times previously, all of them in winter and the first time was my first real hike with Goat. I had toyed with the idea of a summer hike, so this was right up my alley.
I obtained permission, got some gear together, and set off.
I’m a hopeless over-packer. Everything I bring seems to take up more space than what everyone else brings. Plus I get paranoid about water. I had visions of the hike taking eight hours or more in intense heat and it took quite a bit of resolve to prevent me from bringing more than twice as much water as I actually needed…
A 5;30 pickup at a location just over 5 km from home (“Good warm-up” says Goat) and we were on our way.
The hike towards Mt. Kumotori is at a respectable 1200 metres, and I did climb Mt. Mitsumine once, although that was well over two decades ago, back when a cable car serviced tourists but I decided the climb would be more interesting…
Anyway, the route to Mt. Kumotori is just under 10 km. The summit of Kumotori itself is 2017 metres above sea level and marks the intersection of Tokyo Metropolis and Saitama and Yamanashi Prefectures. Mt. Kumotori is the highest mountain in Tokyo, the 5th highest in Saitama, and a fairly insignificant number in Yamanashi – some two dozen or so higher peaks are to be found in that prefecture.
The hike takes one through both needle and broadleaf forests, plus through sedimentary and igneous rock formations. Much of this was once seabed, and occasionally fossils are found in the area.
We were actually quite lucky as far as the weather went – the morning brought a breeze that kept the evaporation up and the hike more comfortable. Clouds started rolling in around noon, and we heard the sound of thunder just before the halfway point.
Actually, the sky became quite dark, and the latest weather updates showed a 90% chance of rain for Chichibu. Of course, Chichibu is the largest city in Saitama in terms of area, so a 90% chance of rain in part of the city could mean no rain in another.
We arrived at the Kumotori hut around 3:00, paid our 500 yen apiece for camping space, and went to find space for our respective camps – Goat and Y in a tent, me in my bivvy bag (hoping that it wouldn’t rain…)
In a moment of absurd humour, another hiker was looking at the area around where I had set up. He was some cosplayer wearing a reproduction Japanese Imperial Army uniform – Goat and I dubbed him “Fanboy” from that moment. Anyway, Fanboy saw me and decided that somewhere further away was a much better camping site.
We had a few spots of rain before the weather lightened up again and the rain symbols disappeared from my phone. As sunset approached, the temperature became much cooler and everyone in the area put on warmer gear. I hadn’t anticipated such a temperature drop but put on my rain gear, which I was certain would be warm enough to get me through the night.
My twenty-something year old Therm-a-Rest® is fine if you lie on your back; if you move onto your side, too much pressure forms around the hip and you will find yourself feeling any gravel underneath. As a result, I didn’t sleep very comfortably. After dozing off some time after 6, I found myself awake and shivering. I assumed it was a bit before dawn and checked the time on my phone. 11:55. And the rest of the night was a cycle of:
Go back to sleep
Wake up half and hour later, shivering.
I was relieved when Goat and Y came to check on me because that meant coffee and movement. While they got picks of the rising sun, I got my coffee on. It’s true what they say, you know – who brews wins.
We decided to leave our gear where it was and head for the summit with nothing more than cameras. Travelling light was bliss.
After our walk around the summit was the return to camp, breakfast, pack-up and return trip. Which was considerably easier than the climb.
Many thanks to Goat for inviting me and Y for driving.