#13 – AZUMA-YAMA
“Oh maaaaaan, I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die…”
I floated through a white universe. Like the cloud clinging to the mountainside, I clung to my ropeway seat. Empty Perspex bubble after bubble came floating at me out of the glug on the descending cable. It seemed like I was to be the only twit out on the mountain that day. After its Sunday off, tsuyu – the rainy season – was back in business. Weather reports heralded a cloudy morning followed by a wretchedly wet afternoon. Optimum hiking conditions they weren’t, but the budget had been blown out in Bandai-esque proportions and the last paycheck from my previous life had been deposited into the bank two weeks previously. Financially speaking, everything was downhill from then on. So onwards and upwards it was on that ugly Monday morning; rain, hail or Armageddon be damned.
Out of the top gondola station, manned by a single attendant, I stood peering through the cloud, attempting to make out the pathway leading up a ski run. Some six hundred vertical metres had yet to be negotiated. I should have stayed in bed.
Near the top of the ski run the trail plunged headlong into a dark, foggy wood, dripping with moisture, a glutinous mud underfoot. From there it was a steep, nasty climb that involved constant clambering over toppled trees and slippery boulders and detouring through sodden swathes of head high bamboo. It was ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ stuff, though bears in the mist were more of a concern in this case. At least the rains held off on the way up. Things would have degenerated into a frightfully hellish ordeal if they hadn’t. From the forests I emerged onto a relatively flat open trail, lined with wet, waist high brush pine. Bedraggled and uninspired, pimple on my tongue from all the cursing and filth uttered at the mountainside, I summoned up a higher pace, the ever approaching rains playing on my mind. Dew soaked blossoms hung low at the trail’s edge and I marvelled at the endless panorama of pure white off the sides of the mountain. The trail eventually veered around to the left and up onto boardwalks that ran into a copse of stunted pines. There in the trees, I found the summit marker that demarcated Azuma’s western peak, the highpoint of the mountain. I stuffed my camera into a scrappy little shrub, set the timer and let it shoot off the proof shot. With the click of the camera a light rain swept in through the foliage and I packed up and got out of there as fast as I arrived.
I later realised that Azuma-yama is, in truth, quite a magnificent mountain. In fairer conditions, and when climbed from the east, its splendour can be better appreciated. Avoid the Grandeco Resort at all costs is my tip.
And check out Wes’s tips here.