#87 – SENJO-DAKE
At 3033 metres in the sky I stood on the top of Senjo-dake with a bunch of other hikers who’d made the early morning trudge up to the summit from Kitazawa Pass. There were more on the way, traversing the ridge across from Little Senjo. A breeze chilled us, competing with the morning sunshine it cooled our sweats and had us reaching for an extra layer. Settling down on the summit we stared out at the mountainous terrain stretching away from our perch. Fuji sailed on a sea of cloud, a dark cone patiently awaiting its first dusting of snow for the season. To the immediate north Kaikoma rose, it’s crown of white sands shining in the sunlight, the mountain trailed a saw toothed ridge in its wake like a torn cloak. On the maps there’s a dotted line running up this creased and jagged spine to Kaikoma. It’s adorned with generous notes in intimidating red print and unfathomably long trail times are emblazoned across short intervals of map surface. Nokogiri-dake crowns this intimidating broken backbone of rock, it’s one of Japan’s 200 Famous Mountains. It looked enticing as I stood on Senjo with the world at my feet. I knew though, that if I set foot on one of Japan’s second hundred the fever wouldn’t stop there… With thirteen more of the hundred to go, an effort that would stretch into yet another year, it wasn’t time to entertain such wild notions. Taking my eye off Nokogiri and looking beyond I attempted to make out Yatsu-ga-take’s eight summits, and there was Tateshina as I traced Yatsu’s spine, and Kiri-ga-mine and Utsukushi…old friends bathing in the autumn light.
I sat sprawled on the earth and soaked up the views and sunshine and half heartedly wondered how many more mountains I’d tuck under my belt that season. Most of the remaining peaks dotted the length of the Northern Alps. I was no winter mountaineer. I might get up another three or four but, in reality, it was going to be a long off season. After a while sunbaking, I slowly hauled myself to my feet and turned from the summit and took to Senjo’s north western ridge, dropping into the leafless treeline. At a hut deep in a cirque below the summit I sat in the sun and out of the wind and looked back up at the glorious mountain. More reserved than its nearby counterparts Senjo made for a wonderful amble amongst the autumn hues. Kaikoma, from the valley I descended into sat directly ahead, framed between its rising walls. Ice clung to stone in the shaded sections of the descending trail which doubled as a watercourse in parts. I paused at a dribbling waterfall adorned with icicles and lingered, not wanting the weekend to end. Further down, on the move once more, the ice was replaced by moss on the trail.
Back at the campground at Kitazawa Pass I gathered up the gear I’d left there and wandered up the road to the bus stop and awaited the ride back out of the mountains, into Kofu and the beginning of the long trip back to Osaka. The Southern Alps were officially in the books.
From Kofu I rode the rails into the night. Local trains, express ones and finally a bullet train to Kyoto. In the ancient capital I stumbled bleary eyed onto one of the last local trains running for the evening into the northern reaches of Osaka. Twenty odd minutes later put in a final hike for the day, a road walk back to the flat. I grabbed a convenience store dinner on the way, pork and rice, warmed up by the guy behind the counter. Even down in the city the night had a hint of cool to it.
My keys clattered against the metal of the apartment door, it gave its signature mournful squeak which echoed up the concrete stairwell as I pulled it open and added its obligatory bang as I pulled it shut, no matter how considerately for the neighbours. Dumping my pack in the entrance, I stood on alternating feet and hauled off my boots and smelly socks and took my meal to the sofa and ate in silence. A siren blared somewhere in the night. Someone parked their bicycle in the parking bay outside my first floor window and slowly shuffled up the stairs outside my door. I put on the kettle and took a shower and washed away the grime and stale sweat.
A hot coffee with milk and sugar before bed always puts me to sleep.
I dumped the empty mug in the sink, brushed my teeth and hit the sack.
The phone got me out of bed the next morning before the alarm did. I stumbled into the living room and found it buzzing on the desk beside the computer. It was the Old Man on the other end and he had bad news. Mum’s cancer was back and this time there was pretty much no hope.