THE WHITE MOUNTAIN

SEPTEMBER 2009

#90 – HAKU-SAN

haku (4 of 10)

Patrick and I attempted Haku-san in June only to be turned back by a snowclad trail and overly optimistic map times that didn’t gel with the few days off I’d been able to scrounge out of work.  For round two, I climbed alone from the Fukui side.  And just to ensure I had enough time to make it to the top and in fact knock off the remaining peaks of the 100 I quit the job for good and headed for the hills.

I climbed from the trail head at Hato-ga-yu, an onsen lost in the lower reaches of the sprawling Haku-san.  The forests remained a deep green in spite of autumn’s appraoch and I ascended through the woods and out of the tree line to the small, comfy emergency hut sitting in a meadow of bamboo and frost tinted weeds, just below the peak of San-no-mine.  High cloud to the west partially obscured a gorgeous sunset while swirling mists hung in the deep folds of the mountains below the hut.  As the overcast sailed westward, a fingernail moon appeared high overhead.

haku (5 of 10)

The next morning I climbed through fields of bamboo, lightly frosted with glistening whiskers of ice.  The summit of Haku-san appeared beyond San-no-mine, lit by the sun and cloaked in the earthy hues of autumn.  I hiked across two more peaks and into Nanryu-sanso where the huts were being shuttered for the season and accepting no guests.  Prepared for the eventuality, I pitched the tent at the nearby campground, had an early lunch of Snickers and Pringles and slowly headed for the summit.

Haku-san

Haku-san

View back down to Nanryu from summit hike

View back down to Nanryu from summit hike

Cloud danced over the mountain top which for most of that final climb had remained bathed in sunlight.  The crater pools below its northern face appeared and disappeared between swirling curtains of white dancing on a light wind.  Happy to be back in the hills and standing on another peak, a little autumnal melancholy diluted my mood knowing that this time it wasn’t to be for an extended period.

The next morning after breakfasting and shaking a heavy dew off the tent and shoving all my gear into my pack, I took the steep trail down to Bettodeai, thanking heavens I hadn’t climbed that way.  I arrived at pretty much nothing more than a bus stop in the hills, and discovered that the buses had stopped running for the season – well at least on weekdays.  I walked the road and knocked the rust off my hitching thumb and was soon collected by a cheerful old couple in a little rattler of a hatch who deposited me at the bus depot in the first town out of the hills.  With Haku-san done and dusted along with Tateyama and Fuji-san, I had climbed Japan’s three holiest mountains.  With what I hoped were the mountain gods’ blessings in my pocket I could turn toward the final ten peaks on my agenda.  It was time to ride the rails to the big smoke of Nagoya and turn my attention to the peaks of the Central Alps.

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