On a fine Friday morning, Hayachine had a rather different feel to the peaks so far. Friday. I had taken the day off and come with Kin to clear the Tohoku peaks this weekend at a leisurely pace, but everyone else on the mountain appeared to be in retirement and in even less of a hurry. It felt rather decadent.
But for the dog, it was already too hot and she lagged some way behind, to the delight of the elderly hikers. “Wan-chan, wan-chan, gan-ba-re, gan-ba-re,” came the chanting. I should have taught her to do a roll upon hearing the word “kawaii“.
The mountain top was festooned with religious paraphernalia. Are Western peaks similarly adorned? And who decides which religion should dominate a mountain? First-come, first-served perhaps, but the swords, jizo, shrines and concrete holding most of it in place still seem to be a desecration of nature. Why should religions have such special dispensation?
By the time we made it to Iwate-san, it was mid-afternoon and the day’s hikers were descending and had almost reached the base. I left Kin to her studies in the car and climbed steadily, enjoying the firm footing of rough volcanic rock and the steady gradient. As usual, I played games with the watch, counting paces, timing 10-minute intervals, and guessing the altitude reached after each interval. Often disappointing, today it was satisfying to gain 1000 m in the first hour, and the chilly air meant the dog could keep close behind. But upon reaching the base of the final cinder cone, the weather deteriorated very rapidly indeed
and it became a race to reach the top before the storm hit. The sky turned as dark as the volcanic scree underfoot, and the clouds descended and clawed at the summit. I crouched low as we moved up the crater rim, Hana instinctively hugging the leeward side of my legs in search of some shelter from the shredding blasts of wind. And upon reaching the top, the world turned white and hail started to batter us, squashing the dog’s face
and threatening to blow both of us off. This was dangerous, the moment when an enjoyable hike could go wrong. We ran. Ran hard. Down past the resolute jizo standing sentinel along the ridge, double-check the junction, and race for the unmanned shelter below.
It had taken no more than 20 minutes to ascend into hell and return. Perhaps the gods were avenging my earlier dark thoughts about them.