Hayachine + Iwate

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.

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3 thoughts on “Hayachine + Iwate

  1. how’d you like that final climb to the crater of Iwate from the emergency hut? It looks like such a short distance but takes forever with all that loose scree, eh? Sorry the weather was less that perfect once again. I was blessed with usually amazing weather when I climbed Iwate, but had cloud and mist on top of Hayachine. I’ve often wondered about the religious artifacts, but I guess it’s much better than microwave & mobile phone antenna.

  2. That loose scree really did slow down the pace, and the dog struggled because her legs sank deep into the stuff. Iwaki was much easier, if steep and rocky. The dog only needs carrying up iron-rung ladders or very steep chained sections, otherwise she manages to skittle up somehow, or find her own detour.

    I’ve been rather envious of your descriptions and many pictures of sunny weather and wonderful views from summits. I’ll pass up on another drenching this weekend!

  3. i’ve had a pretty good track record overall. Out of the 88 Hyakumeizan I climbed, only 30 were in bad weather, which means I had good weather 66% of the time. Sometimes it was just a matter of fog & mist on the summit, but other times it was in typhoons, blizzards, and torrential downpours. Plus, out of all of the peaks in Tohoku, I had rain only once, and the rest of the mountains the weather was phenomenal.

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