Utsugi + Kisokomagadake – Traumatised

After 3 hours’ sleep, it took a while to get going on Utsugi. At the top, there was a like-minded hiker in his fifties, in shorts and half-sleeve shirt, who perked up when I arrived. He had driven up from Tokyo the previous night, got an early start, and was driving back to Tokyo in the afternoon. After a brief chat, I started to run the descent as usual, but soon became aware of laboured breathing behind me, and was startled to find the man running a short way behind. “I just love your dog,” was his explanation.

The same was not the case on the next mountain, Kisokomagadake. I had intended to take the long ridge route from Utsugi, but the logistics of getting back to the car prevailed. So with reluctance, I joined the crowds of day-trippers for one of Japan’s fastest gondola rides up to 2600 meters, listening to the ironic commentary about preserving the beautiful natural environment.

Yes, women in high-heeled shoes and short skirts were tip-toeing daintily through the final remnants of snow. Children’s screams of “Ya-ho” echoed back from the impassive, grey-faced mountain walls. And the crowds. Oh, what had the fine weather and convenience of the cablecar brought? On the track of just a few hundred meters up to the ridge was a solid stream of assorted hikers, inching their way up or down, each one within whispering distance of the next.

As I started up, suddenly an almighty voice boomed down from the top of the line. “DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED. GO DOWN. NOW!” He was practically screaming. A hundred heads turned around in unison to stare. The background chattering ceased.

In an instant, I was carried back to my schooldays and the awful bullying, dormant feelings of dreadful revenge resurfacing after all these years.

No one said a word as I walked up, not until I reached the owner of that vitriolic voice, a stocky, aggressive man in his sixties. He was livid. “Get back down!” he shouted again, his face a menacing puce-red. “You’ll scare away the mountain animals.” He had to be kidding, but he was not. I swept my arm around in the direction of a mountainside filled with hikers, “That’s why there are no wild animals here,” and carried on.

But the whole day had been ruined and my nerves shattered. Regardless of the legality, and the whole hypocrisy, he firmly believed that dogs are not allowed in the mountains. If I had not taken the dog, the ugly scene would not have happened. It has taken me a couple of days to regain my nerves.

I generally try to avoid trouble, so I shall have to choose my remaining routes and times more carefully.

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8 thoughts on “Utsugi + Kisokomagadake – Traumatised

  1. Perhaps the traverse from Utsugi would have been the more peaceful way. How will you manage to get the dog up Fuji, I wonder?

    In my genki days, I attempted an Utsugi-Houken-Komagatake traverse, but after climbing to the hut at the summit of Utsugi from the bus stop, the next day a typhoon came through and blew me back down the way I’d come. Someday, I’ll have to go back and make use of the ropeway to get to Houken and Komagatake.

  2. Hi Bob,

    Good to know you’re still out there and a pity we could not meet up near Naeba.

    If you can manage to get to Kiso on a weekday, I think it would be much more enjoyable. The altitude gain is only 350 meters.

    On Fuji, I’m more concerned about paw lacerations from the sharp rock, based on other dog owners’ reports. Apparently there is a dog living in one of the huts. We’ll certainly go at night, so will be less conspicuous.

  3. Wow, this post made me angry. What an ass that guy was, and how very rude of him. I’m very glad you didn’t back down. Chin up!

    Thinking about it, you might want to be careful on the approach to Takatsuma when you go up that one – the path to the trailhead leads through a ranch. Maybe one for judicious use of the carry case. Just a thought!

  4. Congrats on conquering the peaks of the Central Alps. Looks like you had nice weather. I agree with Chris about that crazy guy. Who does he think he is, the owner of the mountain or something? He’s probably the same person who wears a bear bell in places where no bears would ever go – talk about scaring wildlife away!

    I can empathize with your loss of nerves. No one likes to get yelled at, especially for no reason!

  5. Thanks Chris and Wesu for the support, it really means a lot. The experience has unnerved me, but I’m determined not to be beaten by such people. If I thought the dog damaged the wildlife or mountains in any way, I would not take her.

    Thanks too for the advice on Takatsuma. It’s a piston route, so I will use the carrycase to go through the ranch and then hide it in the bushes once on the trail.

  6. Sorry to hear of the disagreeable experience on Komagatake – wonder where this widespread phobia about dogs in the mountains comes from …. In Switzerland, you’ll be glad to hear, there’s quite a bit of canine alpinism. We met one alsatian with its owners on a PD route near Zurich – I asked what grade the dog climbed and was told up to IV. That would get you up quite a few mountains. Then there’s the well known staffer of Baechli Sports, a gear shop, who takes his hound on ski-tours – the dog runs alongside rather than skis, but is fully equipped with his own avalanche transceiver and even boot/crampons for icy slopes. So Hana would be welcomed here. Good luck with Fuji: as you say, the challenge there is the mountain. Boots might make sense (for Hana, that is…)

  7. It’s heartening to hear that rationality prevails in Switzerland! The dog phobia in Japan is bizarre, especially given the fact that no one bats an eyelid about the blanketing of sawas with concrete.

    Boots and crampons on a dog? I would love to see a photo. Sadly, I could not find them for sale on baechli-bergsport’s website.

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