One childhood memory remains deeply burned – that of a pair of alabaster-white feet protruding from under a blue tarpaulin by a local river, the feet of a drowned man. The following year, on a school hiking trip to Wales, a helicopter came overhead as we passed by a small lake and started plumbing the murky depths with a weight attached to a winch. It was a hot summer’s day, and a hiker had just drowned after jumping into the cold water for a swim.

These memories were revived by the warning sign at the trailhead to Poroshiri that a man had drowned here last month when the river rose suddenly. My dreams ran wild that night, and it was a relief to have them cut by the alarm. I rose early and was away by 3, trotting up the gravel road in the dark, with only the roaring of the river below for company. I reached the start of the river crossings at first light and changed into sawa-nobori boots. The river was narrow but wild, a jumble of ripped-up trees jammed against boulders. Strips of pink tape marked the crossing points. I clipped Hana onto a short lead, picked her up, and walked into the river, pounding heart driven by those memories. Perhaps she sensed my fear, for her ears were far back with fright and she squirmed to be free.

Although the 23 crossings were safe, with the water mostly at knee height, it was still a relief to reach the hut at the mid-point of this longest of the hyakumeizan hikes and to enjoy the physical exercise of the subsequent climb. From the summit, there was not the slightest trace of human habitation in any direction, no roads crossing the mountains, no villages, no dams, not even any huts. This must surely be as remote as it is possible to be in crowded Japan.

5 thoughts on “Poroshiri

  1. Looks like you had fine weather on this amazing peak. Thanks for all of your advice – I counted 25 crossings on the way up, and 23 on the way back (I never was good at math!)

    By the way, did you run into 2 Americans and an Aussie when climbing Poroshiri? I ran into the same group on Mt. Rausu and they were talking about an energetic Brit with a cute dog – I immediately thought of you!

  2. Yes, I did meet a very sociable Australian guy with two American females on Poroshiri, surely the same group. He’s teaching in Obihiro, and is taking two weeks vacation before the girls return to the States. He’s one of only a handful of foreigners I have met in the mountains this year.

  3. Hi Julian…AND Wes! I’m the Australian guy you both encountered. I’m actually teaching NEAR Obihiro, in a small town called Shihoro. Only one of the American women (with her husband who was also climbing Poroshiri that day…HE counted 25 river crossings too, I believe) was returning to America. So that American couple and I are the three people who met Wes at the Rausu Daira campsite. We were all so lucky with weather! Summer in Hokkaido has been all rain and low cloud, and pretty much the only sunny days were during our Poroshiri and Shiretoko ascents. It’s turned all cold and wet again now. I was delighted to meet you both, and quite inspired by what you’re both doing with the Hyakumeizan. Please feel free to email me at (my town)guy(at)yahoo(dot)com(dot)au (all lower case, no spaces or parentheses).

  4. It’s good to hear from you, Greg. What a coincidence of Wes and I meeting you on separate mountains.

    Seems like Wes amd yourself had good weather. Having suffered rain on all three peaks of the Daisetsuzan range, I’m determined to do the full traverse in fine weather in the future.

    If you ever come to central Honshu for hiking (perhaps when you start doing the hyakumeizan?), please get in touch!

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