Kurobegoro – agony afoot


The high cirrus clouds yesterday evening had been a warning, so with equal reluctance, we crawled out of our shared toasty-warm down bag at 1 in the morning and set off for Kurobegoro. There was only the sound of snoring from the other tents.

I picked my way past the guy ropes, turned around to check on Hana, and felt sick. The dog’s back legs were wobbling. A little stiff from almost 30km yesterday, perhaps? The sharp light of the headtorch showed a couple of small flecks of blood on the two hind paws. Mmm. See how she goes. Within a few minutes, the stiffness had gone and she was keeping pace right behind me. Subsequent checks showed no fresh blood, and she did not flinch when I touched the pads.

The original plan had been to do the full loop – Yakushi – Kurobgoro – Washiba – Suisho – and back to the Yakushi campsite. But the hiking map time was 21 hours or so. From the top of Kurobegoro, the sullen red sky of the morning was a shepherd’s warning, perhaps for his dog?

The lure of two more peaks was strong, but it would be a major commitment. If Hana’s feet started to show problems, I could be 20km from the tent.

Muttering aloud “I don’t do risk”, I turned around and headed back. By the time I got back to the tent, I was miserable not because of the steady rain, but because Hana was struggling. I used some cloth tape to bind the raw red pad. She did not complain. She gamely kept up as best she could, hobbling on three legs. I tried picking her up, but she preferred to walk herself. We moved slowly, and I kept stopping to encourage her, feed her, check her. Those last 7 kilometers of descent were not easy.

According to the breed guidebook, “Border Terriers must be able to follow a horse … have gameness … will not show or admit to pain”. These sound like ideal characteristics for a working dog, but make it difficult to judge the degree of any injury and pain.

I had hoped to bump into cjw today around Washiba, followed by Wes on Tsurugi tomorrow. The timing would have been perfect, but further hiking was inconceivable.

At the trailhead, there was a boot-cleaning block, so I gently hosed down the dog, cleaned up and dried her wounds, fed her to make her sleep in the car, and drove the long way back, past a solid line of cars heading for Kamikochi on this Saturday morning. I went straight to the vet, an unflappable gentleman. He gave her two injections of anti-inflammatories and painkillers, and in his understated way, said “Rather inflamed and painful. Rest for quite a while. When’s your next mountain?”

Hana doesn’t care about 2008, doesn’t know the name Fukada Kyuya. I hope she’ll be bouncing around and game in a couple of weeks, but perhaps we’ll have to finish the last ten in 2009. All the self-inflicted pressure of the last 6 months has evaporated. So, signing off for “a while”…

7 thoughts on “Kurobegoro – agony afoot

  1. Ach, we just missed each other. I was on Washiba and Suisho on Saturday, and Kurobe on Sunday morning. You didn’t miss much on Saturday though – it was just south of bloody miserable up there. Still, plenty more mountains to cover, no doubt we’ll bump into each other on at least one of them next year. I’ll probably pootle around in the snow on a couple of them in the meantime.. Hope Hana is feeling better!

  2. I didn’t know which order you would be doing them in, which is partly why I wanted to do the loop to be sure of catching you somewhere along the way on Saturday. As I turned around and walked back to the campsite in the rain, I looked back at the clouds gathering over the Suisho/Washiba ridge and assumed the weather would not be stopping you!

  3. sorry to hear Hana is on the disabled list 😦
    Sounds like you’ve left ten of the toughest for last. “Only ten more” probably doesn’t apply.
    How did Hana do with the pumice on Asama? The snow up there won’t be deep until November, I imagine. Hope you both get better soon!

  4. Yes, unfortunately half of those ten will take a fair effort just to get to! When we failed to get up Asama in April due to driving ice particles, there was so much snow we never saw the pumice. I didn’t know it was there, so I’ll make sure to take a roll of cloth tape for her feet, and maybe the dog rucksack just in case. Thanks for the advice.

  5. yikes! I didn’t realize Hana was in such bad shape! I hope she’s doing a little better after some well-deserved rest. A typhoon is heading this way, so maybe the time off is appropriate.

    I wouldn’t totally throw in the towel this year, but maybe try to slow down the pace a little. It’s a shame you couldn’t have done all of the difficult peaks earlier, and saved 10 easy ones for the end!

    The first snow varies year by year, but considering Mt. Fuji received its first snowfall on August 9th, it might be an omen for an early winter….

  6. Very sorry to read that Hana’s campaign is over for this year – especially as she made it up Fuji, which is supposed to be the most challenging “Meizan” for four-legged friends. Well, there will be more Meizan to look forward to next year, unless you can teach Hana to ski… Please convey “o-daiji-ni” to her! By the way, am tentatively planning a trip to Tokyo in December. If so, hope to catch up then – and perhaps even steal a Meizan or two, if any can be done without skis ….

  7. Down but not out! I’m still hoping to have a stab at the remaining ten in the next month. It would certainly be easier without six of them being in the N. Alps.

    Fuji was surprisingly one of the easiest for the dog. (Wes, was the first snow really on August 9?!) The path is so well trodden that the lava rocks are quite smooth. In contrast, certain types of rock in the N. Alps seem to break up each winter under weathering action, exposing very sharp fresh surfaces. That’s what has damaged her feet (and soft running shoes). I’ve been practising taping them up. She’ll be ready soon.

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