I had printed off Wes’ detailed description of this attractive Hayatsuki route for Tsurugi, which encouraged me to set off at 2 am despite the alarming weather forecast for torrential rain, landslides, and lightning during the night, plus Wes’ warning “Do not attempt this hike in rainy weather”.

But the climb was a reward for most of last year spent on the stairmaster. Some 2200 meters of ascent, much of it on a nice steep set of sandbags and tree roots. The comforting light of the hut came into view far up ahead, then receded into the distance below as the climb broke out of the forest and changed to a rock scramble. As dawn came and the sky started to lighten, the clouds above looked menacingly oppressive. And as the chains appeared, so too did the rain, and the rock turned black and slippery.

But I really didn’t mind. I’d far rather deal with this than officials on Tateyama transport. Although looking a little scared, the dog gamely managed to scramble up all of the rocky sections except for a couple. Holding the dog under one arm and the chains in the other, I could take my time to be safe. The crowded route on the other side of Tsurugi would not have been pleasant.

In the forest on the way up, the pool of light of my torch had landed on a bee, a large yellow suzumebachi. It had caught my attention, for it was strange to see a bee moving at night. On the descent, the bastard stung me. It’s been a while since I’ve felt such pain, and I did not need any caffeinated chewing gum to keep me awake on the 5-hour drive back home.

9 thoughts on “Tsurugi

  1. wow, you did it! I hope Hana is feeling much better after her foot injury. It sounds like you got the timing just right, saving the tricky chain sections for the daylight. Were there any other people up there?

  2. I carried Hana down the last half hour as her feet were getting sore again, but not yet bleeding.

    After reading your description, I decided to do as you suggested and get past the hut in the dark, arriving at the chains at dawn. I needn’t have worried about the hut – on the descent, the manager called out to me and we chatted for a while. Couldn’t have been nicer!

    I met nobody on the way up, but going down I passed quite a few brave souls clambering up in the pouring rain.

  3. Congratulations on another two done! Looks like the weather was better further north – the minami Alps were just disgusting this weekend..

    Did you have a doctor check your suzumebachi sting afterwards? I don’t want to worry you, but I have seen cases where it leads to progressive nerve damage in the immediate area.

  4. Chris, I really appreciate your advice and so will go to the hospital tomorrow. Probably too late to do much, but on Kitadake this morning, a lady noticed my angry red thigh, and when I explained, she replied mostly in English “Get a sting pump. If you get stung twice, you’ll die of anaphylactic shock.” I’ve now got one of those and will have to carry it.
    I didn’t know there was a risk of nerve damage, too.

  5. The lady was right – the first sting sets up your system to be hypersensitive to the allergen, and a second sting sets off a chain reaction which can lead to anaphylactic shock. Your doctor might be able to give you some antihistimines or steroids to lessen the risk.

    I found out about the nerve damage when I was up in Hokkaido a couple of years ago. The young chap who ran the chalets where I stayed told me about it – he had been stung by suzumebachi on the hand the previous year, and was complaining that he could flex his fingers like he could before. He also told me about an old boy in the village who was stung in the neck and was paralysed down one side as a result..

  6. Now you’ve really got me scared. Like an omen, when I came back home this afternoon, there was a monster o-suzumebachi inside the house. I hope susceptibility to a-shock lessens with time, and will try to get tested if there is such a test.

    Getting stung in the neck sounds exceedingly nasty.

  7. Yes, there was a special program on NHK the other day about suzumebachi bites. Do make sure you protect yourself for a second bite. One of the pieces of advice was that if you do get stung make sure to move as slowly as possible so that the poison doesn’t move through your system. Also the doctor interviewed said that after being a stung a second time if you aren’t protected with a bite kit, you should try to get professional aid within the most an hour. I know this is scary advice, but it might prove useful for you later. As a diabetic I much prefer the hard, realistic advice, than soft, kinder euphemisms. And diabetes can be terrifying in the mountains!

  8. On cjw’s prompting, I did visit a doctor and do other research. I’ll try to write up what I have learned. In short, it seems to be Russian Roulette, with no way of knowing whether the second, third, or any other bite will finish me off and leave the dog in distress.

    butuki, I hope you don’t have a diabetes-related attack when you’re hanging onto some chain in the mountains.

  9. ha ha! Actually twice I had really bad low blood sugar attacks while deep in the mountains, once in Oku-Shirane in Nikko, where I had taken insulin and hadn’t checked to see if I had food to cover it, and it turned out I only had a packet of instant soup and a a packet of Calorie-mate, just barely able to get me back to the nearest store, and then again last summer in the Alps in France, when I nearly died late in the evening when all other hikers had reached the refuge… I was really lucky this angel of an elderly lady appeared out of nowhere and offered me all her stocks of chocolate and cookies. If ever I go to heaven I’m sure all the angels will look like her and all meals will be chocolate and cookies!

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