It has been hard to stay motivated to finish the last few mountains, and Shiroumadake, No. 99, was no exception. Another long drive after work, another carpark in the dark. So Kin encouraged me to savour the moment of approaching the goal, and to enjoy this one.
As Hana and I emerged from the car at Sarakura at 4:30 am in the pre-dawn chill, a mass of reflective tape was just pulling in. What the heck? A touring bicycle! And no sooner had he stopped and got off than on went a rucksack and up the path he started. He didn’t even pause to take off his helmet and cycling gloves.
He was no spring chicken, either. Aged 65, he had retired and was doing the hyakumeizan by bicycle and camping. He proudly said he had never paid to pitch his tent (he was from Osaka).
I made my excuses, and off Hana and I shot, up the slippery damp boulders and onto the Daisekkei, perhaps the only “glacier” in Japan that is famous enough to be signposted, on the road out of Hakuba.
The trail had only just reopened, following a landslide in mid-August that killed three people. Two of the bodies had been found, but the third still remains buried somewhere under the newly formed trail that winds its way through the rubble and torn-up buried branches, which stick out unnaturally from the rocks. That final scene in The Deliverance sprang to mind.
The weather was perfect, yet there were few people on the mountain. Had they been put off by the accident?
At the summit, off came the warm clothing and on went the i-pod. What a blast! Skidding over the scree, slithering down the Daisekkei, hopping over the boulders, and a final run along the rindo, the descent took just 1 hour 15. As Kin had suggested, that was fun.