All posts filed under: Mountains

dragonfly on branch

Escape from Tomuraushi/Insect Meditations

From a picnic table in the shade in Yoyogi Park, Tokyo, the conclusion of my Daisetsuzan saga… I went to sleep, or what passes for sleep at Club Mountaingoat, with the peace of mind that follows a few nips of Nikka whisky and a rare attack of good sense. Ahead lurked two more days of deeper penetration into the back-est of the Daisetsuzan backcountry; again I’d scanned the guidebook, looking for some hint of reward — terrific views, for example — to justify all those “hard”s, “long”s and “tough”s. I found nothing. Again. Outside, the mountain gods hurled volleys of horizontal rain against our pitiful shelters on crazed bursts of wind. I praised the stolid German craftsmen and women who’d manufactured such a sturdy little tent, and not for the first time saluted my own genius in leaving the syl-nylon tarp back in Australia. That merits another nip, my good man. Anyway, the decision was made, and I followed the final nip with the final Snickers in my food bag. The two Sapporo-ites (Sapporoids?) were exiting in the morning, …

alpine wildflowers in rain hokkaido

Boulder-Hopping in Wildflower Heaven

Well, folks, here I am again in my de facto Tokyo office with the soft-jazz soundtrack and the students frowning over their papers and textbooks with the single caramel frappuccino they’ll ride till the ice melts and beyond, and the convenient power outlets spaced along the window bench — my main reason for hanging here (apart from the tobacco-free policy). Su-tā-bakku-su.  I’ve been busy, and it doesn’t seem like my posts on this trip will ever be less than a week older than the events they describe. Here I am about to talk about Day 3 of my Daisetsuzan adventure and since then I’ve already done two Tohoku hikes and returned yesterday from a magnificent (but very hard) three-day trek through the Minami (South) Alps, highest range in Japan. It nearly killed me, but it was worth it! You’ll remember the busted tent pole from last post. Well, at a little ma-and-pa outdoor store just around the corner here in Kichijoji, an energetic youngster in jeans tight enough to break bones was able to decipher my problem …

chubetsu-dake wildflowers

Just a Tiny Bit Lost in the Big Snowy Mountains

“I wasn’t lost; I just didn’t know where I was for a few weeks.” ~ Pioneer mountain man Jim Bridger This morning I was able to wash my one set of clothes for the first time since I’ve been in Japan — not counting the odd river-rinse or campground-sink cycle. I feel like a million dollars — or should that be 92,026,068.88 yen? I’m back in Tokyo as of last night, where I bunked down again at the first capsule hotel I stayed in (I’ve since slept in two other pods in Sapporo). Another night there tonight, this time in the mixed dormitory, since the male-only one was full. I don’t know why so many Japanese businessmen stay there, since the atmosphere is very western youth hostel, though pretty quiet, with European longhairs lying about and piles of crap all over the hallway floor. But it’s cheap. Even with all those transient gaijin, 30 bucks for a night in Tokyo is pretty damned good. Today’s a rest day — a zero as we’d say on the trail. …

mountaintop sign asahi-dake

The Highest Man in Hokkaido

Hey, folks. First of all today, would you like to see my Nikkas? Happy to oblige. First, here’s one of the pair of convenient travel-sized bottles I bought in the gift shop just before boarding the cable car up the side of Asahi-Dake a few days ago. The kind lady even wrapped each one in bubble-wrap without me even asking: And here’s one I took last night as I walked home from dinner to my third (and best) capsule hotel, here in Sapporo, Hokkaido. This is at the other end of the Nikka size spectrum: I do believe in the responsible consumption of ‘alcohol,’ even in the mountains, just like the authorities in Japan. Me, I like to keep the manner, and I do my best swearing in private: That gondola: I don’t really believe in the things. They’re like bridges to islands — they kinda mess with definitions. If you can fly halfway up the side of a mountain in minutes, is it still a mountain? But dang, that pack of mine was heavy. …

mmm

Cloud Avalanche: Green Mountain Haiku #2

Hi, folks. Some cool news: yesterday my recent post about Korean kitty-kats was featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page, where posts from a handful of W.P. blogs are hand-chosen each week by the editors for a bit of extra exposure. It’s really gratifying knowing that my words and pictures were deemed Pressed-worthy. This is the third time a post of mine has been selected in the three years or so I’ve been grinding out T.G.T.W. — roughly one feature every hundred posts! Each time it’s reinvigorating — with the walking, the picture-making, the uploading, layout fine-tuning and editing, one post can sometimes take 6-8 hours, and inevitably you find yourself asking if it’s all worth it. Guess it’s worth it! Best of all, it introduces the blog to a vast and diverse group of new reader-bloggers. It’s a real blast watching the wave of commenters and followers rolling in! So, welcome, new readers! Now, it’s back to the jungle with its strangler figs, vines, waterfalls, whip birds and pesky rainforest haiku poets, and the final part …

old o'reilly's hiking sign

Stranglers in the Forest: Green Mountain Haiku #1

A couple of months back, before it got too hot for all but deranged masochists to hike anywhere, my friend Chris Lynch borrowed his mother’s car, I downed a couple of Kwells to head off the inevitable car sickness, and we drove south a few hours to O’Reilly’s, the famous “rainforest retreat” set in the midst of mountainous Lamington National Park. It was a last-minute escape plan, and we only came up with a rudimentary course while poring over a tourist map minutes before leaving my place: two nights in the Green Mountains section, at unimproved bush campsites (read: no running water or toilets), with lots of rainforest walking and waterfalls in between. The pills worked, I arrived mildly stoned but nausea-free, and we left the car at the resort to set off down one of the numerous tracks that intersect, start or finish there. It was a fantastic trip — sometimes the hastily prepared ones are the best ones. Early on, as I apologised for stopping for yet another shot, Chris remarked, “Take your time. This …

kate climbing buck mtn

Sitting on a Snowy Ledge, at the Adirondack Edge

BUCK MOUNTAIN, MARCH 7, 2014 Buck Mountain lies on the southeast shore of Lake George, and it is a perfect introduction to the Adirondacks. Pick a bright day in May and start your Adirondack hiking with a great climb. ~ Barbara McMartin, 50 Hikes in the Adirondacks The Buck Mountain hike — and chapter — is #1 in McMartin’s guide, one of a growing collection Kate and I have started amassing. It was also, appropriately enough, our first Adirondack hike as a couple (cue the chorus of Awwws), a nice easy out-and-back (as the American idiom has it) hike of almost seven miles in total. We did make it a little tougher by picking an overcast day in early March, but yes: it was still a great climb.

mmm

Back on the Monkey’s Forehead

Well, much of the country is on fire again, but up here in Brisbane it’s been pretty damned nice. I think I’m getting used to the heat, the worst of which was visited upon this, the third-largest city, just before I got back from Korea. My ongoing project continues and its conclusion and some exciting news are in sight. I’ve done a lot of catch-ups with old friends, have been into the apparently hip city a couple of times (first impressions: beer is expensive, people are much larger here, there’s almost as much cigarette smoke as in downtown Gimhae, and there are too many street musicians) and have managed a short bike ride and lots of photography every day between bursts of work on my project. My friend Chris (he tells me we’ve known each other 10 years) and I had been talking about a trip to Moreton Island and my third circumambulation of the world’s third-biggest sand island, but I decided I couldn’t spare the time and that three days’ worth of mid-Summer-hot white …

mmm

Moonlight Mountain One Golden Morning

Hope you’re handling the deluge of posts without too much trauma. Tell you what, I’ll try to lower the wordage even more as an act of Christmas charity.  Two weeks from yesterday and I’m outta here. I’m now spending most of each school day bent over my laptop, working on these danged pitchers while my students sleep through a movie. It’s an arrangement that pleases us all. Evenings go slowly by in a hazy sprawl of rock’n’roll, German beer and a few more hours working on photos while sitting on an inadequately heated floor. 

mmm

Fuji-san: Behind the Veil

PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOUR JAPAN, AUGUST 2013 I remember when my friend Andrew and I climbed Mt Fuji just over a decade ago, she was mighty elusive considering she was easily the biggest lump of rock and cinder on the entire archipelago. We had camped near Lake Motosu, and started walking to the mountain base at midday. It took us five hours, down vague tracks and forestry roads, to get to the starting point. Much of the time we were treed in, but even when we found ourselves in the open, with 3,776m of mountain somewhere in front, we often couldn’t see her. Haze, cloud, dense misty air is drawn to her, clinging to her flank like a camouflaging cloak. Then the cloak would shift, you’d be granted a glimpse and — Jesus.

mmm

A Phantom in the Forest

PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOKYO, AUGUST 2013 Somewhere back home I’ve got two paper journals, handsome volumes in which I used to write my Japanese hike reports. There are an even 50 — this was when my mountain mania was raging, with no cure in sight short of an unplanned plummet over a precipice. On the first page of one there’s a pencil rubbing (I believe that’s the word, unsavory as it sounds) of a kanji (Chinese character) from a well-weathered summit sign. The character is…

mmm

On Shape-Shifter Mountain

PEAKS & PILGRIMAGE TOUR TOKYO, AUGUST 2013 The oddly pleasant smell of burning mosquito coils wafted through the upstairs-room window as I slipped into chu-hi-enhanced sleep. Then sometime after midnight I was shaken awake by tremors rippling through the tatami — wondered in the morning if I’d dreamed them till Andrew told me they’d originated up north, somewhere near the site of the Fukushima disaster.

mmm

High Peakin’: A Killer Day in the Adirondacks

The headlights swooped into Kate’s front yard and with them the first of many pleasant surprises that day: Dude & Trouble are not famed in hiker circles for their early starts. Kate and I are morning people. I’d never had a girlfriend who could function at 4:30am, and here she was making sandwiches — big sandwiches. Both of us were raring to go; in fact I’d hardly slept with the excitement. Apart from that short-but-spectacular New Year’s hike in the snow on my first visit, the Adirondacks for me were an open book. Now the plan was to meet Pouch & Nemo at the trailhead upstate and plough through my first four chapters in one hit.

mmm

Spring Snow & Frozen Fingers #2: Down

The conclusion of yesterday’s tale. Two posts in 24 hours = two consecutive days of doing something useful at work! This could be habit-forming… So back I went along the ridge, down the foggy ruins of time (Bob Dylan), umbrella swishing nice cold raindrops into my eyes from low-hanging boughs. I dug my main camera back out of my pack, slung it round my neck and resumed my struggle against the forces of darkness — I mean the forces of moisture. I’m pretty reckless with that little machine, but I’d rather have it handy and risk a few raindrops than have to keep stopping and retrieving it.

mmm

Paths of Pain to Jewels of Glory

The first nickname I gave it was Mount (-ing) Devastation, applied after a dispiriting walk to its base last year. It’s the most impressive bump on the spectacularly bumpy perimeter of the rice-paddy country nudging up to Daecheong Creek and the dirty streets of Jangyu. My gaze repeatedly strays to its stern pyramidal eminence as I limp home from Hell Skool on Thursdays and Fridays. Looking at it always cheers me up.

mmm

Blood & Blossoms on Sineo-San

[Folks, this post, published earlier this month, recently disappeared from my site. Like, utterly — it’s not even in my WordPress trash folder. How is this possible? Thanks to Kate, my diligent blog monitor and number-one fan, for alerting me — I had no idea! Don’t understand how this could happen but am CERTAIN it wasn’t me. Anyway I’ve recovered it from Google Cache and backdated it to the original date. Apologies if I can’t get the original comments back as well…let’s see…] *   *   *   *   * The wreckage looked like shredded pieces of paper. The plane’s broken tail and nose came to rest near the top of the mountain, where a lack of access roads slowed rescuers’ efforts to reach the scene of the disaster… The plane hit one side of the mountain and then plowed toward the peak, catching fire and cutting a trail of fallen trees 100 yards long and 30 yards wide ~ CBS News, April 15, 2002

mmm

A Delicate Discussion on Dead Man’s Peak

A brief interruption to my New York Saga to share an episode of very-Korean weirdness I enjoyed this afternoon, Day 2 of my Four Hikes in Four Days Challenge. It’s a four-day weekend, you see, for Seollal, the Korean New Year, a break I desperately needed as I had aged approximately 17 years in my first week back in the killing fields of the Korean middle school. I thought having a pleasant goal to motivate me would make another year of teaching more tolerable. Instead I’ve entered the school grounds each morning like a condemned man stepping onto the scaffold. I needed a good walk or four to remember what living was all about…

A sprinkle of White Death

A Sprinkle of White Death on Shiru-Bong

For about a month now my weekends have followed the same pattern. I go into Busan on the Saturday, do the civilised urban thing with lots of coffee and an obscene amount of clothes shopping (trying to make Winter fun); the Sunday is for hiking, photos, music and, well, more coffee. This last one fit the template perfectly. I’d lucked upon a nice variation in my Bulmo-San explorations the previous Sunday, a new route down via a hillside boulder field adorned with cairns both modest and majestic, and just below them on a col, where a dirt road zigzagged up and down the mountain, a new path marked Bulmo-San, 2.7km.