A Team Abroad
I thank my old football Coach Jako for encouraging us take simple steps towards attaining our goals. For instance, while other teams had a playBOOK, we had a playSHEET - literally about 4 plays run in both directions left and right making a total of about 8 plays. We went 6 and 4 with two losses by only 1 point. That was my most successful season as a team until 8 years later, and I do not mean in "wins and losses."I mean in the sense that when my helmet was jerked from behind by a person who outweighed me by 20kg that a group of teammates had to be restrained from rushing the field - we supported one another. In the picture above, the man on the top of the ladder has about 8 fellow fireman holding the ladder for him and about 200 people wishing him on to complete these well groomed acrobatics successfully. Even in a picture where a person looks to be reaching for the 'stars' alone, he in fact has a team of support beneath him.
One with The 山 Yama
Yōtei San aka Ezo Fuji (photo taken in February 2014)
Friday (September 6, 2014) Yōtei received some showers. In fact it received a lot of showers the entire week leading up to our overnight hike. Nevertheless, we woke up to a sunny Saturday - that is Hokkaido weather in a nutshell this year. Here is a picture of our group from the trail head. We consisted of Americans, Jamaicans, Canadians, Japanese, and all together 10 solid 人 people with years of experience, to not so many years of experience.
Popular hiking trails in Japan are marked by "stages." This particular Volcano has 10 on the Makkari trail about every 0.6km as you count your way to the craters rim. Our estimated time of hiking was about 4 hours for the 'fast' group and about 6 hours for those fairly new to hiking. Here are a few shots taken at or near the stages.
To compare the elevation of hiking Yotei San I will use Yosemite National Parks famous Half Dome (also the logo to North Face). Half Dome is 1,444 meters above the valley floor (4,737 ft). Half Dome's trail spans about 8.5 miles or 13.67 km. That means you are gaining about 105 meters per km while hiking Half Dome. The "easiest" trail for Yotei is 1,574m and 6.7km long which means you are gaining 234 meters per every kilometer. A picture from stage 8 after gaining well over 1,000 meters. The advantage to this trail is you can sleep at a hut less than a km from the peak which is a huge bonus because that means you do not have to carry a tent. A downside is there is little to no water on the volcano itself for you to refill water packs, thus each of was carrying 3-5 Liters of water.
A picture of exhaustion but plenty of hope at Stage 9 above and the sunset 夕日 below just before settling into the Hut for some much needed rest. Our plan was to wake up at 4 am in order to hike to the final stage 10 and walk around the crater while viewing the sunrise 日の出 (ひので）.
After a full night of cooking noodles and boiling hot water for らめん (ramen) using our backpacking stoves, we all tried to take in some ZZZ's. That being said, there were over 25 other people in the hut, そして we didn't get much sleep. In fact, at about 3 a.m. we ALL woke up. It looks like our 4 a.m. early departure was pushed up an hour. So we pack up and we head for the crater walking through clouds and shinning our lights through the misty mountains. I love this feeling by the way and get into the "zone" just stepping around rocks and keeping the flashlight off to let my eyes get used to the surroundings.
雲海 うんかい Sea of clouds
Now for the Descent
At about 6:45 am we began to head back down. To our delight we witnessed two circle rainbows inside the crater, this one came out the best on camera. We could see our shadows within the rainbow as the sun was to our backs. It's something not a single one of us saw coming our way.
A look into the crater without the mist
キノコ Out of this world mushroom
The final steep descent
A few falls, some tree roots climbed, some rocks scrambled, some blisters, a sleepless night, some jokes and riddles, some great conversation, some kids hiking the trail, some grandparents hiking the trail, some will power...and we all returned in good spirits to the trail head.
The Team (Thank You)
3,000 meters (9,000 ft) in elevation change later, we made it back to town!
Finally finishing it off with some Soft Cream...and a lucky 4 leaf clover bracelet from my number one supporter in Hakodate.
Until the next one...see ya 山