A Weekend in Nagano

Less than a week after climbing Fuji, I was back in the mountains.

The Fuji trip had in fact been a last-minute one, and for some weeks now we had been planning a trip back to Nagano, to the Kamikouchi park, to first make our way to the Karasawa hut, and then explore a few of the surrounding mountains, like Kitahodaka and Okuhodaka.

As happened the last time we went trekking in that area, we were accompanied by friends of ours who live in the prefecture, William Habbington and Tammy Chrichton (that would be them, pictured in the photo at the top of this post, along with me and my wife).

What a trip.

First off, we were incredibly lucky to have amazing weather throughout — weather reports had us worried during the preceeding few days, with 50% chance of rain.

After a night bus ride from Shinjuku that had us arrive at the entrance of Kamikouchi at 6 in the morning — where we met with William and Tammy — we then made our way to Karasawa in record time and arrived at the hut, with a helicopter hovering over the mountains that surrounded us.

Even though it was mid September, the fact that it was a long weekend attracted quite a few other trekkers, and we were greeted with news that futons would need to be shared by 2 people at the hut — we checked in to the nearby koya first, and they were saying it might end up being 3 per futon.

The following morning, we were up at 4:30, and out on the mountains by 5 — wearing our headlamps of course, since the sun had yet to come out. After close to two hours of ascent, we came to a point where I could no longer continue — it’s not secret that I have a fear of heights, and I had reached my limits. The others continued on, and I went back down by myself. I would try an alternate trail to see if I could later meet up with them at another point, but I had to give up on the path as well after ascending for about an hour, and so made my way back to the Karasawa hut.

Little did I know, I would spend the night alone.

It’s a good thing I turned back when I did. From the reports by everyone, the rest of the journey was even more treacherous than anyone expected, and had everyone on edge — there’s no way I could have reached those areas. They stayed at a different hut that night, and came back down the following morning, after ascending one more peak before the trip back.

They met up with me at the Karasawa hut at 9, and not long after, we would head back to the Kamikouchi entrance, to hop up on a bus that would take me and and my wife back to Tokyo (Tammy and William had come by car).

The last part of the story is that on that final day, my wife, William, and Tammy were supposed to follow a different path along the top of the mountains to head back to the Kamikouchi entrance. Because of high winds, they decided not to do it, and when we all got back home, we found out that someone had fallen off that path and died two days previous.

That helicopter we spotted on our arrival at Karasawa? It was searching for the body.