Backcountry Japan

[Update: Kazumi uploaded her video of the skiing. See it here

Sunday morning, up at five. Realized nothing needed to be done as I had sagaciously prepared everything according to backcountry checklist specifications the night before, unsure what sort of state I would be in after a birthday party and little sleep. I was picked up at the nearby easy-to-find bus stop by Kazumi-san, another B'nuts person. She's my source for info on Thailand climbing - she went a few years back.

We went over to pick up Kanji-san not so far from where I live, and he was very, very late. Alarm clock fail. Right as we had given up on his coming and driven off he called letting us know he had just woken up. Shaving off any more details, we made the two-ish hour drive together to Gassan.

View Larger Map

There, the three of us met up with another five for a grand total of eight. The first was our illustrious Takeuchi-san, organizer of the expedition and one of the managers of B'nuts. He gets a big thumbs up.

There were two other ladies from B'nuts, though I didn't realize it for ages since their faces were covered in the strong wind, and then finally one older man and younger woman I hadn't run into before, both on skis.

Kazumi, Kanji, and the lady in white in the photo above were all first-time backcountry snowboarders and were doing the hike with snowshoes. Takeuchi-san ditched his splitty to keep them company on his lovely dovetail onesy. So in total, our group composition was: one splitboarder (yours truly), four snowshoeing snowboarders, and three skiers.

The weather was remarkably lousy, with a strong wind and wet snow going the whole time. Still, when I got put on track-breaking duty, I got going hard enough that I was just rocking the shell and baselayer. My hair ended up frozen quite nicely in the wet snow and with my sweat, but sadly I didn't think to photograph it. Being out front most of the trip meant I got to take pictures of the whole group coming up after me.

While I was breaking trail I would go stop go stop, since I have been groomed (Brian, Maciej) to go mo' fasta mo' fasta! and I would get out ahead of the group pretty far. Well, the gentlemen skier was told to go ahead of the two ladies, and suddenly I wasn't alone out front anymore. He had no trouble keeping up, which was nice, as it meant I had someone to chat with while we waited. I did get alone in a little break in the whiteout again to go take a tinkle ahead of everyone else, and here's the forward and backward from that.

So as it turns out, the place we had been heading to was a closed ski resort. If you want to know why it was closed, well, here:

Yeah, they had too much snow. That's a photo looking down on a ski lift we hiked up by. Thank goodness the ski lift was there, because at this point, it was true whiteout in quite a few spots, with the blow-you-over wind kicking up fairly often.

The ski lift wasn't the only thing peeking out of the snow.

At this point in the hike I had been overtaken by the gentlemen skier, and, what with my stopping to take photos, it wasn't long until he disappeared into the storm, not to be seen again til I reached the peak.

The closer guy in this photo was someone just out doing this on his lonesome. Don't ask me.

One last look at the effects of the wind.

And, incase you want to punish your ears and get a glimpse of what the gale was like, here's a boring minute-shot of the hill.

Turn down your volume.

And finally, I unzipped my jacket just long enough to reveal the grin it was hiding.

Matt Enlow

Matt has a camera, a home on wheels, and this website
Down by the river