Another weekend, another backcountry trip. The crew was mostly familiar faces: Kazumi, Zunko, Kanji, Satoko (from the first trip) and one new face, Jun. Throw me in the mix and you'll come up with six, which is a bit fewer than our count last time.

The start of the hike was up a snow covered road.

For the first time for one of the backcountry trips, the weather was nice. For the first time, we could set our sights on the peak.

A waterfall under the snow
Five of six

With no wind, it wasn't long before everyone ditched their shells. Once we hit a hill, I took lead, switching with Kanji whenever I stopped for a photo shoot. On the way up, the snow was good, the trees were perfectly spaced, and the slopes were sloping. I was dumbfounded as to why we hadn't taken this route on our first trip up Gassan (we were going for a different peak this time, Ubagatake (姥が岳).

雲海 -

Unkai - a word I heard when we looked back and saw the clouds underneath us. The word is written "cloud" and "sea" - a sea of clouds. This word needs to find its way into English.

The spacing on the trees was, in a word, Ideal

In this last photo, you can see another mountain range far off to the right, and near-center, revealing itself for a moment in the valley, the tall bridge of a highway.

Kanji breaking out of the treeline

The mountains in Japan have such a different feel than the ones back home, especially the view from the top. The Rockies feel like they're made out of sweeping gargantuans whereas Japan is some sort of fractal mess, as though they were created algorithmically.

Our peak was shadowed by another snowy angel with black dots hiking up her spine. Looking over that way, halfway down in the middle of the mount were signs of recent avalanches. Happily, it was a completely different aspect with completely different features than what we were hitting. It looked more fun, too...

As the peak grew nearer clouds began to race across from the east to the west, blocking our view of the valleys and even nearby mountain. You could see them move clearly without having to wait, like the mist rolling out of a fog machine. Just the same, it was still T-shirt weather all the way to the very top, where we no longer had the mountain itself to protect us from the Northeastern winds.

The clouds blew themselves away before long. As the peak got nearer, I got giggly and faster but some of the members were getting worn out on their way to the top. I decided to slide back down towards the people at the bottom and share some of my genki (energy), as well as show off the scenery in movie form. The thing is, my snowboard was still in ski mode. Anyone who has ever tried to control cross-country skis on an alpine descent knows how that goes.

After a morning of high spirits and good fun, we made it! Best of all, not that you can see it with my camera, the Japanese sea was visible from all the way up here. Not that its in the photo above, but isn't that a lovely peak far off in the background?

More nearby peaks, and beyond them..
The sea!

No really, that's the Japan sea! You can just barely make it out, cradled by the darker blue of the earth. The clouds and grey sky don't make it stand out, but it's there.

More mountain goodness

A group photo at the top, and then, why we climb mountains (okay, besides the view and endorphines). This involved lots of whooping and hollaring from me, with random bursts of giggles. Yeah, it was yay. Kazumi-san brought along her camera, so here's things from her point of view. As usual, I'll throw a play-by-play under the link. If nothing else, jump to the end and watch the "extras".

  • 0:30 - a cool view from the top of the world
  • 0:39 - a wild Matt appears!
  • 2:06 - I'm caught doing a run (and quickly disappear)
  • 3:00 - See that black dot up ahead go poof? That's me hitting the magic place. Oh god, it was so fun. You can see even Kazumi-san picks up speed from it.
  • 4:10 - I was waiting long enough I'm eating a sandwich here ^^
  • 4:20 - LOOKS SO GUD SO GUD Dance
  • 4:30 - Yeaaahhh...
  • 4:41 - I won rock paper scissors :D Bomb! Lots of giggle hollers here.
  • 5:30 - Kazumi-san gets into those perfectly-spaced trees I was talking about
  • 6:40 - Tracking out. This route was extra awesome in that we were able to follow our trace all the way back out, no need to go ski mode.
  • 6:49 - Kazumi-san passed me back on that uphill bit, I return the favor here WHILE doing matrix moves under hanging trees. Man, I'm so badass
  • 6:55 - For those of you who have never seen a snowboarder use poles - row, row, row your board, gentle down the mountain...
  •  7:00 - Why do I always seem to do such mean things to Kazumi-san!!! 申し訳ない
  •  7:35 - "Extras" (A must watch)
  • 7:40 - "What's this? A 'love-love' couple?" (Speaking of Kanji and I)
  • 7:45 - "I'm embarrassed to watch"
  • 7:50 - The ride was so fun it brought out the inner child in me.
  • 7:55 - "Yep, just like I thought, love-love."
  • 8:18 - The best freaking dancing 2012 has seen yet.
And that's a wrap! In summary, this was the backcountry trip that all other backcountry trips try to be like. The word used to describe us on the way home was "junkies" - all we could do was giggle and talk about munching. Of course, munching would have to wait until after the traditional onsen stop on the way home. But it happened all the same... Omnomnomnom gyoza!


Matt Enlow

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