Last week a friend and I set out climb the highest mountain in Tokyo.
Mt. Kumotori (雲取山) is an accessible peak from the capital, straddling the prefectural borders of Tokyo, Saitama, and Yamanashi. It sits at a height of 2,017 m. Using trains from Tokyo Station, you can be at the base of the peak in about two hours. Driving there will take 2-3 hours, depending on traffic.
It had been about eight years since I’d last climbed a mountain, a pretty long break by any standard. That said, since last year I’ve been training hard lifting weights, and actually this was to be the fourth time I would climb this mountain. I felt like I might be … OK!
A number of routes lead to Kumotori’s summit. We opted for the shortest! Although it’s also regarded as the hardest; the Kamozawa course. For the strong walker, this route will take just over five hours to the summit. Others courses require ten!
Our schedule for the climb …
Kamozawa trailhead: 14:00
5th stage / Campsite: 17:30
5th stage / Set out: 8:00
Kumatori summit: 10:00
Sho-Kumotori / Lunch: 12:00Kamozawa trailhead: 16:30
Mt. Kumatori - 5th Stage hut, 2nd day
Setting out on the Kamozawa trailhead, it wasn’t not long before we entered an area of woodland. Initially a gentle route, the mountain slope became steeper, and after about an hour we were panting heavily with the effort. Sweat poured out of me like a waterfall and we needed to take many breaks. It seemed like a long time since we had set out on the climb and we were yet to arrive at the 5th stage campsite before my eyes became tired.
To add to our woes, we had neglected the fact that you really should be climbing with a headlamp at night. Consequently, we hadn’t packed one. Big mistake!
Still, this was my fourth time on the mountain so I was pretty familiar with the route. However, climbing in the dark is dangerous (as if it needs to be said), and next time I’ll be sure to set out on any climb with more time to spare!
Eventually, at about 8 pm we were at the campsite and started cooking our dinner. We were in our sleeping bags by 10. My body was tired, my legs were tired, too, but for about two hours I just couldn’t get to sleep!Note to self! Docomo’s cell phone signal is poor in mountains!
We rose early on the second day and ate breakfast. After my friend had finally packed up the tent, we set out for the summit.
Differing from the first half of our ascent, for about an hour, there were many points where the path was, comparatively gentle. However, it soon became devilish, with many sections declining steeply only to be followed by fierce inclines that we hadn’t experienced earlier in the ascent. It robbed us of our strength more than we could have imagined.
Climbing mountains is not just about the ascent, though. You have to think about the descent also, and pace yourself accordingly. With heavy bags and tired legs, we were aware of the difficulties of descending that day. So, after a brief discussion with my friend, we decided it would be best to hide our bags in the bushes and complete the final part of the ascent without carrying anything. Looking around us though, we could see that the other climbers had already left their gear in their tents before making the final ascent.
After a few hours walking, we made it to Mt. Kumotori’s summit. However, we couldn’t see a thing!
On a clear day, it’s possible to see Mt.Fuji. That day, it wasn’t to be. Nothing to do but go back down. Plus, with the wind, it was really cold at the top!
After a few breaks on the way down, we eventually managed to escape from the mountain.
Thinking back, stopping the climb halfway up to stay the night, and then having only one day to make it to the summit and get back down again was bit of a stress. I was worried whether or not my legs would be able to handle it. I was right to have been. Three hours into the descent my knees started killing me and my friend had to slow his pace because of aching legs. For me though, the more I slowed down, the more it drained my strength. Instead, I kept up my pace and then took breaks to give my friend time to catch up. We joked during the descent that if we hadn’t ditched our bags on the way up, we would have never made it down in one day. As it was, the descent took us about five hours.
Still, during the last hour my legs were so tired I could barely walk. I had to spread the burden that I was putting on my knees to other parts of the body that weren’t doing their fair share of the work! How to do this? Walk backwards! (And we weren’t the only climbers doing this).
Ultimately, my friend and I got back safely and I shall endeavor from now on to climb regularly and be in better condition for it.