The forecast was cloud with light rain, ideal for taking on the Kakamigahara Alps full hiking course.
Last year I did it twice, but both times tried to run it. The first time, also in the rain, I bailed out with two mountains to go. I got lost, was freezing cold in t-shirt and shorts, and didn’t have the will to continue.
Two months later, on a hot day in June, I tried again, and again I got lost. In fact, I wasted so much time running on roads around mountains to get back on course that it became a mammoth 37km effort, and I was exhausted and dehydrated when I finished.
This time, I decided not to run, and started a little closer to my house. I also started at 5am, an hour earlier than last year, so made quick progress over the first two mountains – the two Gongens – and was on my way east across the alps long before breakfast.
I learned well from last year’s mistakes: I knew the course much better, I was dressed in rain wear, I had more than enough water for the whole trip, gloves to prevent blisters from holding my hiking stick and grabbing tree branches, and a better sense of where to conserve energy.
My biggest mistake this time around, not that I had a choice, was wearing shoes that weren’t waterproof. I got soaked in the rain and the water flowed into my shoes.
Nevertheless, I surprised myself at just how quickly I was moving across the mountain range. I was at Sarubamijou, the most eastern point, by 9:10am, about three hours ahead of last year! And whereas last June I collapsed on a bench and rested for half-an-hour, this year I devoured a Danish pastry and headed off again quickly.
The rain was light, but relentless, and cloud covered all the surrounding mountains leaving very little to look at. It was hardly surprisingly that over 21km and seven hours I didn’t see another person!
The long climb up Mt. Yagi was hard, especially as my waterlogged socks were causing blisters on my toes and heels. Still, with only Mt. Atago left to go, I pushed on.
Incredibly I was out of the mountains before midday and made my way to Ogase Ike car park in the hope my wife would come and pick me up.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get hold of her and after changing my socks and putting some band aids on my feet, I plodded another wet 5K home on the roads.
In the end I covered 27.4km in 7 hours and 30 minutes, climbing around 1,500 meters in the process.
I felt a lot more confident today and feel I can extend the course by doubling back part-way, but not until I get some waterproof shoes! 🙂