Day 6: Futage Ike Campsite to Biei-Fuji Hut
My apologies for the extreme lack of photos for Day 6. As you’ll see, we ran into extreme weather.
Although the food was stashed well away for safety, I didn’t sleep at all. The bamboo swayed ominously throughout the night, at times becoming suddenly disturbed by small animals. We woke up and moved out of the muddy remains of the ponds quickly, proceeding to our ascent of Mt. Oputateshike. The map predicted a cool 2 hour climb but the huge bouldered path suggested something different. About halfway up the wind picked up, and within half an hour the rain smacked into our waterproofs like tiny bullets. The wind battered our packs and made progress slow. Several times we lay down on the path, beneath the knee-high rocky outcrop, to escape the constant pushing of the wind for a few minutes before pressing on.
Rounding the peak, to a very strong gale, we realised visibility had dropped considerably. It was here that we had to decide: turn around to a dubious water source or continue through the winds. We decided to push on, slowly.
The path followed the absolute peak of a ridge, rising and falling a few times. There were shin high bushes on either side that we grabbed onto to secure our balance but that soon fell away too. Our narrow path had a sheer drop on either side. I was later told by hikers that this path has a series of stunning views, and a very dangerous plummet. I’m sure with better weather this path would contend with the park’s most beautiful.
However, at the time we got down onto our hands and knees and crawled forward to avoid being toppled by the heavy wind on our packs. The topsy-turvy wind threw dirt into our faces at unpredictable intervals. We crawled onwards for quite some time, proceeding cautiously, standing and grabbing roots and bushes where we could and keeping low and crawling where we couldn’t.
Eventually, the path dipped, placing us on the side facing away from the rushing wind, our eyelashes heavy with dirt and collected water. Our waterproofs, good quality but not the best out there, were starting to leak through at the seams and visibility was still restricted to 10 metres at best. We decided we’d break minimally, wanting to arrive at the hut sooner rather than later.
The going from here was easier as the path remained on the less windy side of the mountain. After a while we finally dipped down away from the ridge altogether, on a very wet and rocky path. We tumbled down the path, exhausted and becoming increasingly irritable, at times struggling to find the pink tape markers that guided our way. Some were attached to rocks no larger than my fist!
Be extremely careful here, once or twice I wandered away from the path as it is completely indiscernible from the surroundings.
Checking the map, there was one more small peak to mount and the closer we came, the more the wind roared and the more we had to scramble bodily over boulders and ledges. My thighs were tight and cramped from the day before, and the wind pushed down on us as firm as hands barring the way. Luckily, the path wound around the side of the peak and so we dropped out of the wind after a while. The descent to the hut was slow as the rocks were slippery..
As we came across a red sign, pointing out the hut was within 15 minutes walk, we rushed through the grass, eager to reach it, strip off and get warm; our minds supplying the warm, sturdy hut from Mt. Chuubetsu. The hut turned out to be more of a portacabin, the walls plastered with mold and just as cold inside as it was without. The toilet was the same setup as the previous camp, and as with the previous campsite there was a lot of human excrement around.
Perfunctorily munching away at instant ramen for lunch, the adrenaline slowly ebbed, and we had a conversation with the only only other person in the hut, a Japanese man. We peppered our mimes with English and Japanese. The storm will be back tomorrow at 12 he said. He would be holed up waiting for it to pass altogether so that he could continue to the other side of the park. He asked for our route, to which we pulled out the map and showed him. Brave he said. Bears he said. Bears were the least of our problems, we said.