During the weekend I headed out to climb another mountain with some of the local alpine club members. It was my second trip with some of them and it`s starting to become a regular occurrence with a few more in the pipeline before winter really hits. This time we headed for Yufu Dake, 1583m, it won`t win any records for it`s height but it`s location, views and looks are certainly up there. Like most mountains in Japan it is an extinct volcano with a perfect cone like formation and 2 craters, it has 2 summits the East and West peaks which I`m guessing where formed when it last blew off some steam.
It is only a 1hr drive from our place through the steaming hillside of Beppu and the drive up the mountains out onto the Kijima Plateau is beautiful. The trip started out across large fields of bamboo grass, one of those plants that looks comfy from afar but you wouldn`t want to roll around in! Once you’re in the forest the track steepens a bit and the going gets a little tougher, before long you find yourself panting your way up one of the 24 zig zags in the track. The last few hundred meters get really steep before popping out at the saddle between the 2 peaks.
I wish I could say I was lucky with the weather but after climbing 4 peaks in Japan I still haven`t had any with perfect weather! The temperature was probably only 2-3degrees and combined with the wind chill would have easily been below freezing, in fact you`ll see by the pictures it was probably more like -5 and hasn`t been any higher in a long time! 100% of the flora was frozen and in some places the ice build up on plants was 20-30cm long! It was a true winter wonderland! Being a tough kiwi I was the only one wearing shorts and every single person we passed on the way commented on how the hell I was ok. My motto is `walk cold, stop warm` so while we were moving it was no problem. After about 10seconds at the top I quickly changed into some pants much to everyone`s relief. I`m sure the non English speaking Japanese thought I was way outta my depth but I had no way of explaining I knew what I was doing.
We headed for the more challenging West peak first and as the guide book said we were greeted by a long section of chains to assist us. Most of these weren`t really needed but one section in particular required a 7m climb up virtually vertical rock, no problem in summer but covered in snow and ice the chains were very helpful! After lunch on the west peak summit we headed back to climb the much easier east summit and then off back down the hill to the cars.
On the way down we met a volunteer who builds tracks, benches and markers on the mountain, he climbs it 40 times a year! He also told us last year he walked the whole length of Japan in 90 days! And he's 70!
Another fantastic day out which could have easily been mistaken for a trip to the Antarctic!