Alpine Shooting in Winter (1)

Yuga Kurita Mount Fuji Southern Alps December Winter_DSC0785Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Shooting Fujisan seems to be one of the favourite activities for retired people. Famous shooting locations are getting more and more crowded with old people.  I want to believe that everyone who loves Fujisan is a good person. But sometimes it is not true. I often pick up trash thrown away by some of such amateur photographers. They don’t throw away trash at popular places where their deeds are witnessed by other people. They reveal their true personality when they’re seen by no one. That’s what mindless jerks does. Some take pictures from the back of the spots with wide angle lenses and try to chase off everyone comes into the frame. I’ve heard someone actually did such even to people who came earlier to the spot than him, saying “I always shoot Fuji from this position. You guys must go away.” But his ‘place’ was owned by someone else. Some get furious when someone briefly lights his camera with a headlight or penlight. If he really doesn’t want any artificial light to enter his camera, I think he should shoot in back-countries. I’m sick of all of this. I wanted to stay away from them. I wanted to be all alone in nature.

So I determined to climb the Southern Alps and shoot Fuji from there. I can see the Southern Alps quite well from my town. I was obsessed with an idea to shoot Fuji from these 10,000ft white peaks. I should see no people in the mountains because all lodges were closed in October and, according to the weather report, it would be snowing and wind would be strong.   In other words, it would be risky mountaineering. But I thought I was called.

I drove to the Torikura forest road, which is located at the opposite side of the Southern Alps. It took over 4 hours to get there. It was snowing when I arrived at the gate of the forest road. I moved from Tokyo to Fujiyoshida to shoot Fuji every day. But I came all the way to Nagano Prefecture to climb mountaina to shoot Fuji. I thought it was rather ironic.

I hesitated to leave my car since it was snowing and obviously it wasn’t the ideal day for mountaineering. The weather forecast website called Tenkitokurasu rated the adequacy of mountaineering as C (should not climb). But I determined to trust my hunch and left there wondering if I would come back here alive.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 10.47.06 AM
©2014 Google, Zenrin

Since I climb the mountains from the western side, I need to get to the highest ridge to see Fuji.  I planed to shoot at the summit of Mt. Eboshidake,  make a bivouac at a place safe from strong wind, and then, traverse to Mt. Ogouchidake next day.

Yuga Kurita Zero Point Backpack_DSC0736Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

My Mont-Bell backpack is massive. Its capacity is 110 litters and I attached two 6.5L extension bags, Total capacity is 123 litter. It weighed nearly 30kg. I thought it would squash me before reaching the summit. I had to walk the forrest road for an hour from the parking lot before going into the mountains.

Yuga Kurita Sanpuku Toge Trail Nikon_DSC0740Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

I slowly traced up the footpath under a cloudy sky.  I couldn’t move fast because the trail was slippery not to mention my massive backpack. According to my original plan, I would reach the Sanpuku Toge by 2:00PM and the summit of Mt. Eboshidake by 3:30PM. But it was already dark when I arrived at the Sanpuku Toge.  There is a lodge at the Sanpuku Touge. It closed in October and there is no one at the lodge in winter. But one of the buildings was left open so that climbers can use it as a shelter. Needless to say that there is no electricity and heating device but it protected me from wind and snow.

I donated some money into a donation box hanged on the wall of the winter shelter as the token of my gratitude, and left the lodge before dawn. I wanted to shoot the sunrise from the top of Mt. Eboshidake. But it was snowing. There wasn’t much hope but I still wanted to stand on the top.

It doesn’t taken an hour to get to the summit of Mt. Eboshidake from the Sanpuku Toge in summer. But it is winter. Snow was deep and made it difficult for me to move.  The deep snow also hid red tapes indicating the standard trail so that I lost sight of the footpath and had to go up through steep slopes. It was already 10:30AM when I arrived at the top of Mt. Eboshidake. It took 5 times more than usual. I had to re-examine my original plan.

yuga kurita udon yoshida windmaster KIMG0091
Kyocera TORQUE Android Tough Smartphone

It was freezing, windy and snowing at the summit but barely bearable. I determined to eat udon noodles I brought from my town. The temperature was around minus 15 degrees Celsius. The SOTO Wind Master Stove did a great job to let me enjoy udon under such a severe environment.

Yuga Kurita Kyocera Torque minami apls KIMG0094
Kyocera TORQUE Android Tough Smartphone

The hot udon noodles became cold in minutes because of the extremely low temperature. I originally planned to traverse to Mt. Ogouchidake from this place. But wind and snow made the visibility very poor. I judged it would be too dangerous to traverse the mountains under such a condition. I determine to give up the original plan and go down the mountain.

They say that weather is very variable in mountains. I can assure you that it is true. The sky was suddenly cleared up after walking for 40 minutes and I saw the surrounding mountains for the first time.

Yuga Kurita Southern Alps Japanese Mount Warusawa_DSC0757
Nikon D5300 w/ AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G

Oh My God! The Southern Alps! What a divine view!  I saw Mount Warusawa behind the white ridge. Yes I’ve been in the realm of gods. I didn’t notice it because of the poor visibility.

If I go back to the summit now, I will probably be able to see Fuji. But it is already 1:00PM. The sun sets around 4 O’clock these days. Going back to the summit means I will have to stay in the mountain for one more night. I have to make a decision whether to go up or down. Well, what to do!?

To Be Continued to the Second Half