This week has been a bit of a second honey-moon for us; perhaps the honey-moon I always wanted.
I think Marie-Laure has been suitably knocked over by the snow, the food, the people and the beauty of Japan. It was an easy sell, although less easier finding a guide for what looked like the only day of good weather after nearly a week of snow. I actually think she was a little relieved that I couldn't seem to be able to talk anyone else in to hiking up the volcano. And she categorically refused to let me self guide. However a chance encounter at NAC though proved fruitful, and on Wednesday morning we actually ended up with two guides - Kenny (a local), and Alex, a Canadian guide aspirant. We were also joined half way up by a couple of Kenny's friends.
Incidentally, I'd hoped this year to also climb Shiribetsu-dake but cancelled plans when I found out that a new Canadian gig is flying choppers up there now. How they ever got permits to land on a mountain sacred to many Japanese is curious. But it kind of spoils it for those of us who want the silence and solitude of an honest and technical slog only to find things tracked out by people prepared to fork out $1700.
The trailhead this year was different to the prior couple of times I've climbed Yotei, although leading up towards a similar aspect of the mountain. Whilst there were plenty of cars down below, once we'd skinned up the first valley we hardly saw another soul or track all day.
This approach had better views of the mountain itself, and we were blessed with the most perfectly sunny day.
The climb was so stupidly and ridiculously beautiful it was surreal. We topped out at the tree-line at around 1400m where a howling wind was turning honest powder snow into rime. Any further ascent would have had little in common with skiing, and so we didn't really have any interest in it.
We had a glorious descent in fine powder down though mature Japanese birch for lunch at around 800m, and Kenny managed to talk my wife in to climbing back up for another fabulous descent on the other side of the ridge, all the way back to the car. Then off to the onsen to watch the sunset on Yotei. A magical day topping off a great week with my best ski buddy.
As usual I took far too many photos. The Japanese dudes took none!