Minami Alps 2 day hike: Kitadake

Saturday July 22, 2000


Difficulty 4 Number of Days 2


by Iulia Klotz, Photos by Iulia
Who decided that Bjoern and I,
we will go to Minami Alps? I am not sure. Might be even myself...
However, we did. I think that the motto of this hike was "the
lucky one"! We started Saturday, at 4:00 am from the "usual
7/11, Tadashi saying that it is too early. We reached Tokyo, Tadashi:
"my gush! It isn't even 5! We will be there too early!"
After missing the road- Bjoern (navigating) was menaced to have
his name turned from "Bjoern 1" into "Paul 2"

  • we still found the right direction and a necessary gas station.
    I want to remind you that nothing is happening without a secret
    sense! The "wrong road" (we thought at that time) proved
    very helpful later. It seems that previous misfortunes on various
    TWMC hikes should be remembered somewhere so they are not repeated
    next time. However, fate cannot be always beaten, whatever precautions
    one takes! We were on the way to the hike's starting point and
    Tadashi was still saying "we are lucky! It isn't even 7:30.
    We are too early!" Then it happened: there was a gate and
    two guard men saying that there are no parking places at the starting
    point of our hike, and we should take the bus. Thus Tadashi's
    words echoed somewhere up there and we waited for the bus until
    9:10, and started walking at 10:20...
    "Swedish fireworks", Niclas trying to ligh a camping
    burner but managing to light his fuel bottle, a towel
    and some rocks instead.

Flowers on the way up.
It was not easy, it was quite
steep, it was a lack of condition (I'm speaking for myself!),
it was something that made Victor say "we will reach the
first hut and there we will decide, during lunch break, who want
to go to the top and who to remain at 2250 m." I think that
we must find an honorific title for Victor. Something like "TWMC's
weak hikers angel" or "TWMC's weak hikers motivator".
However, I believe that at least I managed to do - and survive

  • the hike due to Victor. Thank you Victor! During the lunch we
    had good and amazing happenings. The good one was the discussion
    about the map time and the result that we actually were not too
    slow. The amazing one was the discovery of the "Swedish fireworks"
    as Niclas tried to light a camping burner. This happening was
    photographically documented. Fortunately, Niclas did not managed
    to light himself and the tents around us remained also intact.
    We all decided to go further. Tadashi was still saying "we
    have plenty of time!" The weather was fine - not too hot,
    not too cold, the landscape was fine ­ except for the slope
    we were hiking on and the peak, which was hidden away by dark
    clouds. I even managed to take some pictures of the colorful flowers
    we've met. I'm thankful that Bjoern's proposal, to deny taking
    pictures during TWMC hikes, was ignored. We were suddenly in clouds/fog
    with low visibility, strong and chilly wind and thin air. OK,
    the air was starting to be thin even before we reached the first
    hut. The path was not too. Thank you Tadashi for help! I think
    that everybody was happy to see the hut. In the hut we learned
    that there are different opinions on the height of Kita-dake.
    On T-shirts and handkerchiefs was written 3194m, some memorial
    badge suggested 3192 m, while others claimed 3912m! The game the
    wind played with the fog was teasing the photographers trying
    to catch a glimpse of sunset. It was an intimate night, allowing
    our group of 7 to share 3,5 futons. We were somehow concerned
    for not having any idea about the whereabouts of Paul's group.
    We started the second day with a "memorial photograph"
    around the hut's fog bell. The climb in the fog was rewarded by
    a splendid view as the wind cleared the summit. (May be Victor,
    that the view you had two years ago was better, but this was mine
    and it was gorgeous!) After a while first Paul and Neil, and than
    one by one, Paul's group joined us. We looked around, took pictures,
    enjoyed the clear sky and the view of Fuji san; put on sunscreen,
    changed rain gear to shorts... and started descending. If one
    doesn't have bad knees, descending sounds very easy! But it isn't
    always like that; at least it wasn't for all. And then, there
    are also other pleasures than "jogging through the landscape"
  • looking, listening and searching for birds, taking pictures...
    The "easy group" (from front to back: Claire, Tadashi,

    Arifa, Victor, Iulia and Niclas, Björn took the picture)

    getting sunburns waiting for Pauls group on Kita-dake.
    With some imagination you can see Fuji-san in the back.
    This is not taken from a postcard!

And neither is this.

We found the map times going down
from the summit overly optimistic. Back at the cars we had to
decide when and how to return to Tsukuba. Tadashi wanted to spend
some time in an onsen, and start late to avoid the possible traffic
jams, Victor wanted to drive straight to Tsukuba, taking a longer
route to avoid Tokyo. Victor won. But the fate... Victor's car
lost its last droplet of break fluid and stopped just behind an
onsen! Since it was Sunday and evening, looking for a gas station
which sales such stuff proved difficult, but the "navigation
error" from the previous day helped. Tadashi and Bjoern this
time found the correct turn to route 20 they missed Saturday and
on the "wrong road" an open gas station which even had
break fluid! Thus Tadashi did not have an onsen, but Victor stopped
near an onsen for about one hour!
After dinner we moved toward Tsukuba.
Did I say that Tadashi didn't miss any occasion to say how lucky
we are? He was right. We were lucky: no traffic jams, clear sky
at the summit, no major injuries excepting sun burns (I do not
count Les's heels), no running out of gas. Moreover Victor's car
got break fluid and Victor got the answer to the "electronic
defect" which caused a red hand-break related light to stay
on. But this one is another story, and Victor is a much better
by Victor Heese
As part of the story has been
told by Iulia, let me tell you the whole story - even though it
is a little embarrassing.
The Story
The place where we parked the cars for the Kita-dake hike this
past weekend is at about 1500 metres. That's a long way to drive
up and a long way to come down. On the way down, it's a steep
and winding road so you need to use your brakes a lot. I was the
last of our 3 cars. As we were just about down to Kofu, after
using the brakes a lot, I noticed that my brake pedal was starting
to get a bit spongy. On a flat road, this might not be too serious
as you can use the hand brake to stop. But, on a downward slope,
it's not a very good thing. I was somewhat worried that we were
going to end up in the trunk of Arifa's car. I frantically flashed
my bright lights at the cars ahead as a signal to stop. For the
longest time, they didn't seem to notice, but finally they noticed
and pulled into the approach of some business. As it turned out,
it was an onsen. Talk about lucky. By the time that we stopped,
my brakes were completely useless and the place where we stopped
was an onsen. We checked the brake lines for leaks and couldn't
find any. We checked the brake fluid reservoir for brake fluid
and couldn't find any of that either.
Let me go back to about a year
ago. I got this car from my brother Jon about a year ago. I noticed
that the brake warning light stayed on even after I disengaged
the hand brake. I asked Jon about it and he told me that it was
an electrical problem - the hand brake sensor was broken. No problem

  • just ignore the warning light. For about a year, I drove the
    car with the light always on. Other than my regular driving, the
    car has been to Bandai-san, Nikko, Oze, Okukujinantai-san and
    Myogi-san. Never a problem - until this weekend when the brakes
    gave out coming from Kita-dake.
    Back to the present. The absence
    of brake fluid was a little puzzling as we couldn't find any leaks
    in the brake lines. We sent Tadashi, Bjorn and Iulia to find some
    fluid. Meanwhile, the others had an onsen. About an hour later,
    Tadashi's crew came back and we filled the reservoir with fluid.
    As there was a lot of air in the brake lines, the brake pedal
    was still spongy so I pumped the brake pedal for about 10 minutes.
    It started to firm up and we thought we would test the brakes.
    Tadashi moved his van well out of the way and everybody stood
    back. I got into the car, started it and put the transmission
    into neutral (the car was on a downslope so there was no need
    to engage the transmission). Very slowly, I eased off the hand
    brake, and lo and behold, the brake warning light went out.

Back to the
Home Page