Jun 15, 2009

Jun 09 : Myoujin - Karasawa Cirque : Northern Japanese Alps

When I awake, it was alredy 6 am. I overslept. I didn't have enough sleep the day before.
The sky was lightly clouded. I didn't need to regret missing the morning glow at least.

I walked with an old gentleman who stayed at Myoujinkan. He was a veteran hiker. He was an very early member of Wandervogel club of Nihon University. He used to hike around Japanese Alps with a heavy canvas rucksack, in woolen knickerbockers and argyle socks.
Those days, every equipment was unrefined and heavy. They carried 30-40 kg as normal and spent their youth days in mountains.
He cheerfully talked and laughed. He told me how he and the other members camped in Tsurugisawa Valley for weeks then traversed the Northern Alps to Karasawa Cirque. They hiked all the way from Mt.Tsurugi to Mt.of Yari, treading every peaks in between and finally descended to Kamikouchi. From the Sward to Spear. That sounds nice.

It was fun to listen to his old stories. He said he joined the Alpine club in the university first. But those days, alpine clubs in universities were rather military-styled. He couldn't stand bullying like excessively harsh training then quit it and join the Wandervogel club instead. Eventually it turned out to be a very lucky choice. In November of that year, the party of the alpine club went to Mt.Fuji for winter training and was hit by a huge avalanche. Among 24 members, 8 were killed. He lost his 6 freshman friends. If he didn't quit, he probably were killed with them, he said.

In 1954 November 28th, it was a stormy day. About 10:40 am, a massive avalanche occurred at a 3600 m elevation point in the northeast face of Mt.Fuji. It ran down for 1700 m altitude difference and 4.1 km distance. Nihon University party was caught in it at 2600 m elevation.
There were two other parties of other universities and also hit by the same avalanche.
Most of the dead people were carried for more than 2 km and buried under 10-20 m terminal debris which reached to 1900 m elevation. Despite of 3200 total number of people's exhausting search, they walked and dug everywhere from the top to foot, it was the next June when the last missing one was found.
This day, 39 young men were caught in the avalanche. 16 were injured. 15 were victimized. It turned out the worst alpine accident in Japan at that point.
I didn't know about it at all.

He looked good shape. But he said he wasn't able to go to Karasawa Cirque any more where he loved and visited many times. To go there he got old too much. Until a few years ago, his wife came with him to Kamikouchi but she said she wasn't strong enough so she stayed home.
He showed me the place where particular wild flowers grew. And showed me the view points of mountains. This area was like his garden. He knew every corner.
His purpose of the day was the white mountain peony ; Yamashakuyaku. Unless they were illegally dug up and stolen, they must be blooming right at the time. And, Yes, they were there in the dim forest floor by the trail.


The old gentleman was staying Tokusawaen Lodge. We said good bye. It was a nice meeting!

Tokusawa is famous for Nirinsou; small white anemone, a spring ephemeral.
In the forest, they bloom like stars. Could Niphredil be like them?

Shimmurabashi bridge
There was a troop of monkeys on the bridge

Many ferns grew like crowns on the forest floor

Lunch break. Crossed the bridge; Yokoo Oohashi

Hontani Bridge

Garlands for June brides

The trail became much steeper after Hontani Bridge

Upstream of Hontani valley was buried with snow. Karasawa valley was so too.

Karasawa Hütte appeared. Looked close. But it took 1hr to get there.
Patiently walked up on the steep snow slope and get into the cirque.

Karasawa Cirque
Arrived to Karasawa Hütte finally
It stood on the very middle of the cirque. Called "the bottom of the bowl"
The snow depth was about 6m.

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