Mt Shari (1545m - Mt No 97)
Saturday 1st December
Day 293 - 7km
Tom - The temperatures over night dropped to -12°C. All the
water in my bottle had frozen and my jacket that had been damp
with sweat was like cardboard.
The trail followed the course of a small stream that had to be
crossed a number of times. Fortunately it was frozen over in most
places although I did fall in once when a flimsy snow bridge collapsed
under my weight.
an hour the trail split in two. One route followed a high ridge
to the peak and the other (shorter route) followed the stream.
I decided to take the ridge to avoid getting any wetter. This
involved wading through thigh deep powder up a steep forested
slope. Once on the ridge the snow was easier to walk on as the
wind had formed a hard crust that held my weight almost 75% of
the time. The view of the peak from the ridge was spectacular
although it still looked a long way away.
had planned to reach the peak at 11am and be down by 5 or 6pm.
It was 11am already and I still had a to do a traverse across
a bushy slope covered in deep powder and a steep climb to the
peak. At midday Dad called to ask how I was doing and was surprised
that I was still slogging up the final climb.
reached the top at 1.30pm. The view was spectacular, but I couldn't
sit around. I snapped a few proof shots and then glissaded down
the initial steep decent. The bushwhack traverse took just as
long as it had on the climb but the rest of the descent was a
lot quicker. It is very hard to climb a slope covered in deep
powder but when you come down you can take huge strides and slide
down some sections.
I was back at the toilet at 6pm. It was
already dark and I called Dad to tell him I would stay the night
and be down first thing tomorrow morning. It had taken me 11 hours
to do a 5 hour climb.
Saturday 1st - Friday 7th December
Paul - From Sapporo I hitched eventually
all the way to Tokyo (via a couple of the people we had stayed
with on the way north; Ingrid and Tim). Japan must be one of the
best places in the world to hitch hike. First off you are very
safe and secondly the Japanese are so hospitable and generous
that once you are in their car they take you on as their responsibility
and take excellent care of you. I was given some form of drink
by nearly every lift; three people bought lunch for me, one guy
emailed to check that I had arrived safely and another drove round
a service station car park until he found someone willing to take
me further south! It was also nice to realise that it is not only
British people that speak slowly and increase their volume when
you say that you do not understand!
Sunday 2nd December
Day 294 - 12.5km
Tom - I set off at 5am after another very cold night. The road
was easier to walk down as I could place my feet in the tracks
I had made on the way up. The sky was free of cloud and the moon
lit my way better than any head torch could. At one point an owl
joined me as it flew from tree to tree watching me with interest.
reached the rendezvous point at 7.30am and waited a couple of
minutes for Dad and Mr Sasaki to show up. We planned to go to
a church in Abashiri (a port on the north east coast of Hokkaido,
famous for the yearly ice flows which cover the sea in the winter).
Mr Sasaki is a well-known character and a number of people in
the church knew him. The service was great and afterwards we were
treated to oden (a Japanese hotpot) by the Tomabechi family.
After the meal we said our goodbyes and
rushed off to get some shopping and tumble-drying done. The previous
day Dad had seen people fishing in the sea, his plan was to fish
whilst I climbed the next mountain. One of the church members
had kindly offered to lend Dad and Mr Sasaki some of his tackle
so we popped into his house on the way to Rausu-dake (the next
peak). Not only were we given the tackle but also he invited us
to stay for dinner (very tasty sushi prepared by his wife). After
the meal we set off towards Utoro (the town closest to Rausu),
where we found a bed and breakfast to stay in. After a bath I
read a chapter of Harry Potter and fell asleep.
Monday 3rd December
Day 295 - 11.5km
Tom - After one of the best breakfasts of the walk we set off
in the car towards Rausu-dake. The road was gated about 7km before
the trailhead so the first part of the day was spent plodding
along an icy road.
As the trail starts at about 200m above sea level there was only
about 15cm of snow on the path for the initial steep forested
section so the going was easy. After this the path came out onto
a shrubby plateau that was covered in deeper snow. At first the
trail was fairly easy to follow, as it was a popular track for
local wildlife - even a bear had recently used it! However after
about 1km the tracks disappeared and finding the trail became
difficult. I put the snowshoes on to stop me sinking into the
snow and to stop them snagging on the headhigh bushes and trees.
I spent the next two hours fighting my way through thick bushes,
untangling my ice axe from branches, and taking compass bearings.
I began to feel like Prince Charming fighting his way through
the thorns to wake Sleeping Beauty. Eventually I came across a
pink tag marking the correct route and progress became a lot quicker.
The next bit of the climb took me up an icy gully that led up
to the col 300m below the peak. The sun was setting and the peaks
were bathed in a pink glow. On the way up the gully I passed a
large snowdrift ideal for making a snow hole. I seriously considered
stopping before the col and staying in a snowhole but eventually
decided that the wind wasn't too strong and that my one-man tent,
(which is not designed for winter mountain camping), could cope.
I found a fairly snow free patch and put
the tent up by hammering the pegs into the frozen ground, and
tying the guy ropes to some rocks. After dinner I settled down
in need of sleep. Half an hour later the wind began to pick up.
One by one the pegs popped out, the rocks moved so the guys were
slack and the tent began to sag. The fabric was flapping against
my face. I had to do something but if I got out of the tent it
would have got blown away. I pulled my rucksack (along with a
bucketful of snow) inside to weigh down one end and curled up
at the other to weight it down. This helped a little although
the flapping made sleep impossible. At about midnight I heard
the sound of the cooking pans (which I had foolishly left in the
porch) flying away into the night.
Mt Rausu (1660m - Mt No 98)
Tuesday 4th December
Day 296 - 14km
- After the second worst night of the trip (see 24th
June for the worst!), I packed up careful not to loose any
more kit to the wind and headed up to the peak leaving my pack
on the col. Visibility was poor and the wind was blowing spindrift
into my eyes which caused them to water, which then froze my eyelashes
together. The climb involved wading up a powder slope and scrambling
up a steep rocky/icy peak. On the top I took the proof shots and
dislodged a couple of cherry pip sized lumps of ice from my eyelashes.
Back at the col I checked the campsite to pick up any tent pegs
that had flown during the night. As usual the descent was a lot
quicker than the climb. The section that had taken me 2 hours
the day before took me 15 minutes (being on the right track helped!).
reached the workman's hut where I had arranged to meet Dad and
Mr Sasaki at 12. They weren't there yet so the foreman, Mr Tanaka,
took me in, made me a cup of coffee and told me what it was like
to work on possibly the most remote road works in Japan. Once
the guys were there he took a photo of the 3 of us, with my ice
Once in the car our next destination was
Asahikawa, where my sister Flora was born and where Mr Sasaki's
mother lives. Packing the car was made a little trickier than
usual, as Dad and Mr Sasaki had managed to catch 4 buckets of
fish whilst I had been on the mountain! It was a long drive and
we had to stop for a bite to eat and to stretch our legs. Mrs
Sasaki had prepared a meal for us called Gingis Khan (lamb cooked
on a hot plate). The plan was to climb Asahi-dake the next day
so I got yet another early night.
Wednesday 5th December
Problems with powder
Tom - On the way to Asahi-dake we stopped in at super market
to get a new pan, some ski goggles (Dad's Christmas present to
me) and some food supplies. The road up to the trailhead was icy
and the car ended up in a snow bank on one occasion. The guys
dropped me off just after 1pm. At first I thought my luck was
in as a snow cat (a big machine used to flatten snow) appeared
to have cleared the trail. After 500 metres however I found that
it was only the initial section that had been flattened. The remainder
of the trail was covered in 1.5m of fresh powder. I started up
the trail but found myself sinking up to my waist (even with snowshoes
on). If I continued to wade through this powder to the hut (a
2 hour walk in the summer), I would probably get lost in the trees.
I decided to try hiking up under a ropeway that lead to the hut,
as this would save me from getting lost on the first section.
However the snow under the ropeway was even deeper (up to my chest!!!)
and I knew I had to call it quits.
I called Dad and asked him if Mr Sasaki could turn around and
come and pick me up. It was a depressing call to make. Asahidake
is not a difficult peak to climb in the summer. I've already climbed
it twice before once in the summer and once in the spring (when
I skied down it). However the conditions in which I have tried
to climb it on this trip have placed it beyond my reach. If I
were to climb it I would need a slight thaw to consolidate the
snow, and ideal weather conditions. How long would I have to wait
We drove back to Asahikawa, popping in
on a old friend of ours, before heading back to Mrs Sasaki's house,
where we ate some of the fish that had been caught (very tasty).
The next day was to be a driving day to Mt. Rishiri so I could
afford to stay up and chat a little with Mrs Sasaki, who is a
very talented juggler!
Thursday 6th December
A long drive North
Tom - We set off early to make sure we would catch the 2pm ferry
from Wakanai (the most northern port of Hokkaido) to Rishiri.
I finished Harry Potter and started on a book about the exploits
of the early alpine climbers. It is amazing the things people
used to do with equipment we would call dangerous these days.
On the way up we saw a couple of trucks
that had come off the road due to icy conditions. A thick layer
of ice covers most of the roads in Hokkaido between December and
March. I wondered what would have happened if I had been walking
along the side of the road. We reached the ferry terminal on time.
The weather wasn't too bad although the top of Rishiri was covered
in cloud. I was pleased to see that there was very little snow
at sea level (5cm). We found a bed and breakfast to stay at and
plonked ourselves down in front of the telly to watch the weather
forecast. Fubuki (snowstorms) for the next 2 days followed by
snow for the rest of the week. I watched the numbed. The owner,
who is also a keen mountaineer, came up to have a chat and he
didn't sound too optimistic. We decided to wait till the morning
before we decided what to do but I had a nasty feeling I already
Friday 7th December
Throwing in the towel
Tom - I woke at 6.30am and pulled back the curtains. It was cloudy
and a few flakes were drifting lazily down to the ground, hardly
what I would call a snowstorm. In a few minutes however the wind
picked up and snow was falling in thick flurries. I had only just
managed to climb and ski down Rishiri in March 1999 in much better
conditions. I knew that the upper slopes of the mountain would
be hammered by wind. I had a number of options. 1) Sit and wait
on Rishiri (camping) and wait for a break in the weather. 2) Go
back to Asahi-dake and wait for a break in the weather. 3) Start
doing some of the walking on the icy roads between the peaks and
climb the peaks when the weather improved. 4) Throw in the towel
and call it quits.
I decided against staying on Rishiri so we caught the first ferry
of the day at 9am (later ferries would probably have been cancelled
due to high winds). On the ferry I sat and considered my options.
To complete the mountains I would have to do a considerable amount
of waiting. The walking, which I considered the easy bit, had
become as dangerous if not more so than the climbing due to ice
on the roads. I knew that if I was walking by the side of the
road cars and trucks would have to swerve to avoid me, and could
therefore loose control and slide off the road or even worse into
I was a hard decision to make. My pride told me I could do it
and I wanted to experience that feeling of completion. At the
same time common sense was telling me that I would be putting
others and myself in danger if I continued. I asked myself why
do I want to keep going? It wasn't to help others but rather it
was to satisfy my desire to be the first to complete something
that had inspired me for the last 3 years. I decided to swallow
my pride and call it quits. I had two things to console me. I
knew that stopping now would make little difference to the amount
of money and awareness that would be raised for landmine clearance
and I would also be able to make it home for Christmas.
Well that's all folks! I'd like to thank you for checking the
website, for encouraging us with your emails, for your prayers,
for spreading the word and for helping us achieve our goal of
clearing landmines. We've still got a lot to do! When I get back
we need to collect all the money pledged to the charity, we want
to do some talks to tell people about the trip and the landmine
problem, we want to put a video together (helped by Ben's talented
brother Andy), and maybe even write a book (if we can find a publisher
who is crazy enough!)
When people ask me what was the best part of the trip it's really
hard to point to one thing, but I can say this. Climbing mountains
is fun, but without the people we met along the way our trip would
have been really boring and we would have finished a lot hungrier
and dirtier! I'd like to say a special thanks to all the people
who put us up: Ruth and Gareth, Pete, Penny, Dean and Miho, Trena,
Noboru, Mat, Lynne, Shana, Tim V, Rachel, Tim C, Andy, Andre,
Cat, Angie and Nina, Rick and Ryan, Duncan and Mat, Mt Sato and
Fujiko, Thom, Paul and Janet, Mary, Mr Hatori and family, Tim
H, Ellen and Naomi, Hutch, Ingrid, Phil, Shane, Robin and David,
Mr and Mrs Okada, the good Samaritan and Mrs Sato.
There are also a lot of people we met along the way who are not
mentioned above (as we didn't stay with you) but who are mentioned
in the diary updates. We'll never forget any of you. Keep in touch.
8th - Tuesday 18th December
Paul - My last week in Japan was spent in Tokyo where I was able
to meet up with a whole load of people, both connected to the
walk and friends from the days when my folks were missionaries.
I was also able to finish the final two Harry Potter books and
get mentally prepared for returning to Britain – i.e. very excited!
Wednesday 19th - Thursday 20th December
Paul - As we walked through the arrivals door at Heathrow airport
we were greeted with a massive cheer and all the bags on my trolley
fell off in the middle of everywhere. There were posters, balloons
and a whole heap of smiling faces. In a daze I plonked myself
down on a chair in the handily placed arrivals pub, jumped up
to do something, came back into the pub and only then spotted
Rick and Ryan sitting chuckling in the corner. They were over
in London for business and had managed to make time to come and
see us again. They were chuckling as I had sat right in front
of them without noticing them!
Much talk and laughter later my family and Bens family
piled into a borrowed minibus and drove back to Kenilworth and
a take out curry that Ben and I had been dreaming about for some
time (months I think!). The following morning we both got interviewed
for local TV news after which I said goodbye to Ben and for the
first time in ten and a half months wasnt one of a three,
but was one again.
Ben - I have been home in the UK for some time, so this account
of my final weeks in Japan is made with some distance from the
event. I will cover briefly my exit from the trek and review what
I filled my time with afterwards. Also, I shall mention the welcome
we received in Heathrow airport.
So, back to the mountain and to a story that I didnt finish.
I must apologise to readers for this lack of continuity, email
access was poor and so was my motivation to run over the events
in my mind.
The parting of ways:
We rejoin at the parting of Tom and myself on the mountain. It
was an almost clinical operation, little was said as we swapped
kit and food about. I dont really recall what I was thinking
at the time but looking back now I was highly-strung and angry,
mostly with myself. Lots of if only thoughts, lots
of silent expletives, and no real understanding of what to do
for the best, or indeed how I will make sense of it to myself.
I have never left a friend on the mountain alone, sure I have
gone up and hiked alone, but splitting the team just seemed wrong
in some way. I was in no fit state to say I will come with
you Tom and I know Tom well enough to understand his need
So I set off down the hill and soon I could see Tom no more as
he was swallowed by cloud. It took me over four hours to move
about three kilometres. The snow was mostly chest deep but I sank
to my neck on occasions. In the deepest snow, I found that forward
progress was most easily achieved by pushing my backpack out in
front of me and so attempting to spread my weight out. My frustration
did not lie dormant within, instead; I painted a colourful picture
with words that I forgot I knew, as I ranted to the video camera.
Perhaps the best way I can review this specific event and in
general terms the entire trek, is to say:
I would change little or nothing about it, for the experience
has been immense and we have walked out of the other side of it,
however I would never do it again. Although positive experiences
far outweigh the negative, I can too easily see and feel the pressures
of living as we did. My favourite pass time became more of a chore,
at times I morphed in to the person that I least want to be and
there was huge pressure placed upon the friendships of Ben, Tom
Once off the mountain I was able to see how bad my ankles were.
Back in my supports, again walking was ok, but I still stood no
chance in my mountaineering boots without them. I saw two options,
walk to the bottom of each mountain and watch Tom climb it, or
call it a day.
I caught up with Paul by hitch hiking and together we walked
into Asahi Kawa. We had a good view of the Disetsu range and the
weather was seemingly in full support of Toms traverse attempt.
Many hours of deliberation saw me wave another goodbye to Paul
and head south to Saitama and the home of Danielle.
I would not be seeing the boys for probably about three weeks,
just before we flew home to the UK.
The three weeks that I had from stopping the trek until flying
were in some ways a hidden blessing. Apart from the obvious need
to rest my ankles, I was able to have time with Danielle. In truth,
I ended up having more time with my lady than I had imagined.
I was invited back to teach some English lessons at Kawagoe Girls
High school where Danielle works. I took 10 lessons in all, and
the response from the girls was something I will never forget.
All the classes I took were very similar, forty 14 year old girls
who come to the lesson to hear a native speaker, they expect Danielle
and get me. The result was generally high pitched giggling that
continues at varying degrees throughout the 45 minute lesson.
Most of the students have a good level of English and so I was
able to give a quite comprehensive talk on my reasons for being
in Japan and why Landmine clearance is so important. I felt privileged
to be involved with teaching approximately 400 students in all,
and at times, I was very touched by the responses they made. There
was a very genuine concern for the sad situation that so many
people have to live with due to the presence landmines. Some students
wrote emails to us after the lessons, voicing their concerns,
one girl wrote:
Hi, Ben ! And Tom and Paul.
My name is Kumi.
I'm Kawagoe girl's high school student.
Do you know Kagoe girl's high school??
Danny(?) who is your girl friend is my school's teacher.
Today, you came in my school.
I met you and I heard your speech in last class.
Your speech was fun !
I wish landmine is not in the world.
I was very surprised to see picture book on the wall.
Because three die by landmines an hour.
I have been sad.
I try to think what we can do for the people.
My English is very poor.
So if I had a miss , sorry.
PS* I think you and Danny is nice couple(^ - ^)
And she is very nice teacher!!!
We like her very much!!
Another group of girls collected together their pocket money
and offered it towards mine clearance. I have found this experience,
to be almost unique, I shared my concerns about the world we live
in and some people thanked me for it and began thinking how they
could help. It reminds me a bit of that film Pay it forward
in which people are on the receiving end of a good thing and so
they do something for someone else.
Aside from teaching I was also trying to visit as many of the
people who have supported us in the Tokyo area as possible. So
many people have made this trek not just achievable but also a
stunning experience, which has opened my eyes and heart to the
possibility for human beings to be capable of such good things.
Thank you to everyone; who took us into there homes, who met us
on the street, who donated money, who offered us food, who followed
our progress on the internet, who wrote to us, who prayed for
us, who listened to us, your love has kept me and encouraged me
and changed me, ((you are angels.)) thanks.
Arriving Home and signing off.
The last few minutes on the plane were strange, emotions everywhere.
While we waited for our bags we each made a final video diary
and pushed our packs towards home.
The noise as we entered the arrivals area was quite amazing considering
the size of the gathering
banners were being waved and we
frantically hugged mums and dads. My brother filmed our entrance
to the UK and I look as spaced on that video as I felt at the
time. One wonderful surprise remained and that was the surprise
presence of friends. My mum had arranged with Rick and Ryan (the
saviours of our time in Tokyo, see early August
diary) for them to meet us at the air port, words failed but hugs
made up for it.
Now we are home we have to find out what is next, we probably
need to write a lot of letters and begin thanking the people that
we can never properly repay. We will be giving talks about the
trek and basically bringing our efforts to a close. Our website
will remain open and I would love to hear from people.
Thank you again for your interest.
Paul - I think the thing I have found most difficult or
perhaps disconcerting is a better word is how unchanged
life back here is. It is not that I was expecting everyone around
me to have made massive changes, more that it would be different
because I am different. It would seem, however, that if I wanted
it to my life here could pick up exactly where I left it last
February. If I wanted it to, life could continue as if I had never
been to Japan, never spent 10 months walking 4300 miles. It is
a strange feeling.
Im enjoying being at home though and enjoying all the food
options for such reasonable prices. Days just disappear at the
moment. It is almost a month since we got back but I dont
really know where it has gone. Ive spent some of the time
applying for an undergraduate course in Physiotherapy the
first sort of future plan that has stuck in my head for more than
three minutes. I have spent plenty of time eating it being
Christmas and all and time catching up with folks. And
I have some part time work lined up for the middle of Feb.
Motivation for all things walk related is at a low. I am desperate
to put the thing to bed for a while but realise there are at least
a few talks I really have to do now. Tom and Ben as ever, it sometimes
seems, are working more willingly than me. Tom has written to
sponsors and waded through hundreds of slides. Ben and Andy (his
younger brother) have spent hours working on a four-minute video
to be used at the talks. I am not quite sure what I have done.
I found something on the computer that I had written for some
magazine before I left in which I explained why I was going to
do the trek. Three of the key points were as follows:
Not everyone could (or would) contemplate walking 4000
miles and climbing 100 mountains; the very fact that I can is
for me a motivation to try it.
I have no real idea what it will be like. There is no certainty
I will be able to do it. It is a stepping into the unknown, an
exploration of my physical, mental, and emotional limits
I have never been to Japan before and what better way to really
see and experience a country than walking its length and breadth.'
Nice sentiments, but I know now that none of these reasons is
motivation enough to do what we did. (I can also now think of
better ways to see Japan!) The three reasons above got me to Japan
and got me started, but didnt help me accomplish what I
did. What got me through were the prayers of many folks around
the world, and in part Toms determination and Bens
enthusiasm for just being in the hills. Love, support and a desperate
desire not to quit also kept me on my feet.
I said it during the walk, but never really got my heart right
round the idea, that the key reason for our walk was to clear
a path to a safer future for those effected by landmines. I have
known in my head for a long time that we were walking for the
following reason (taken from the same article as above):
Death, when it comes and is done with, may be a bliss
to anyone; but the doubt of life or death, when a man lies, as
it were, like a trunk upon a saw-pit, and a grisly head looks
up at him, and the groans of pain are cleaving him, this would
be beyond all bearing, but for Natures sap sweet
hope. (R.D. Blackmore)
Landmines are a plague. I am taking part in this trek in an attempt
to offer some sweet hope to those affected by landmines.
Through this trek we hope to keep the landmine crisis in the public
domain, and to raise enough money to clear a landmine field.
Dont be like me in keeping this knowledge locked safely
away from your heart.
Landmines are evil, they are still being placed, and they are
still destroying lives hourly; lives of men, women, and children
alike. People are still painting them to look like toys. Anything
we do is better than nothing.
Thank you for following our expedition, for supporting us along
the way, and for doing something to fight against landmines. Many
of you who helped us have thanked us for touching your lives.
It has to be said that were it not for you I would have headed
for home comforts and an absence of walking long before I did!
My life, and my outlook on life, has been changed by those who
helped and supported us as we travelled.
While the walk has finished the crisis is still there.
Please dont forget.