Last year I was so depleted financially due to the Karakoram expedition that I wasn’t back in Kamikochi until the end of the season. Since I still wasn’t well off enough to afford another attempt at Denali this summer, I can instead hike in Japan every weekend as I please (or as the weather allows). Naturally that means that I was hiking next to the Azusa river at the first chance.

I didn’t plan to do anything crazy, just take it easy, hike up Chougatake, set up my tent and read. It went (almost) as planned. The only unexpected point was that even though Kamikouchi itself is already open, the Chougatake hut isn’t, so I was short of a ramen lunch and water. Luckily the staff were already there digging stuff out of the snow, so the toilets were open at least. I escaped the extra meal by pacing my coffees and snacks so I never felt hungry, and used the yet-pristine snow near the campsite for water.

On the flipside, it meant that only people like me (who can get by without the hut operating) were on the mountain. The campsite was basically empty and I maybe only met one or two people on the entire way from the Konashi-daira camp to the summit of Chougatake. Even the Tokusawa hut was only used by the monkeys.

The snowline was much higher than two years ago, but either I was slow (and arrived “late”) or it was just a really warm day, and the snow was so loose all the way up it was extremely draining. I’d sink knee deep every few steps and even if my load was by no means heavy, just fighting the snow was exhausting. On the way down though, after a clear night, the snow was frozen rock solid all the way, making the descent much more enjoyable.

This was also my first time in the mountains with my new Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles. My old Alpine Carbon FLZs gave in for good and the carbon poles I took to the Karakoram were broken by the avalanche (one was—I gave the other to a local porter). These are super light, the grip is comfy and the straps are great too.

One unexpected victim of this hike was my phone that decided to swell up on the mountain. Luckily it didn’t actually explode, overheat or do anything instantly fatal. I’d have hated that, because having to reset all my 2FA without the actual device would’ve been hell. Replaced it with a new device the day after.

Since the descent from Chougatake is a pretty quick hike (hell it’s quick up too, that’s why I can spend half a day just reading in camp), I decided to go visit Takayama in Gifu once again. Sadly the rona apparently killed the karaage shop I liked next to the river, but instead I found a really nice beer bar.