A Welcome into Winter Mountaineering on Japan's Mt. Aka-dake

21km, 2899m on Scottish alpine Grade 2/3 terrain in Yatsugatake Southern Volcanic Group, Japan

Growing up in Hong Kong in 30 degree Celcius heat and 100% humidity, there was never much need for me to learn any winter mountaineering skills. Much less was the need for me to learn how to use crampons and ice axes...that is until I met Peter, Seb, and Heidi. 

The four of us crossed paths when I embarked on my new adventure as an expedition leader for Outward Bound Hong Kong. Peter is from Scotland while Seb and Heidi hail from England. I on the other hand was fresh out of university in sunny Brisbane. 

The journey began when Seb found a blog detailing the fun and exposed Scottish alpine grade 2/3 route on Mt. Aka-dake located in the heart of the Yatsugatake Southern Volcanic Group, just outside of Chino, Japan. From there we applied for the Staff Adventure Grant from OBHK. This grant provides some financial aid to Outward Bound staff who are looking to embark on an adventure that embodies the spirit of Outward Bound. We were fortunately successful applicants and so our trip was given the green light. The next thing I knew, what began as a wistful conversation on the couch after an expedition turned into full on logistical organization. Our flights were booked, bags were packed and meals were prepped. And by meals I mean Heidi taught me how to make UK flapjacks (combination of oats and syrup) to fuel our venture to the summit. 

This was my first alpine winter mountaineering experience and what a way to dive into it. From walking on snow in crampons to handling an ice axe and traversing across steep slopes, the entire adventure was a brilliant learning experience. 

In all honesty the entire experience was surreal. Never would I have imagined myself roped up and armed with all sorts of sharp objects hauling myself up a snowy mountain – but there I was doing it. This expedition carries many unforgettable memories; some terrifying as you look down the slope and wonder what possessed you to put yourself in this position; but mostly of total happiness. 

Published: October 16, 2017

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Tiffany Fernyhough

Alberta

Outdoor Educator from Hong Kong + New Zealand | Currently in Alberta, Canada