Monday, February 21, 2005

First free weekend in a long time

For the first time in a long time I didn't go to the mountain this past weekend (strictly speaking that's not true because I did go to Ajigasawa ski resort to watch some of the freestyle snowboarding). There was a good reason for this, which was the crappy cold that I've had, and I felt the best way to deal with it was to stay in all weekend.

The question I asked myself this weekend though, was about how I am going to cope when I go back to live in England. England is a country where there are very few mountains, and those there are are small and not very challenging. Sure, there are beautiful places to visit in England, lots of historical sites and cultural heritage, but there are very few places where a man can hike uphill for hours and see for seventy or a hundred odd miles when he's at the top. That's what I feel I want for the rest of my life. It's not necessarily the skiing that I'll miss, rather the mountains themselves.

My first real moutain was Mt. Sinai in the Sinai peninsula of Egypt. This was a real treat because of its controversial biblical significance. It is claimed, though highly disputed, that this is the mountain where Moses encountered God and received his commandments for the Hebrews. Nobody will ever know if this is where the meeting between God and Moses actually took place or not, but all the same it was pretty cool thinking about the possibility. In addition, the sunrises from the summit are very reliable, and mind-blowing. I met Koreans for the first time on this mountain. I'd never met a Korean before, but there were loads making their pilgrimage to the top when I went up. They all broke into tears at the top, leaving me with the impression that Koreans cry easily.

Before Mt. Sinai I'd climed Masada in Israel, but that wasn't really a mountain as such.

I also have a good idea of the other mountains around the world that I want to climb before I die. I want to climb Mt. Elbrus, which, I think, is a free mountain on the border between Russia and Georgia. It's disputed to be the highest in Europe, depending on your definition of what Europe actually is. Next, Kilimanjaro looks good, and to the best of my knowledge it is also open for climbers without permits.

Mt. McKinley in Alaska, and Aconcagua in Chile/Argentina are also long term attractions, but I'd need to be in great shape to summit mountains at that altitude, McKinley especially.

For the time being, though, I'm content simply to learn more about the mountain I now have in my backyard, Iwakiyama. My first ascent this year is planned for March, when the skies should start to clear and the snow around the base of the mountain should begin its spring melt cycle.