Monday, March 27, 2006

Akakura Gorge: different angles

I say 'gorge', but I'm not really sure what kind of mountain term you'd use to describe the area I photographed today. The word 'gorge's is often used synonymously with 'canyon', but I wouldn't go so far as to call this place one of those. Whereas a canyon is either created by a river over time, or has at least got a river running through it, the Akakura area was created by volcanic eruptions in years past. It does have a small river running through it, but that's water flowing from the mountain itself. Anyway, I'll look into it and maybe talk about it some other time.

Today I managed to make my first ascent this year to the top of Akakura dake. It was a grand old day outside today, and so long as you didn't stand close to the edge there were no 30m/sec winds to bend you sideways.

The snow was patchy, with icy areas and soft stuff that had drifted from elsewhere on the other side of the mountain. You could see it traveling, being whipped up into brief tornado formations by the wind.

I wish I knew how to handle Photoshop a bit better because then I could stick these three shots (above) together. You can see where they meet though.

Patchy snow. This is the bowl that must have been created by the eruption. When the snow's gone you can see a landslide effect of reddish rocks and debris.

Close-up from deep down inside, the other side.

It's a great big area and the thing I find cool about it is that there's absolutely nothing going on down there. It's a very dangerous place to be at any time. In the winter because of avalanches, and any other time of year because of falling rocks. After I was nearly knocked flying by a surprise rock hurtling down the ravine on the south side of the mountain about two years ago, I'm uninclined to put myself in any potential firing line again.

Nearly at the top with this one.

Truth be known, I set off early today and got to Akakura (roughly 1450m) at around 11am. There was plenty of time to stroll towards Iwaki dake (above) and gently make my way up for the first time this year, but I didn't feel good about it, not knowing what the snow-pack was like. Also there was hard wind shooting over the upper ridge, and I had no idea what it'd be like further up. While down here in town springtime seems to be settling in, it's still winter up there and the wind speed is still typical of winter months. I decided to call it a day and stroll back down along my new route, the adjacent ridge.

Brief Edit:

A friend of mine put the three pictures (mentioned above) together and mailed me the image:

Good work, Nick. Thanks a lot.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Scarecrow, my old man and the new guy in town

Be on the lookout, Hirosakiites, for a big, unfamiliar-looking, blond haired Canadian muscle man roaming the streets. He's the new boy in our office since Jeff's leaving this month, and he's not hard to miss because he's twice the size of any Japanese person. And he's got blond hair, which is also a dead giveaway. Haven't had the chance to talk to him in length just yet, but he seems like a good lad. His name is Julian, and he's new to the scene so if you meet him say hello.

I don't post as much on this blog now. It's a matter of not having the time, nor the motivation. I'm quite a busy boy at work, and when I get home, which is usually after nine in the evening, all I ever seem to do is watch movies. Movies are something I've always ignored in life until now. I never had the patience to sit there and wait for a story to get underway, and I'm usually very critical of them if they're not well thought out enough. However, I've been nurturing an appreciation recently and now I'm hooked. In fact, I don't think there are enough films left in my local store to keep me going for much longer.

Among the tripe that I've sat through, or not, on a number of occasions, I've found corkers, real corkers. With the likes of Al Pacino, I've fallen in love with classics, such as the scene in Godfather 2 when he meets his brother on the dance floor and does the "You broke my heart" line. But my favourite Pacino scene has to be when he imitates a pirate at the end of the movie Scarecrow. If you've never seen it you should make time for it one evening. It's just about the most inspiring film I've seen this year.

And there are other, less well-known scenes, like when Woody Allen's character in Annie Hall blows two grand's worth of coke into thin air with one sneeze.

The movies might just be starting to take control over my engagment with reality. After watching the Clint Eastwood movie, The Outlaw Josie Wales, I was responding to people's statements with "I reckon so" way too much to be taken seriously.

Sean Penn is another man I like in films. Hurlyburly was a fun movie, with lots of wrecked characters and no particular direction (a combination I like in a film). Sean Penn plays desperate characters very well, but comes off a bit mediocre in other roles.

The criteria I look for in a move has become very recognisable. Like I said, I look for loose endings and a lack of plot. My reckoning is that if a director can pull off a movie without either of these two constituents then either the acting or something else has to be bloody good. I like good directing, and the characters and their interaction more than anything else. For me, two main characters is best. I like two main characters with self-expression issues and tension and a lack of trust.

I'm actually thinking of maybe getting involved in some kind of amatuer dramatics scene when I get back home next year. It sounds like a joke, I know, but I reckon it'd be an interesting thing to have a go at.

On a different note, and one that really doesn't relate to anybody who reads this outside of my family and friends at home, my Dad's been very ill for the last few months. He was semi-diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome originally, but a couple of weeks ago the doctors told him it was a different complaint altogether. He went in for major surgery the other day and apparently he's getting better now, but all the same it's frustrating being this far away from the old bugger right now. I don't want to go into the details of what it was, but I felt I should write at least something about it.

That's all I can think of to write. I could bang on endlessly about climbing or boarding or hiking (which I've already started up again for the new year) but they're just obssesions of mine that I don't want to bore you good readers with. No new photos either, apart from this old pair of gloves that fell into the snow the other day.

I went to pick them up, but I grabbed my camera and took a picture of them first.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Another completely indifferent week passes by

This is me on a route which is written in kanji (Chinese characters), one of which I don't understand, but the first kanji means woman so I just call it exactly that. So, this is me, on 'woman'.

Ozzy Chris, also on the same route. It's good now. I've been training regularly for the last six months and recently I've got to the level where I can do pretty much all the stuff that he does. It's important to have a climbing buddy at a similar level to give advice and to watch for mistakes.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Back to the old house

An indifferent week has passed me by once again, and I'm sat here trying to stay focused on a movie starring Bob Dylan which really isn't turning out. Dylan can't act, but I knew that before I even contemplated him as an actor. He doesn't need to be able to act, I guess.

The week in pictures:

The bottom ridge of the North face, Akakura. Cornice to the left, trees to the right; it's a tight one to negotiate on such weathered snow as last Friday's. That cornice could really take you for a ride if you weren't careful.

Just a bit further up you can see the fleeting face of the ravine.

Blown snow.

Tackling the inappropriately named 'H'. In Japanese 'H' refers to sex, and climbing this particular route has no connection.

Ozzy Chris on the same route, and he's definitely not smiling.

The Dylan movie's just finished, it's called 'Masked and Anonymous' by the way, and I've just realised why I was finding it hard to understand. It's nothing but a bloody good soundtrack.