One day, Yagi-san (Mr. Goat), Kuma-san (Mr. Bear) and Buta-san (Mr. Pig) decided to climb a mountain. Actually Buta-san had never climbed a mountain before, but many times he had heard Yagi-san and Kuma-san going on about what a blast they’d had so he decided to give it a go. The three chums settled on Upepesanke as the day’s objective, as not only does it have a cool Ainu name and a fine summit ridge but it is also the closest big mountain to Buta-san’s house.
The plan called for an early start, but when the alarm went off at 4.00am a peek out the window revealed low cloud and steady rain. Yagi-san was sorely tempted to roll over and go back to sleep, but Kuma-san was having none of it. ‘I’ve come all this way to climb a mountain,’ he muttered, ‘and climb a bloody mountain I will.’ Then into this discussion walked Buta-san, already wide awake and fully dressed, a gleam in his eye. So it was settled and off they went. It turned out to be a good decision as on the drive north it began to brighten up. By the time they reached the trailhead at 6.30am the rain had stopped and sheets of cloud were beginning to peel away from the mountain. It would be a good day after all.
The first part of the climb was up a steep trail to the ridge; wet, rocky and blocked in places by fallen trees that had to be clambered over, under or around. Buta-san shot off in the lead but soon appeared a bit perplexed by the difficulties on the trail. Perhaps mountain climbing was not quite how he had imagined it (he later confided that he had been anticipating a pleasant ramble with frequent stops at hostelries for light refreshments of a mildly alcoholic nature). Nevertheless the three pals made it to the ridge in good time.
From here the ridge climbed up steadily with a few ups and downs, eventually emerging from the forest into high alpine scenery. Now and then the clouds parted to reveal tantalizing glimpses of broad mountain views. Yagi-san bounded ahead as usual with Kuma-san lolloping along behind, and Buta-san now relegated to the rear. Despite much puffing and panting he was making good progress, though could occasionally be overheard muttering ominously to himself something about imminent heart attacks.
After a final long climb they stood on the top of Nukabirafuji, the easternmost point of the main summit ridge. The weather had cleared up and they could see across to Nipesotsu and further to the broad sweep of the Daisetsusan and Tokachi ranges, wild and magnificent mountains all around. Buta-san appeared unimpressed. ‘Is this it?’ he exclaimed, ‘We have much better mountains back in Buta-land.’ Yagi-san and Kuma-san looked at each other but said nothing. Kuma-san then produced a few dried mangoes, which had an almost miraculous effect on Buta-san’s general wellbeing and morale.
The three set off along the ridge to the main summit. It was a wonderful walk, narrow, light and airy. A few patches of late snow lay in some of the gullies. After taking in the views from the top and a bite to eat they retraced their steps and began to descend. Despite being (mostly) downhill the route was long and by the time they reached the start of the final steep descent they were all feeling tired. After a short rest they plunged down through the forest back to the trailhead.
Amid the usual bustle of taking off boots and putting away gear a strange whimpering noise was heard. It was Buta-san. ‘Help guys, I’m having spasms,’ he gasped. Sure enough, he was draped over the back seat of the car, twitching and completely unable to either fully stretch out or sit up. Yagi-san and Kuma-san looked on with interested curiosity, having never observed this phenomenon before. Luckily it passed fairly soon and with the restorative properties of Nukabira Onsen being just a few minutes down the road a speedy departure was effected. Soaking in the steaming rotenburo afterwards Buta-san pronounced that he was now cured of any further desire to go mountain climbing – a shame, since it had been a jolly good day out!