“We need to make an alpine start” advised Tim, so after cooking up a chili con carne-inspired dinner with Timba, Rob & I drove to Shirogane michi-no-eki to sleep in our vehicles close to the trailhead. Waking brisk and early we then drove the short distance to the trail head where we met up with Tim & Timba. Biei-dake is a fairly high mountain so we took our ski crampons expecting some ice at the top. We decided to leave our boot crampons to save on weight, in retrospect I wish I had packed them.
The moon was bright and dawn was quick to bring the morning light as we set off. We walked along a mostly flat road through the forest until we dipped into the river-bed to cross over a snow bridge. The early morning start did nothing to dampen the continuous conversation of friends catching up on life as skins slid over the snow. Finally, we came to a clearing and were confronted with an abrupt but short uphill slope, the first kick turns of the day ensued and once on top, we were treated to incredible views of the surrounding mountains.
We were on a plateau so the flattish stroll continued as we enjoyed the views. I pointed out some small avalanches far over on our left which had me concerned about stability. However Tim & Rob assured me that those slopes were much steeper than the ones on our route. The walk up was fairly easy but very hot and long in the full sun. The upper stretches were more challenging as rocks and alpine pines poked through the icy snow and the gradient increased. We clicked on our ski crampons which increased our grip and security underfoot.
As we approached the summit, I realised that I should have brought my boot crampons, I was reaching my limit on the skis. The thought of slipping and falling was starting to fill my headspace, as we stomped away at ice and snow to make high stakes kick turns on the ridge.
At one stage I caught a glimpse of the imposing view over the other side of the ridge, dramatic rock faces falling vertically down further than I could see. Rob coaxed me a bit closer to the summit, and took off his skis to make the last few steps, however, I was feeling extremely intimidated by our height and the drop offs, so I sat just below the summit and found comfort in my peanut butter and jam sandwiches. The guys were not having any problems and happily sat at the summit enjoying the views.
Tim & Timbah skied down to Biei-Fuji to climb again and make a loop back to the cars. Rob & I skied down a widish couloir avoiding the rocks, which were not as problematic as I had imagined they would be as we were climbing up. Once down from the intimidating zone, I relaxed a little as we stopped to spot Tim and Timba over on the opposite mountain, just spots on what looked like a very steep face making their way up to the top. We were in radio contact with them, so we checked in every so often on each other as we made our way down the respective mountains.
The snow was surprisingly fast and consistent, so the long ski down was an enjoyable affair. We arrived at the cars about 30-60 minutes before the others, so enjoyed a hot drink as we waited. After everyone was back together, we hurried over the Shirogane Onsen hotel to warm up and soak away the pains of the day. So now I only remember the enjoyable parts, hahaha lived to climb another mountain, yay!