#008 – IKOMA-YAMA
“How to get the best of it all? One must conquer, achieve, get to the top; one must know the end to be convinced that one can win the end – to know there’s no dream that mustn’t be dared. . . Is this the summit, crowning the day? How cool and quiet! We’re not exultant; but delighted, joyful; soberly astonished. . . Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves. Have we gained success? That word means nothing here. Have we won a kingdom? No. . . and yes. We have achieved an ultimate satisfaction. . . fulfilled a destiny. . . To struggle and to understand – never this last without the other; such is the law. . .”
― George Mallory
Ah, the lure of the summit. It turns man to foolhardy, courageous, astounding endeavours. Deadly as addiction to the weak of spirit; a thrilling challenge to those with the strength of will.
Dreams of summits made have surely sent thousands to their doom and turned countless more away humbled and humiliated.
Mountaineering lore is riddled with tales of the trials and tribulations endured when summit fever grips the soul. From frostbite to embolism, avalanche to eruption the list goes on.
The Missus, the Kid and I underestimated Ikoma from the moment we sat down in a noodle shop at its foot and gorged ourselves on steaming bowls of udon. Rising to some six hundred metres out of the urban sprawl on the Osaka-Nara border we took it to be nothing more than a walk in the park. Sated but maybe overly so we bumbled around the outer Osakan suburbs for longer than was necessary, poking our heads in the innumerable fortune teller’s establishments lining the streets, before discovering the trail up out of the houses and into the jizo dotted forests cloaking the mountain.
Spring was in full swing and the resplendent greens of a new season’s leaves comforted our souls still quivering from a winter that had seemed unwilling to release its grip.
I was well out of shape and the recent hikes up Hiei, Mikami and Minetoko failed to exact any noticeable improvement in my form. Ikoma was a steep mother and with a belly full of lunch along for the ride, all I truly desired was a nice lie down.
Summit fever swelled to counter those notions though and we all pressed on upwards.
It was as we clambered up the final approach to the broad summit area we realised the challenge that lay before us might be just too much to overcome. We had emerged from the woods and literally stepped into another land. Sky Land. Locating the summit proper while fighting off hordes of weekend revelers brandishing soft creams, helium filled balloons and screaming infants was going to take some serious effort. A Nihon Hyakumeizan under my belt I felt ready to accept the challenge and take charge. First we hit the log ride, then eyed off the haunted house and roller coaster. The Kid wasn’t keen for the ghost house and my arm wasn’t anywhere near twistable enough to get me on the roller coaster. So ice creams it was. Sitting at a picnic table, we watched a strange man in tight pants, boob clinging shirt and thick rimmed spectacles ride the merry go round alone, the kids nearby having retreated to the comfort of their parents’ embrace.
Men – and women – in this case, do desperate things when gripped by the lure of the mountaintop. We eyed off the challenge from a safe distance, calculating the best way to attack it before brazenly marching onward. I’d conquered the ice walls of Iwaki, the chain laced crags of the Northern Alps, gas spewing monsters Asama-yama and Yake-dake but never, in all my time high up in the mountains of Japan, had I been confronted with such a unique set of circumstances as on that day.
In the words of George Mallory “one must know the end to be convinced that one can win the end – to know there’s no dream that mustn’t be dared. . .”
With that, we bought our tickets for the kiddie train and Ikoma’s summit was ours.