Yesterday’s Hike: The Agony Where Bravado Yields, In Spectacular Fashion, To Painful Reality
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I'm Heading Where ? On the way, by foot, to the top of that mountain  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/2500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
I'm Heading Where?
On the way, by foot, to the top of that mountain

I took an impromptu hike to the top of Kyoto's Mt. Hiei (比叡山) yesterday, about exhausting myself to death in the process. I'm much less in shape than I thought. I tagged along with Stéphane Barbery, who has done it several times of late.

I made the half-hour walk from my place to his, then we walked for another half hour or so to get to the trailhead next to the Baptist Hospital in eastern Kyoto....

Initial Instructions Stéphane pauses to tell about the upcoming path  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Initial Instructions
Stéphane pauses to tell about the upcoming path
This, I Can Handle tall trees, slightly sloping path  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 60mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
This, I Can Handle
tall trees, slightly sloping path
Steep Slope  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 31mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Steep Slope

The kind of Kyoto hikes I've done before have all had steep slopes, such as Daimonji, the local Higashiyama trails or other short hikes, but this Mt. Hiei hike was set apart by the mostly unrelenting slope.

Steeper Slope  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 31mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1100 — map & image datanearby photos
Steeper Slope
This is Getting Ridiculous  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
This is Getting Ridiculous

Stéphane was clearly in better shape than I, as I was quickly huffing and puffing. And to make it worse, every time I paused for a few seconds to take a photo, I was that much further lagging behind, distance my ego required that I at least try to make up.

Slightly Precarious  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 450 — map & image datanearby photos
Slightly Precarious
Ridgeline Trail Falls steeply immediately on both sides of the path  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
Ridgeline Trail
Falls steeply immediately on both sides of the path

I actually recognized this ridgeline trail, having been on it once for a bit when popping up from the lower, simpler trail mentioned here.

Up and Down overall, mostly up  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Up and Down
overall, mostly up
Flat Run Heaven-sent respite from the incessant climbing  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 450 — map & image datanearby photos
Flat Run
Heaven-sent respite from the incessant climbing
Pause at a tricky turn in the path  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Pause
at a tricky turn in the path

I was pretty beat by this point, to put it mildly, and I was regretting that I had opted for some hiking boots that I'd not really used much. I had a few Band-Aids, but thankfully Stéphane had a few special blister Band-Aids that he let me have, and for a while my feet felt much better.

To this point the path had been decidedly up, but from here it dove steeply down...

Heading Down To Go Up the next half hour was steep ups and downs  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1800 — map & image datanearby photos
Heading Down To Go Up
the next half hour was steep ups and downs
He's Down There Somewhere  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos
He's Down There Somewhere

As beat as I was, I would have preferred going up, because going down is extremely painful on my knees. Even when I visit a mountainside shrine like the Fushimi Inari Shrine I dread the downhill return trip because my knees soon start to hurt, on the outside edge just under the kneecap. Oddly, it hurts when I bend the knee while lifting the foot for the next step, and doesn't hurt at all when I then put my weight onto it. In the end, it often gets so bad that I actually turn around and go down backwards, which feels as odd as I suppose it looks, but it doesn't hurt that way.

So, this downhill stretch was really bad, and I took it slow. At the bottom was a small stream, then up again, then down again, and so on, for twenty minutes of pain until I got to about the halfway point of the whole climb, where Stéphane stops for a light energy snack. We ate and rested a bit, next to this monument....

Half Way Stone dates from 1920, about some event in 1336  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 27mm — 1/1250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Half Way
Stone dates from 1920, about some event in 1336
Ready To Head Off after our snack  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/3200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Ready To Head Off
after our snack

Stéphane said that he makes a non-stop run to the top from this point, so explained where to find him if I couldn't keep up. I had no illusion that I would be able to keep up, so noted his instructions with care.

Not long after starting again from our rest, I got my first nice view of the city, behind the foreground of a bunch of power lines that someone so thoughtfully marred the view with.

Northern Kyoto Iwakura (岩倉) area  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 48mm — 1/320 sec, f/9, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Northern Kyoto
Iwakura (岩倉) area
Trail-side Shrine To Fallen Hikers Who Bit Off More Than They Could Chew (not really, but in my state, that's how I saw it)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Trail-side Shrine To Fallen Hikers Who Bit Off More Than They Could Chew
(not really, but in my state, that's how I saw it)
Steep Run the last I saw of Stéphane for a while  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 35mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Steep Run
the last I saw of Stéphane for a while

I just couldn't keep up with him, and had to admit defeat (a defeat my body had been telling me about for some time). For the next 20 minutes or so I made slow, painful progress, sometimes pausing for 10 or 20 seconds to contemplate what I had gotten myself in to.

Despite his promise not to wait for me, he did wait at one fork in the path, and in something reminiscent of the “red pill / blue pill” scene in The Matrix, pointed out that if I wanted to return home quickly, I could take one path, but if I wanted to continue to the top with him, it was another way. How long, at your pace?, I asked. “10 minutes”. I was utterly beat, but I could go for another 10 minutes, so went his direction.

Stairs don't make it easier  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 36mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
Stairs
don't make it easier
Neverending unrelenting upslope  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3200 — map & image datanearby photos
Neverending
unrelenting upslope

At one point we came across an old man dutifully setting a footstone into the path. I thanked him for his efforts as I went slowly by, then turned around to snap a shot.

Path Maintenance  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/160 sec, f/5, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Path Maintenance
When. Will. This. Ever. End?  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/5, ISO 1250 — map & image datanearby photos
When. Will. This. Ever. End?
Not Yet, Apparently  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 60mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 2800 — map & image datanearby photos
Not Yet, Apparently
Laughing With Me except that I wasn't laughing... no energy left to do so  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 62mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 280 — map & image datanearby photos
Laughing With Me
except that I wasn't laughing... no energy left to do so

Stéphane is laughing because of how positively exhausted I was, in light of the email conversation in the morning that had precipitated the hike:

Me:I am planning to go for chicken this evening. Join me?
Stéphane:I'm thinking of climbing Hieisan this afternoon, so I'm not sure I will be able to join.
Me:Would you like company? I've never climbed it!
Stéphane:Are you in good shape ? I'm walking fast with no or very few stops. It's a 4/5 hour walk (with usually blisters and heavy legs at the end). Just bring water (2 liters at least), if possible 2 walking sticks (I can provide a pair), and some snacks. Still interested ?
Me:Sure, why not. What time leaving from your place? If I get tired, I'll just turn around. Is it mostly on paths, or should I have rugged shoes?
Stéphane:12 ? I'll buy bento/snacks on the way. Yes rugged shoes. Paths can be slippy (specially on the way down). I do not recommend heavy camera the first time (the lighter the better, and the 2 liters of water are useful).
Me:Okay, sounds good. See you then.

Perhaps he was laughing also at the situation: despite being almost too tired to walk, I was still snapping pictures with my big camera with the heavy Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 zoom.

I had clearly bit off more than I could chew, and had not taken his warnings seriously. I guess I had images of previous hikes in my head, and images of me being in better shape than reality called for.

When I was in grad school in New Hampshire, I would think nothing of taking off for the day to pop up to the top of Mt. Washington by foot, a climb more than twice the distance I had done here, and a tougher climb as well. Something, I guess, tells me that I'm not quite as young as I was 25 years ago.

But now that I think of it, I should get credit for having walked uphill for half an hour to reach his place, but didn't think of it at the time. But really, I was completely devoid of energy, just exhausted. Wiped. Stéphane, for his part, looked as if he had taken an escalator the whole way.

We weren't at the very top of the mountain yet, and would not make it there. To reach our destination on this trip, we skirted around the edge of the mountain for half a kilometer, to a rest area with a nice view.

On the way, we passed under a cable car that goes from near the top to nearer the top....

Cable Car Lines perhaps 100m below the summit  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 34mm — 1/320 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Cable Car Lines
perhaps 100m below the summit
Abandoned Ski Lodge that had served a “ski run” less than 200m long. No wonder it's out of business.  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 56mm — 1/1600 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Abandoned Ski Lodge
that had served a “ski run” less than 200m long.
No wonder it's out of business.
Nice View Poking Through つつじヶ丘 (azalea hillside)  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 50mm — 1/200 sec, f/20, ISO 2200 — map & image datanearby photos
Nice View Poking Through
つつじヶ丘 (azalea hillside)
Finally, Our Destination 800m up  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/2000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Finally, Our Destination
800m up
Chugging My Last Water photo by Stéphane Barbery  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Stéphane Barbery, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 34mm — 1/1600 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Chugging My Last Water
photo by Stéphane Barbery
Me I look like crap, but wow, I felt so much worse photo by Stéphane Barbery  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Stéphane Barbery, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/1250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Me
I look like crap, but wow, I felt so much worse
photo by Stéphane Barbery
Out photo by Stéphane Barbery  --  Kyoto, Japan  --  Copyright 2012 Stéphane Barbery, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 34mm — 1/1250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Out
photo by Stéphane Barbery

After chugging my water, I lay down for 10 minutes while Stéphane ate lunch (and apparently used my camera). We sat for a while, then turned around to go home.

My knees would never handle the downhill return trip, so I availed myself of mechanical transport home, a story for another post.

Amazing (to me) was that after returning home and taking a rest, I was able to make the 30-minute walk to my favorite chicken-dinner place downtown, Uroko (mentioned here), for a delicious dinner and drinks with Nicolas Joannin and his lovely wife. Then walked back.

I slept well.

Continued here...


All 4 comments so far, oldest first...

This reminds me a lot of when my wife and I decided to hike to the top of Mt. Kurama – on the way back down from the top to the Kibune Shrine our legs were shaking from overwork. I think it was 3-4 days before they weren’t sore anymore…glad you made it in one piece!

— comment by Brian on June 3rd, 2012 at 12:17am JST (5 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Brought back memories of the Marine Corps, my 5 man scout sniper team was in Korea for Team Spirit back in 1989. We were nearly at the end of a very mountainous 16km trek, we’d reached the top of a very steep mountain and decided it was time for a quick break (all of us quite tired despite being in very good shape, or so I thought), after resting for 10 minutes or so, I spotted two “elderly” ladies coming up the same path that we had used. I was in awe, they had huge racks on their backs packed full of firewood! They were laughing and talking to each other as if they were having a leisurely stroll along the Champs-Élysées. I think all of us were floored, we thought we were in great shape and making good time. Our average pack weighed 90-95 pounds, these ladies must have been toting at least 150 pounds of firewood. Gave me a lot of respect for these two and their lives that must have required lots of hard physical labor on an everyday basis.

— comment by Shane on June 3rd, 2012 at 2:10am JST (5 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Stephane looks cute with his European hiking poles. 🙂

It’s insane to bring a huge camera like that on a day-long hike, though. Go down to Yodobashi and buy a Canon G1X or something!

I may be out of shape, but that’s okay, because my measure of manliness is manifest in the size of the camera 🙂 —Jeffrey

— comment by Zachary on June 4th, 2012 at 7:12am JST (5 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Hi !
Think it was a very nice walk ! As you talk about your pain with knees as you go down. I’am feelling exactly the same, did you already see a doctor, or try to walk with this kind of “bandage” over the knee, does it help ? Would like to try one on a walk this summer.

So nice photo as usual Jeffrey.

— comment by Frédéric on June 5th, 2012 at 8:37pm JST (5 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink
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