My Mt. Hiei Climb Challenge 2013, Part 1

This post is a continuation, of sorts, of my first climb of Kyoto's Mt. Hiei, painfully documented a year ago in “Yesterday's Hike: The Agony Where Bravado Yields, In Spectacular Fashion, To Painful Reality”. After that horrible experience, I vowed to get into better shape, and to repeat the hike in a year.

That year had passed, so I repeated the hike last Thursday.

After the first hike, I made a concerted effort to get into shape, and just six week later I showed some of my progress in “Going Max Cliché While Learning About Off-Camera Flash”, and probably hit my peak in muscle-to-fat ratio six months later last autumn where I was essentially devoid of fat at 78kg/172lb, ridiculously lean for my 192cm/6'4" height. (But that lack of fat came with a gaunt face made me look sickly, so these days I'm looking much more healthy at 82kg/181lb).

Now, a year after the first hike and in my mid 40s, I have the best physique that I have ever had.

But in planning to repeat the hike this year, I was really apprehensive for two reasons: The biggest worry was my knees on the downhill parts, and I was also worried about my cardiovascular shape, which hadn't necessairly improved, so I worried about getting pooped out like I did last time.

Anyway, worries aside, I did the hike last Thursday. I started out from my place in eastern Kyoto at 9am sharp.

Getting Started the main gate of the Heian Shrine Kyoto Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 31mm — 1/800 sec, f/5, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Getting Started
the main gate of the Heian Shrine
Kyoto Japan

The top of the mountain is hours away, but if I reach it, this gate should be visible.

I was doing the hike by myself this time, so tried to do a self portrait in a window...

Me photo by me -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/160 sec, f/9, ISO 450 — map & image datanearby photos
Me
photo by me

I've got to walk about an hour through the city before I get to the entrance to the hiking path, and at one point passed a small cemetery, which felt like some kind of reflection of my apprehensions. My destination is the peak in the far background showing between the roofs at left...

My Destination -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/2500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
My Destination

Closer to the trailhead, I stopped in a supermarket for supplies...

Supplies 4.5 liters of drink; two Snickers; two rice balls -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 29mm — 1/60 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Supplies
4.5 liters of drink; two Snickers; two rice balls
Final Turn off a main road -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 45mm — 1/1250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Final Turn
off a main road

As the sign above says, the trailhead is near the Japan Baptist Hospital.

A few moments later, you see the hospital ahead, and the parking lot to the right. Enter the parking lot to the right...

Fork to the Right -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 28mm — 1/1600 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Fork to the Right
Unmarked the trailhead is at left -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Unmarked
the trailhead is at left

Half a minute into the trail, you come to the small Oyamzumi Shrine (大山祇神社)...

Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos

Having gotten warmed up by the hour's walk, I spent 20 minutes here stretching my legs... quads, psoas major, the iliacus... in hopes of avoiding the downhill-slope knee pain that crippled me last time. The white bag on the path in the photo above has some towels, padding my knee while I stretched.

desktop background image of the Oyamzumi Shrine (大山祇神社), at the base of Mt. Hiei (比叡山), Kyoto Japan -- Bidding the Temple Adieu for the real start of the hike -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/50 sec, f/5.6, ISO 220 — map & image datanearby photos
Bidding the Temple Adieu
for the real start of the hike
Desktop-Background Versions
1280×800  ·  1680×1050  ·  1920×1200  ·  2560×1600  ·  2880×1800
Path Marker you definitely want to learn how to read these -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Path Marker
you definitely want to learn how to read these

Kyoto is a valley surrounded by mountains on almost all sides, except for a slice to the south where the plane extends unbroken all the way to Osaka (which we'll see later in this series), and so you can hike the mountaintops in a big circle almost all the way around the city. The paths are dotted with markers like the one above, pointing the way to the next peak and/or trailhead.

I made it a point to check each one I came to to ensure I stayed on the right path. The problem in this case was that both directions lead to where I wanted to go, so I had to guess which one I'd taken last year (because I wanted to repeat the same hike). I chose straight ahead, and it turns out that was correct.

The trees are tall.

Companions on the Trail -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/50 sec, f/14, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Companions on the Trail

In playing with the sun peeking out from behind the trees, I ended up with this artsy version...

desktop background image of towering trees on Kyoto -- Over The Top lens flare (and I think I need to clean the dust from the front of my lens) -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/50 sec, f/14, ISO 140 — map & image datanearby photos
Over The Top
lens flare
(and I think I need to clean the dust from the front of my lens)
Vertical Desktop-Background Versions
1050×1680  ·  1200×1920  ·  1600×2560

Lens flare can be a bit cheesy, but I like it sometimes (such as in this sunset shot). I'm not sure about the shot above, but I'll include it here anyway.

There's lots to see and experience in the mountains. I was listening to Seal on my iPhone while walking in the city toward the trailhead, but I put the music away when I got to the mountain, partially to allow myself to experience the nature, but mostly to allow myself to listen for snakes.

My worry about snakes (born here) was not unfounded, and I came across many at the lower elevations in the first half hour...

Japanese Four-Striped Ratsnake -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
Japanese Four-Striped Ratsnake

Even if I knew at the time that this snake was not poisonous, I would have still given it a wide berth. I don't like snakes. Or bugs, for that matter.

There are, of course, many sounds in the forest as well. Here's one that I heard a lot early on, though I could never find what made it:

Click <a href="http://regex.info/i/s/Hieizan-Hike-Sound.mp3">here</a> to listen
Frog + Pigeon?
loud sound in the forest, coming from where?

I'd think it's a frog, but it has a creakiness to it that calls to mind a pigon. This particular recording (with my iPhone) was at the mouth of a hole that was spewing what looked to be eggs of some sort (likely frog eggs)...

Spewed Eggs and my foot for scale -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 34mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Spewed Eggs
and my foot for scale
Eggs Closeup with an unrelated bonus bug of some kind -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Eggs Closeup
with an unrelated bonus bug of some kind
Waymarker I made it a point to always check them -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Waymarker
I made it a point to always check them
Little Shrine in the middle of nowhere -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 36mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Little Shrine
in the middle of nowhere

Some of these paths date back thousands of years, so we have to remember that what seems like “middle of nowhere” to us now may well have been “middle of the highway” back then, so it's not surprising to find shrines and such along the way, especially here near Kyoto.

Bobsled Run sometimes the path seemed more like a bobsled run than a hiking path -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 44mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Bobsled Run
sometimes the path seemed more like a bobsled run than a hiking path
Steep Dropoff these were common -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 360 — map & image datanearby photos
Steep Dropoff
these were common
Hat Delivery -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 32mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
Hat Delivery

I was somewhat surprised to find a guy on a bicycle come up behind me, further surprised when he ask whether I had dropped my hat earlier on the trail and I realized that I had. He kindly offered to go back and get it for me, telling me to continue my hike and he'd catch up to me. Sure enough, a couple of minutes later, he appeared with my hat.

I would have been very bummed to have lost that Sunday Afternoons hat, both for when I would need its sun protection later on this hike, and in general for the future, because I use it a lot in the summers.

I gave him one of my Snickers candybars as thanks, and he headed off ahead of me...

Parting Wave -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 29mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 180 — map & image datanearby photos
Parting Wave

The bike can make for great time in some situations, but in others it becomes a burden that slows you down, so I caught up and passed him on a very steep section with lots of step-like roots...

Slow Going -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 32mm — 1/200 sec, f/2.8, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
Slow Going

We repeated the back and forth a few times on the way up. Once after cresting a local hill, I waited off to the side for him to come flying by...

Downhill Span -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm — 1/200 sec, f/4, ISO 1100 — map & image datanearby photos
Downhill Span

Another time I waited at the edge of the trail to try a more “actiony” shot....

Hiroshi Gutting It Out on a smooth but decidedly uphill section -- Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 56mm — 1/200 sec, f/4, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Hiroshi Gutting It Out
on a smooth but decidedly uphill section

By this time we had exchanged names (his is Hiroshi) and chatted a bit. He does this trip once a week, to stay in shape.

This was the last I saw of him for a couple of hours.

I eventually came to the clearing where Stéphane and I has paused last time...

Mt. Hiei (比叡山) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2013 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 45mm — 1/640 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos

I took the opportunity to pause this time as well, mostly to stretch the legs before hitting the next section of the trail, because it includes some very steep downhill sections.

In looking at the tracklogs from the two trips, I'm happy to see that I did this section of the trail at the same pace as last time, but unlike last time, felt just great at this point.

But my anxiety was running high, worried about my knees for the downhill sections. I was also starting to get a blister on one foot because I didn't have proper shoes. It's hard enough to get size 13½AA shoes in The States, much less here, so I was wearing some old beat-up (well-broken-in) street shoes that aren't intended for hiking.

Continued here...


All 3 comments so far, oldest first...

Frog, hiding in a hole 😉 I managed to see one of them at Fushimi Inari last year…

— comment by Nicolas on May 26th, 2013 at 5:28pm JST (4 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

A neat story with nice photos thus far. I love hiking and exploring trails, but haven’t had the time to do so in a few years. This is a nice vicarious experience 🙂

— comment by David K on May 27th, 2013 at 12:12am JST (4 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Thanks for sharing your Mt. Hei hike. Do you have a gpx trail (piecing together all the locations of your pictures)? It looks like the gps in your metadata may have been approximating the location, given the general location of the hike. I’ve always tried to bring a gps units on hikes, to figure out when and where I took pictures.

Thanks,

Wei

Yes, I had a GPS/GLONASS unit with me, which I used to geoencode the photos. —Jeffrey

— comment by Wei Chong on June 8th, 2013 at 8:56am JST (4 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink
Leave a comment...


All comments are invisible to others until Jeffrey approves them.

Please mention what part of the world you're writing from, if you don't mind. It's always interesting to see where people are visiting from.


You can use basic HTML; be sure to close tags properly.

Subscribe without commenting