My Mt. Hiei Climb Challenge 2014, Part 1

As I mentioned the other day, I recently did my third-annual Mt. Hiei (比叡山) hike, the first two years ago having been what prompted me to get in shape. Comparing this hike to previous ones is a yardstick to measure how well I'm getting in shape.

I've documented the route well enough in previous years (two years ago  ·  last year) so I didn't intend to do it again this year. I did bring along a smaller camera (a Nikon D700) and the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens that I bought accidentally to document my progress via timestamps on the photos, and for the azaleas at the top.

I'd intended to leave at 9am, but it was already past that when I woke up 🙂, so with my brain still half asleep I set out at 10am, snapping a photo to mark the time...

Setting Out at 10:05am -- Shirakawa River -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/6400 sec, f/1.8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Setting Out
at 10:05am

The walk through the city to the trailhead is about 3.5km (2.2mi), which I use as an opportunity to explore a bit, since I normally don't walk in that part of the city. For example, 10 minutes in I came across a very narrow lane that I decided to take simply because I could...

Narrow Lane -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/1250 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Narrow Lane

I eventually came upon a shrine that I go by often without apparently paying it much notice, so this time I decided to pop in for a few minutes...

City Shrine -- Okazaki Shrine (岡崎神社) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/1000 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
City Shrine

It has a hotel right next to it, and lots of utility wires and such out front, but a nice view can be had with judicious composition...

Okazaki Shrine (岡崎神社) Kyoto, Japan -- Okazaki Shrine (岡崎神社) -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/800 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Okazaki Shrine (岡崎神社)
Kyoto, Japan
Okazaki Shrine (岡崎神社) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/1250 sec, f/1.4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Okazaki Shrine (岡崎神社) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/5000 sec, f/1.4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

It looks like a nice spot for a picnic, but I had other plans, so after spending four minutes I continued on toward the trailhead.

At the start of the trail is a little stream just perfect for toddlers to play in, and a preschool class was making a visit. I couldn't help but stop for a bit to watch the kids exude cuteness...

Toddlers Playing -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/500 sec, f/1.4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Toddlers Playing

I soon arrived at a shrine that marks the start of the real hike for me, and I paused for a few minutes to stretch. It took 45 minutes to get here. Last year it took 72.

Starting Point Oyamazumi Shrine (大山祇神社) -- Oyamzumi Shrine (大山祇神社) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/1600 sec, f/1.4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Starting Point
Oyamazumi Shrine (大山祇神社)

After a 10-minute pause, I started the hike proper.

I noticed that the signs on the trail markers were new, with more English:

Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/1600 sec, f/1.4, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos

(Compare to this sign from last year.)

They still don't have distances on them, which is unfortunate.

I also noticed a bunch of other signs that I guess other groups put up. The big one in the shot below is really difficult for me to understand, perhaps because of the font or because they have such little detail, and perhaps because they're not affixed permanently and so maybe get twisted so you can't tell the orientation. I found them to be quite distracting. )-:

Too Much Signage with too little information -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/640 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Too Much Signage
with too little information
“ The Shrine Clearing ” snapped more to mark the time and location than for its photographic composition, sorry -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/6400 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
The Shrine Clearing
snapped more to mark the time and location than for its photographic composition, sorry

A clearing where a fire road ends at a stone shrine gate is a notable waypoint for me... it's where I took my first long rest in prior years (two years ago, and last year), and marks where the trail starts to get serious.

The first year I did this it took 48 minutes of agony to get here, and I rested 20 minutes just to summon the courage to continue. This year took the same 48 minutes to arrive, but I felt great. Not even winded. I stopped long enough to snap the photo and have a quick drink, then plunged into the start of the challenging part of the hike.

Immediately after the stone-shrine-gate clearing is a set of very steep downs and ups and downs and ups described here. The downs are what scare me the most because of knee pain I've had all my adult life. The first year I did this I had to climb down the trail backwards to avoid the pain. Last year I wore knee braces and had better luck.

This year I was going to find out just how much better I've gotten, so I didn't wear the braces. I was extremely happy to find that I had no pain at all, and fairly flew down the mountain with enough energy to run back up the other side of each ravine.

After about four such down-and-cross-a-stream-and-go-back-up sets, I came across the second important waystation for me, a small stone monument that I described the first year as a rough halfway point.

Halfwayish -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/2000 sec, f/2, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Halfwayish

The first year it took me 18 minutes to make the ups and downs to here from the stone shrine gate. Last year it took 16 minutes. This year just 8.

Previously I'd stopped here for some food and some rest, but I didn't need either this time, so I snapped a quick picture to mark my progress, and continued on my way. From here it's unrelenting up up up up, equivalent to about a 110-story flight of rocky rough sandy steps.

Toward the end of the hike I came across a group of 20 or so folks heading up at a slower pace...

Traffic Jam group in the far distance marks the first people I've seen in an hour -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/400 sec, f/1.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Traffic Jam
group in the far distance marks the first people I've seen in an hour
Completed Rest area near top of Mt. Hiei -- Rest area near to of Mt. Hiei -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/2014-06-01/2426 -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (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 D700 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/640 sec, f/7.1, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Completed
Rest area near top of Mt. Hiei

As in previous years, the scenic-view picnic area near the top was my destination, and I made it in fine time, if not in fine style. From the stone shrine gate clearing to here took just 48 minutes; last year took 62 minutes, and the year before 70.

Overall, from leaving the house to here — all stops included — took 2h 31m. (Last year, where I stopped for photography and rests, it took 3h 41m.)

Last year I'd taken 4.5L of drink with me, and needed all of it. This year I brought only 2L, and had plenty to spare. I did take drinks more often than I felt I needed because they say that when exercising you've waited too long if you wait until you're thirsty. Still, when I did force myself to take a drink, I was surprised at how much I suddenly wanted. In the end, I probably drank 1.5L on the way up.

I wore the exercise shirt that I wrote about two months ago, and it was fantastic. It kept me cool and comfortable. It's not very stylish as you can see above, which is why I wore a bigger T-shirt over it during the city part of the hike.

I also wore a knit hat designed for the heat. It, too, isn't stylish, but it was so nice to not have sweat dripping in my eyes. It made a big difference.

I wore some Brooks walking shoes that I'd bought last year and they too were great... no blisters.

Wearing normal jeans was not a good idea... they get sweaty and heavy. I'll need to come up with something better for next year. (Update: this)

It turns out that the azaleas that I'd hoped to photograph were all brown... I was a week too late. I guess they were early this year.

I didn't feel the need to rest, so I quickly took off to check out some famous temples a few km farther on that I'd heard about.

Continued here...


All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

I’d recommend something like these trousers for walking – I’ve had several pairs (and use them – in different weights – for walking the dogs most of the year round) and never had any discomfort like you get from jeans.

— comment by Stuart Dootson on June 2nd, 2014 at 7:58am JST (3 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Always a pleasure to see your photos.

Although you accidentally bought the Sigma 35mm Art lens instead of the Sigma 50 Art lens, you seem to be utilizing it very well. 😀

Looking forward to seeing more of your shots.

Alvin from NYC

— comment by Alvin on June 3rd, 2014 at 12:08pm JST (3 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink
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