Progress report for The 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata Project

In preparation for today’s interview, I thought I would collect my thoughts about my 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata Project.

To date I have climbed the following mountains:

  1. Mt. Kinbo
  2. Mt. Arakura
  3. Mt. Takadate
  4. Mt. Haguro
  5. Mt. Nihonkoku
  6. Mt. Shogadake
  7. Mt. Atsumi
  8. Mt. Gassan
  9. Mt. Kumanonagamine
  10. Mt. Kyogakura
  11. Mt. Maya
  12. Mt. Ubagatake
  13. Mt. Taizo

Tomorrow, I intend to climb Mt. Hokariyama, so I'm up to 14. This week if I can I also want to get in Mt. Yozo in the outskirts of Sakata City, to the south of Mt. Taizo, that would bring me up to 15 for the year. Seeing as basically all these mountains are in Shonai, I'm making it very hard for myself in the future, but I guess you could say this is my warm-up!

My meaning for climbing the mountains has changed quite a bit. I didn't realise at the start, I thought the mountains would just be cool mountains to climb, but it appears each of them has their own unique story. Mt. Atsumi I found quite magical, the waterfalls were very intense, and we also came across a Shukubo. Mt. Kyogakura was an awesome surprise, a lot to check out on such a tiny peak. Mt. Maya as well, taught me the word for 'hidden treasure' in Japanese, and there was a deep connection to Japanese myths as well. Mt. Arakura, the mountain of Sakura was a really fun peak. There's so much to recommend in the immediate vicinity.

A few things that I've learned so far: this should seem obvious, but it's best to aim to climb the taller mountains in summer. What I mean by this is, I know this is the only time you can climb them, but it's a bit of a waste to use this time climbing the lower peaks. The taller mountains are essentially built to be climbed in summer, and if you can get there while the autumn leaves are out, even better. Next year I'm going to have to be a bit strategic about how I reach some of the taller peaks.

Shoot primarily with a good quality camera, and only use the GoPro when you have no other choice. The first few peaks I climbed using my GoPro exclusively, but that thing is all but useless in low light. Use the GoPro when you have good light and for panning and shots when you move the camera. Otherwise, be very slow with good cameras.

I'm yet to see my footage from Mt. Taizo, but I was using a taller tripod than the one for holding in your hands that I had been using to date. At a guess I could say that this tripod would be better, the footage from Mt. Maya I felt was a bit too low, and focused a bit too much on my bum 😛 This new tripod, while more annoying to carry around, should be much better.

Last week when I was climbing Mt. Taizo, it took my so long to get to what I thought was halfway that I truly considered turning around. It's an interesting test when you have no idea how much further until the summit. This is exactly the same as yamabushi training, you just have to Uketamo and keep on keeping on. Once you get there, you realise it wasn't as tough as you'd led yourself to believe.

Either way, I'm making good progress. The video for Mt. Gassan just released, and I have enough mountain footage for two more videos, but I'm going to have to add more in the coming future, I'm thinking videos focused more on talking (although I do have a bit of unused footage that might be good to utilise at some stage).

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Sakata City, Yamagata, Japan 

tim@timbunting.com

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