CHAPTER 30: Water Over Rock

(Mountain #27)

This photo supplement tracks the events in CLIMB: Leaving Safe and Finding Strength on 100 Summits in Japan. The captions offer “extra features” that didn’t make it into the book.

Sharidake (Mt. Shari) is a 1,547-meter stratovolcano in northeastern Hokkaido, near the Shiretoko Peninsula. Due to its remote location, my friend and guide Ido Gabay (of Hokkaido Nature Tours) arranged for us to spend the night before the hike in a lovely mountain hut near the trailhead.

Sharidake from the road

The following morning, we stopped at the little Shintō shrine at the base of the mountain before heading up the trail.

The shrine at the base of Sharidake
Sharidake trailhead

We took the “old trail” up the mountain, because Ido thought (correctly) that I’d prefer to take the trail that parallels a series of waterfalls that flow down the mountain.

The trail crosses back and forth over the river many times.

We hopped over mossy rocks as we crossed the river, gradually gaining altitude and heading toward the first of the waterfall climbs.

The view from the lower trail

The top of the mountain wasn’t visible when we started out; clouds and mist hid the upper slopes, even though the sun broke through to illuminate the trail below.

The first waterfall section of the trail

Before long, we reached the first waterfall. The trail goes up the left side of the slope in the picture above. It’s not technical climbing, but it does require a little extra care with the placement of hands and feet.

The view from the top of another waterfall section

The higher we climbed, the more the views opened up; the mist began to lift, and I began to see how far we’d come. We climbed several waterfall sections, and although I was afraid on a lot of my earlier climbs, this was the first one where I was able to relax and really enjoy the process.

Ido leading the way up a waterfall

Too soon, we reached the top of the waterfalls; from there, the trail continued upward through low-growing trees and shrubs. From the top of the waterfall, it still took several hours to reach the summit.

Onward and upward…the summit is the second peak, on the right side of the frame.

The section of trail on the left above was slippery with loose gravel, but easier to climb than I expected.

The home stretch…
The summit is the rounded area where you can see hikers sitting and standing, center frame; that’s Ido directly in front of me, with the green shirt and rust-colored pack
Shrine near the summit

Shortly before the summit, we passed a silver Shintō shrine dedicated to the mountain and the deities that live there. Shintō (the native religion of Japan) recognizes the divine spirit of many natural objects, including mountains. In some cases, these shrines are dedicated to the spirit of the mountain itself; in other cases, they enshrine deities said to live on or near the mountain.

The awesome summit view…

When we reached the summit, clouds blocked the view entirely. We shot a few photos (like the exciting image above…) and sat down to eat the lunch we’d packed along. As we ate, the clouds began to blow away, and the views opened up.

Official summit photo – Mt. Shari

Sharidake was mountain #27 of my 100 Summits climbs (also #27 of my ongoing quest to climb 1000 Japanese mountains before I cash in my chips permanently), and my 18th hyakumeizan.

“forested mountains rolled away in all directions, green up close and fading to blue-gray in the hazy distance…” (CLIMB, Chapter 30)

As we descended, a mole darted across the trail. It froze at the side of the trail just long enough for Ido to identify it as a mole, and not a mouse or rat. The photo below is less easy to identify, but it was the only one I was able to get as the little guy ran off again.


A few minutes later, the storm that had been threatening us all day arrived in earnest, complete with thunder and lightning. The trees really weren’t much taller than I was (in places, they were quite a bit shorter) and I was convinced that my epitaph was going to read “struck by lightning on a mountain.” Fortunately, Ido wasn’t scared at all, and kept me moving down at a steady pace.

After an hour or so, the storm blew past and sunlight broke through the clouds.

The calm after the storm

When we reached the hut, we found it covered with literally thousands of ladybugs–some red with black spots, and an equal number black with red spots. The hut keeper told us they tend to show up in these massive numbers right before the frost. When I say they were everywhere…they even tried to drop into our coffee cups. None of my photos of them en masse came out–they’re just too tiny to “read” at any distance–so you’ll have to make do with your imagination and the shot of the single bug below.

It was an amazing hike, and though the storm was terrifying, the hike itself was a breakthrough for me in terms of conquering my fears.

Unfortunately–though, in retrospect, not unexpectedly–the very next mountain was going to push me far beyond my comfort zone, and force me to confront my fears head-on. To find out more, click through and join me for Chapter 31: RAUSU RAINBOW

* This page is part of the photo companion to CLIMB: Leaving Safe & Finding Strength on 100 Summits in Japan. You can find the story behind these pictures (in hardback and ebook formats, and either in person or online) at your favorite local bookstore or at Amazon or Barnes & Noble (both in the U.S. and internationally).