As I huffed and puffed my way up Yufu-dake, a beautiful notched mountain just south of the Kunisaki Peninsula on Kyushu (Japan) recently, the memory of what it takes to climb a mountain flooded back to me.
Yufu-dake isn’t large, by world standards—just 1583m/5,193 feet. It’s a straight-forward walk-up, across gorgeous grassy fields from the pass at the grand altitude of 750m/2,460ft where we started, through hardwood and cedar/cypress forests to the upper pass. There, we scrambled up stone steps and boulders to ascend the final few hundred vertical feet to the taller summit.
We joined a few other climbers at the top for photos and a quick lunch. I enjoyed a rice ball with tuna, wrapped inside a sheet of green, crispy nori (seaweed), plus a juicy mandarin orange. The added “spice” of eating on a mountaintop made it even better. On a mountain, everything tends to taste divine.
It was (by far) not my first mountain. Once upon a time, I fancied myself quite the mountaineer, knocking off 14-ers and other smaller mountains in Colorado, and even trying my hand on some minor Himalayan peaks (epic fail, but that’s another story) along with a couple of 18,000-foot passes. But Yufu-dake was the first opportunity I’d had in many years to remember the effort, the steadiness and patience, the strength and perseverance it takes to make my way with my own gumption and power to the top of a mountain.
I loved it.
One reason I haven’t physically climbed a mountain in awhile stems from life circumstances (a busy life in the non-vertical Midwest among them) peppered by feeling that I have been climbing other, metaphorical mountains to achieve different dreams. I believe that this is just fine. In fact, I want to imagine that I’ll always have some sort of mountain to climb in my life. Goals are important, and it always feels good to achieve them.
I believe that having something to move forward to—that next mountain—is a good idea, not in a helter-skelter way, but more importantly, with clear deliberation and decent planning. I also believe in taking time to consciously appreciate the opportunities life throws at me (even when these “opportunities” are decidedly not fun in the moment).
Yufu-dake reminded me, though, of the raw power of a real, actual mountain to invoke almost holy feelings of awe. Glimpses of it tantalized our group as we hiked at a distance from it for twelve days on the Kunisake Peninsula. It often offered up its beautiful notched profile across the miles. Spending a day climbing its flanks and, later, walking all the way back to town (adding more miles than simply going back to the pass where we set out), felt like coming home.
What’s your mountain? Is it challenging you? And have you thanked it for the ups and the downs of it today?