Nothing focuses the mind like the immediate threat of certain death – say, for instance, trudging across a snowy ridgeline a few feet wide and the length of three football fields between two 2,800-meter peaks in a howling wind, while swaddled in a mummification of unfamiliar cold weather gear and carrying 40-unwieldy extra pounds on your back, all of it held tenuously upright by legs that feel as if they just emerged from a Jell-O mold and feet whose frozen existence is entirely theoretical at this point, after two days of steep uphill slogging through two-meter-deep snow in sub-zero temperatures to reach such a surreal moment. In that kind of situation, you pay closer attention to the placement of each step you take than you do when walking across the parking lot to the dry cleaners. Unfortunately, nothing unfocuses the mind like having 28 percent less oxygen available to you than you normally could count on. And also the worry that when they find your shattered, ruined, macerated body at the bottom of a rocky slope several thousand feet below you, they will also find it wearing dirty underwear, because you haven’t changed it in two days and because … well, obviously.

After dragging myself across the roof of Japan, I’m back in Osaka again, healthy, happy, and rather surprised to find myself in possession of all my toes. Three days climbing up Mt. Houou’s triplet of peaks and back down again were enough to convince Will and I that both we and our socks will have to be made of sterner stuff before we tackle more than one at a time of the 23 remaining mountains on Will’s hit list. Still, we count the adventure a success if for no other reasons than that we only got lost once – granted, it was a biggie (more on that later) – reached the summit, took a lot of photos, left nothing valuable behind, and neither one of us was forced to eat the other in a desperate bid for survival.

I expect to have a full account available here in a day or two, including all the gory* details. Although there’s been some discussion of spending the last part of our forced 10-day holiday back near my old stomping grounds in Fukui Prefecture for some quality time with 2,700-meter Mt. Hakusan, I plan to ask Will about that idea again when he’s sober. In the meantime, I’m posting a few photos and a snippet of video from the tippy-top. I’m also going to use this brief moment of your attention to introduce a new post category for M&A, which may or may not subsume all other existing post categories, I haven’t decided yet. It’s called The Daily Edamame: short, snack-sized observations about Japan and life here that are likely to be apropos of absolutely nothing. In other words, your standard blog post, but hopefully more frequent. Let’s both keep our fingers crossed.

(*No actual gore included.)

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