Friday, March 5, 2010
The Pleasures and Risks of Solo Hiking
My trip to Japan this week is a 15 hour commute, two days in Tokyo speaking/meeting with colleagues, one day hiking along mountain ridges 2 hours west of Tokyo, and then a flight back to Boston.
In my travels around the world, I'm always looking for the road less traveled. In the past few years, that's included walking the Seven Hills of Rome, exploring archeological sites in the Middle East, climbing mountains in Austria, and kayaking across the Baltic Sea.
Because of the logistics, physical conditions, and specialized gear needed to do these activities, I've often traveled alone, going Into the Wild.
When I travel alone I take extra precautions, packing a bit of extra food, a spare layer of warm clothing, and posting my itinerary with someone who can call for a rescue party if needed.
I will not do solo unroped climbing, solo travel in avalanche areas or solo kayaking in water that is colder than 50 degrees.
There are a few pleasures to travel alone - a pace that you define yourself based on your personal energy level, no time commitments, and simpler logistics.
There are risks - an injury while on a cold mountain ridge can lead to hypothermia, frostbite, or death. The margin of safety while hiking alone in wilderness areas, especially in winter, can be thin.
A hiking partner enables you to share the memories and relive the experiences. This winter, I've hiked alone many weekends, but also hiked with one of my colleagues from BIDMC who is an experienced alpinist.
Tomorrow's hike in Japan will cover 20 kilometers of the North Takao Ridge, from Mt. Takao to Jimba-san, traversing 3 peaks and stretching my knowledge of the Japanese rail and bus systems to get to the trailhead. (Addendum - I added a photo above of the Ridge and cedars in the mist that I captured on my Blackberry while hiking)
So, I'm off to experience the Japanese wilderness alone, with minimal risk, and play my Japanese flute from the peaks.
Buckaroo Banzai would be proud.
Posted by John Halamka at 3:00 AM