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.


Joan said...

I also enjoy solo hiking - allows me some very high quality thinking time, and paradoxically to meet fascinating people who seem to open up more to someone who is solo.

Ravi Kumar said...

All the best with your Solo Hiking! Be safe!

geekgoalie said...

Solo hiking with my favorite dog is the best. I leave the computer at home, turn the phone off and spend some disconnected time. It does wonders for the soul.

R said...

Speaking of outdoors, here is a link for a cool film festival I attended this past friday. The festival travels around the country with short films anywhere from 3 minutes - 45+ minutes.... skiing, mtn biking, climbing (ropes and sans ropes) waterfall climbing, nature, riding a tandem bike from Northern Alaska to the southern tip of South America, etc. Ironically, I am an indoor person, but really enjoyed the films,creativity, and inspiration.

May be time to create and submit a film about hiking adventures ? :)

BANFF film festival: Link by state: