Mt Ishizuchi: John

Place: the awesomely named Stone Hammer mountain is the tallest in Shikoku at 1982m. It’s not a Buddhist temple but there is a Shinto shrine on Mt Mizen a few hundred meters along the ridge. Kukai is also believed to have trained here so some pilgrims visit it.

Dedication: John was my mum’s father. I have a very strong memory of him waking me in the caravan he and my grandma had in the Lake District, giving me a big fried breakfast and marching me up to Stickle Tarn on the way up to the Langdale Pikes as the sun came up. I probably hated it at the time but now it’s one of my favourite places on earth and it’s a big part of the reason I wanted to climb this amazing mountain today. Thanks, Grandad.

I love mountains. There’s nothing like scale, and the fear of imminently falling off a cliff, to let my worries fade away.

I was up at 5, as tradition dictates, to finish the decent from Yokomineji and climb this mountain. The first four hours to 1200m were rough. At that height you meet a cable-car full of tourists and a little village selling water for a tenner. Slightly disheartening but I was glad of it later in the day when I got it down. The final two hours were fun, the path was much better. For the last 300m of ascent there were three increasingly vertical cliffs with long chains running up them to climb. I managed to drop my camera on the first one.


At the top there was a short ridge walk on which I got lost and did some genuinely terrifying scrambling.


On the way down I took the easier path down steel platforms spiralling round the cliffs. There was a very nice rest hut that I could have stayed the night in but I decided to get the ropeway down and spend a night on the ground.