Gassan; Moon Mountain

With winter teasingly approaching now here in Yamagata, I'm looking forward to getting back out snowboarding. My last run was late May, and the following weekend was in fact a great beach camping trip. This wonderful incongruity is thanks to the snowy extremes of probably my favorite mountain in Yamagata prefecture. At 1984m, Gassan (月山) is one of the tallest peaks around Yamagata, and has special significance as one of the three holy mountains, Dewa Sanzan (出羽三山). For me, it's a scenic treat when visible northwest of the city on a clear day. It is a weather vane and yardstick for coming or melting snows. Also, it has really nice kanji (the Chinese characters which spell it's name).

 
I love this road sign. Yep, I spotted the mountain, thanks. 

I love this road sign. Yep, I spotted the mountain, thanks. 

 

Because mountains take up most of the space around here, the roads have to tunnel or wend their way through, and the National Route 112 bends spectacularly around and through Gassan. It's one of my favorite drives. In fact, I don't think I even had a "favorite drive" before I first rode that highway bus. I even made a mix CD themed with traversing it at a certain time of day. I was young and sentimental, and still am (less young though).

March 2016, sunlight on snow.

March 2016, sunlight on snow.

After a couple of best-laid summer plans hadn't worked out, one memorable and foul-weathered October day, a friend and I decided to climb it. It was getting late in the season, and would be our last chance to try that side of winter (thus the obstinacy). We started from the eight station (八合目), on the north side of the mountain. It was wet, and bleak, and we couldn't see ten yards in front of us. We made good time, but upon reflection this was probably because there was no dallying to gaze at the scenery. Visibility and spatial awareness were so poor in fact, that the summit quite snuck up on us. Head down against gales, and in the thick of cloud, we were practically at the shrine when we realised we'd reached the top. 

Note: Belinda holding on to her hat is not just for dramatic effect.

Note: Belinda holding on to her hat is not just for dramatic effect.

Although I haven't climbed it again in better conditions yet, I'm holding out to do so next year. While I enjoyed the treacherous climb for the good company and how comically awful it was, I am keen to soak up the vistas up there in fully saturated, sunny-day colour. Besides, that drive home would be the perfect iteration of my mix CD.

 
 
 
Driving through the Dewa Sanzan on a sunny afternoon, as it starts to fade into the evening
01.  Orpheus - Ash (Meltdown)
02. Gimme Shelter - Merry Clayton (Gimme Shelter)
03. Dammit - Blink 182
04. Another Travelin' Song - Bright Eyes (I'm Wide Awake It's Morning)
05.  A Girl Like You - Edwyn Collins (Empire Records OST)
06. Suddenly Everything Has Changed - The Postal Service (Give Up)
07. You Make It Easy - Air (Moon Safari)
08. Fade Into You - Mazzy Star (So Tonight That I Might See)
09. Passing Afternoon - Iron & Wine (Our Endless Numbered Days)
10. Samhradh Samhradh - The Gloaming (The Gloaming)
11. [Untitled 8] - Sigur Ros ( ( ) )