I just got back yesterday from walking with Glen and nine Japanese UL hikers here in Japan. I had to bail out early due to getting quite sick, bad fitness, and inadequate insulation for the greater than expected cold at night. Glen himself just barely got through the first night with his own insulation system. Many of the other hikers also spent the first night shivering in their shelters. Today, the third day, it is raining. Glen is using a prototype tarp which he has never used in the rain, and rain being what it is here in Japan, and his tarp being as open as it is, I'm quite worried. I hope everyone got through the second night all right, since it was colder last night than the first night, and that tonight it isn't windy.
In spite of having to bail out early, it was fantastic meeting Glen and all the others, and to get out, for the first time ever for me, with other UL hikers. I learned so much from the experience. The group is an assortment of very cheerful characters who laughed throughout the time I was with them and did their best, in their limited English, to make Glen feel welcome and comfortable. A lot of them were in incredible shape, especially one guy whose blog name is "Beyond", who, at 45, last month ran a 120 km trail race at night with no hydration in 21 hours. Trying to keep up with them was futile. I realized that I need badly to get back in good shape.
One thing that became a standing joke among everyone is Glen's suggestions to me just before the hike when we were weighing our packs with Glen's famous scale. He looked at my pack (which was admittedly heavier than it should have been) and told me to lose the MB down vest and MB synthetic insulated pants, plus a number of other things. I'd agonized over what sleeping bag to take and if I should bring the insulated clothing, and before I got to the trailhead had decided on a light summer bag with the down vest and insulated pants. I decided to keep most of the other things he suggested leaving behind, but, foolishly, took his advice about the insulted clothing. I regretted it that night.
We all laughed about it when we got to camp, but of course, my bad judgement wasn't Glen's fault. One thing about UL hiking is knowing the conditions that you are heading into. Glen obviously didn't know what the mountains are like in Japan; he'd never been in them before. He would not have known about the very high humidity and how it lowers the temperature about 5 to 10 degrees Celsius. Luckily his sleeping bag was just warm enough. He didn't tell me, though, that he had brought HIS down vest! Grr!!! :-)
Since I'd never done any UL hiking with anyone before, there were a lot of things I hadn't known. This was the first time I used an alcohol stove for a longer than two-day trip and I brought way more alcohol than was necessary. When everyone saw my big 1 liter alcohol fuel bottle they burst out into laughter and handed it around to make a whole host of quips about it. I'm never going to live that one down.
I think Glen was a little surprised by just how steep the trails are in Japan. The first day was brutal, seven hours of tough scrambling up and down among boulders. I didn't continue on the second day, but at 20 km in those rough sections I'm pretty sure everyone was beat when they reached camp.
They all finish tomorrow and I'll be going out to the end of the trail to meet them there. Then on Monday it's two seminars, talking about UL.
Hope everyone is doing well out there.
Glen Van Peski with Japan UL hikers. That's me on the left.
Glen speaking with Hiker's Depot owner Tomoyoshi Tsuchiya (the one who brought all this together and the leader on the trip, and Jotaro Yoshida, owner of Locus Gear. You should see his Khufu Cuben Pyramid! It is beautiful! The workmanship is jewel-like!
View back along the trail we walked the first day. In the back is Mt. Kinpu, quite a grueling climb.