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She grew up able to see this mountain any chance she wanted.
She now works where she can see this mountain after every sip of fresh brewed coffee.
I love to think of the smell and the feeling of content she gets from that simple daily experience.
She often tells me that the mountain is calling my name.
It does from time to time, but recently, it began to call her name as well.
The mountain was calling and she decided to answer.
Locals offer this volcano fruits and gifts.
They pray for their safety and a healthy year for students and active lifestyles.
It last had a small ash eruption in the year 2000.
In 1640 it created possibly the largest eruption in the history of Japan which resulted in a Tsunami, taking the lives of 700 people.
In that same eruption, the lava blocked local rivers and thus created what is now called Lake Onuma
Daily, hundreds of hikers climb to the peak during the short summer months and capture the stunning view looking down at the fall colors around Onuma Lake during the short Autumn season. However come snow season, locals spend their energy elsewhere. Koma is not seen as a mountain for climbing during winter as the road to the trail head doesn't allow for cars to pass through. Thus quadrupaling the hiking distance from a very steep but short 2km to about a 10-12km round trip back country ski session. No other hikers, open wilderness, snow...maybe you've now caught on to the possibilities of winter exploration.
The environment felt alive. At 7am a fox ran by and she quickly spots it. I catch a tiny glimpse as I notice something else, I don't hear the birds chirping. Yet it felt so calm with a comfortable snowfall.
The wind began to pick up, the snow began to go from vertical to diagonal and that cold wind would cut through any opening in your layers, and the pace would slow...
We just need another few hundred meters...
Then something magnificent happened. The sun peaked through the snow clouds and illuminated through these warm tone snow goggles to produce the next image...
We made it to the peak!
But we aren't finished...we still have to go down. That should be easy right? I mean it's the FUN part deshou. Well, the visibility became poor with some heavy clouds rolling by again and it turns out...with these heavy borrowed ski's, they may not quite work for her the way they had on the ski resort. A bit of self doubt began to kick in.
Some small pep talks came in from the following supporting folks
A few breaths, some trust in those with her, taking in the view, a few falls here and there, back up on her skis...take in the view...and floating on the powder...
A sense of peace.
After some rest stops, plenty of photography along the way, and good laughter. This young woman and mother of a smart and talented young daughter, was able to find solace amongst what became a much more mental and physical challenge than ever expected. Due to this, the next morning, she said "my muscles are sore but my spirits are sky high". We did it.
She always had it in her, from beginning to end.
Written by Jeremy Blanco
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