31.05.2015 23:08

The Japanese - at least the ones living around Tokyo - have a very binary approach to their evaluation of weather. During the very mild winters, people don't get tired of saying "寒いね", meaning it's too cold. It doesn't matter whether it is 5ºC or 15ºC, every temperature requiring any piece of clothes whose primary purpose is to provide heat is just too cold.

Then, on one day on which everybody somehow seems to agree upon automatically, that phrase is replaced by "暑いね", meaning it's too hot. There's really not much room for anything in between, and expressions of enjoyment are exceedingly rare.

For a foreigner, though, the time between end of March and beginning of June is the first season that makes it truly enjoyable to be outside. It is just past the not-really-but-kind-of coldness of winter, and right before rain season and the following brutally hot summer make the time around noon unbearable. It's a good time for cycling, but right now, this part of the year is coming to an end, the thermometer is starting to climb to 30ºC on a regular basis, and the humidity keeps increasing. Soon, we will be back in steam oven territory, but not yet.

This weekend, I had a barbecue thing going on in the evening hours, so I was a bit limited in my time budget, and there was no way to avoid the temperature peak around noon. I therefor looked a forest road traversing a mountain, which would give me some shadow to avoid the heat, carry me to higher altitude to cool down a bit, and be close enough to allow me to be back in town for the evening plans. 鋸山林道 fit the bill perfectly.

Note that this is not the small-ish mountain with the Buddha statue in 千葉県, this one is in 東京都, south of 奥多摩. I took the south approach though, and after passing by some camping grounds and cottages, this very welcome sign greeted me:

As a foreigner, I always have the advantage of a plausible lack of knowledge, so with the assumption that this means "no motor vehicles", I went ahead, enjoying almost perfect silence. With the exception of a few rebellious locals ignoring the rules, and a policeman on a motorcycle who didn't seem to be bothered by my presence, there is practically no traffic on the road.

The lower parts of the climb are as excpected very thick forests, and while the grade rarely exceeds 8% here, it already gives a glimpse of the later parts of the climb:

Notice the carved grooves in the road surface, providing grip even when high torque is applied.

As the road winds up, the density of the trees decreases, but the grade just keeps going up. Between about 450m and 720m altitude, the average grade is something like 14%, making it a bit difficult to enjoy the scenery:

It flattens out slightly after that, only to pick up another 8% average all the way to the top, which is at 1109m altitude. It's not quite as punishing as 和田峠, but it's surely not the easiest climb around, and maybe not the best choice once summer is in full swing.

At the highest point of the road, there's sadly not much to see or do. In theory, there is a path to the real peak of the mountain, which is only a couple hundred meters horizontal distance, and another 100m vertical climb, but it is impossible to go there with road cycling shoes. Other than that, there's just a bathroom, and that's it.

Descending on the north side in direction of 奥多摩 is bit wild, long stretches of the road are in such miserable conditions that I had to apply the breaks almost all the way down. Other than that, the descend is incredibly scenic, and just as serene as the climb on the south side:

Once back on the main road, the return to 青梅 is a joyful 20km stretch of -1% slope, making it really quick, and letting me catch the train just in time to be back for the evening plans.

Due to the early start though, the climb was right around noon time, with temperatures peaking around 30ºC. In combination with the rather steep grade, this is about as much as my body can take while still being able to dissipate heat, so I can only hope that the real summer is still a couple of weeks off.