Japan has many mountains. Each mountain us
ually has many rivers, water streams and creeks. Rivers could be long or short, wide or narrow, steep or gentle slope. To go up a mountain stream is called SAWANOBORI (canyon climbing?), and many people enjoy SAWANOBORI as one genre of mountain climbing in Japan. It could be a day trip, or multi-day trip, camping out on the riverside. You climb up waterfalls, swim against the current in the canyon, or walk around snow blocks, in felt-soled boots. The goal is not necessarily the mountain peak. Toward the finish, you wade through (or whack) the bushes and find the trail on the ridge, to come down. Pretty wild, isn’t it? It could be dangerous, because rock surface tends to be wet, you will fight against strong current and cold water, and rescue effort is limited (a chopper cannot fly over and hover) if you fall and get injured.
At 7:30 in the morning, three of us (Sue, Sam and me) joined at a train station in Chichibu area (Saitama prefecture), and we headed for OOMOCHIZAWA by Sam’s car. It was supposed to be Grade 1 (easy) SAWA. We parked our car in a parking lot for Bukosan hikers. We found the river, and put on a harness, helmet and wading shoes to get into the water around 9:00.
The valley was dark and wet, with mosses everywhere. Some pretty flowers and brown toads welcomed us. Many fallen trees and branches with spider webs were blocking the way, but walking in the water was fun. Most of the waterfalls were climbable. When there was a big fork of the river (where two streams merge), we carefully judged which way to go, looking at the topo (a special map of the river.) There was one big waterfall at the end (a double-tired waterfall), while the waterfall itself is steep and difficult to climb, there is a hole (a tight cave) on the side wall, which opens upward, and you can crawl out to the rim of the waterfall.
After the river disappeared, we walked in the steep terrain to the direction of the OOMOCHIYAMA mountain peak. Finally Sue found the hiking trail and yelled to us. We could come back to the car by 3:00 in the afternoon.