The highest point is actually a few hundred metres before the pass at the 9th Station, and after two and a half hours of almost continuous climbing, I tried - and singularly failed - to commemorate reaching it with the self-timer on my digital camera.
Mr Maine was in Shirétoko for the kayaking, and when he mentioned his plan to kayak 900km from Seattle to Alaska later in the year, I suggested that he read Paddle To The Amazon by Don Starkell, about a father-and-son team who travelled by canoe from Winnipeg all the way down the east coast of Central America, before traversing almost the entire length of the Amazon to the Atlantic - an infinitely tougher challenge than, for example, cycling round Hokkaido for a few weeks.
After studying French and Spanish as a student, Mr Bay Area came to Japan for a fresh linguistic challenge, and was now deliberating over whether or not to settle here permanently. He worked as an ALT at a private high school, although as he described it, 'The focus is very much on sports, so the students don't put any effort into studying. The other week I got so pissed off with this kid who wasn't paying attention in class that I muttered "Fuck you" under my breath. I knew I shouldn't have done it but I couldn't help myself. "What does it mean?!" he was saying. "What does it mean?!" That was pretty much the first time anyone had showed any interest in English!'