|These two hills are set a little way back from the main Minami Alps ridge, and are not mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide, and thus had not really attracted our attention. Usually we like to have a longer trip of about a week for our main summer holiday but this year we already have a long trip abroad planned so a shorter mountain visit seemed appropriate. We were eager to fit this visit in before the nightmare of Obon week, but rainy season dragged on and on and on and it was well into August before the forecast (and the Yari-ga-take webcam) showed some signs of improvement. So we rushed off at the first opportunity (and last before Obon week) on the Thursday morning, planning to spend 2 nights in the mountains and return just as the rest of Japan headed off on their holiday together.|
we started with the by now traditional grape ice cream at Kofu station
while waiting for the bus.
We were then crammed on to a bus for the 2 hour trip to Hirogawara, where we changed onto an even more packed bus for the remaining 25 minutes to Kitazawatoge. It was quite a relief to finally straighten my legs and start to walk about 1pm. A cloudy Thursday it might have been but the area was certainly not deserted! However our route was a relatively unpopular one. We headed off into the cloud which quickly turned into rain and grew heavier and heavier as we approached the hut.
Fortunately it was only 2 hours to the Uma-no-sei hut, which was a cute and cosy log cabin with plenty of room (by Japanese mountain hut standards, that is - there were still 18 of us packed in the 20 foot square room pictured below). The forecast was encouraging so we went to bed hoping for a better day to come...
morning was still rainy, and some people gave up and went back down the
hill, but it wasn't really heavy enough to put us off so we plodded off
up to the top
of Senjo-ga-take, our first new hyakumeizan for almost a
The self-portrait mode on my new camera (Panasonic LX3) was certainly more convenient than trying to set up a mini- tripod and self-timer in the rain.
There wasn't much to stop for in the cloud and rain so we plodded along the main ridge and were down at the pass by about 10am, wondering what to do with the rest of the day. Run home wet and bedraggled, try to find a bed for the night here (which would probably be busy) and hope for a better day tomorrow, or push on over another big mountain to a small unknown hut in the middle of nowhere?
|The weather seemed to be improving, and we had plenty of time, so we stuck with our original plan to climb over Kaikoma-ga-take and stay at the hut on the far side - another 1000m of climbing and slightly less descent, on top of the walk we had already done that day. After a quick bowl of noodles in the main hut on the pass (that seemed to be gearing up for a full night) the ascent went very quickly, and the rain held off for most of it. By the time we were at the top, however, it was pretty wet so we didn't hang around for long and went down the other side pretty much as fast as our now rather tired legs would take us.|
The hut was small and basic (tatami platform on each side of the dirt floor in the middle), and the first thing the owner said to us was 「食事無し」 (shokuji nashi, no meals). Apparently the helicopter had not dropped off the fresh rations recently. Makes you realise what a precarious existence it is up there a full day's walk from the edge of civilisation.
Our faces fell briefly, before we realised that this only meant no cooked meal service and there was in fact a stack of various instant noodles and snacks to buy, together with a huge kettle bubbling on the paraffin heater just visible at the edge of the photo here. The owner even gave us a freebie of some real coffee (drip on!) by way of apology.
Anyway, I'm not generally a fan of instant noodles but miso ramen is actually pretty good when you are hungry enough. There are calories in beer too...we ended up well enough fed.
clouds lifted in the evening, and we had some nice sunset shots over
Houou Sanzan (which we climbed on our first proper walking expedition to
the Minami Alps). Fuji-san was also peeking out behind the
shoulder, for the first time this holiday.
With only about 10 other people in the hut, it would have been a very comfortable night, but for two things: my legs were hurting so much from all the descending that they kept me awake(!), and the owner also left the paraffin stove on all night. It was a very mild night anyway, and even with the main door and a window open, it was over 25C in the hut (there was a thermometer by the door). Shame that it rather spoilt what would have otherwise have been a good night.
It turns out there is reasonable bus access to the trailhead north of this hut, so it might make a good route into or out from the hills, avoiding the very busy and slow buses via Hirogawara. We considered escaping out this way if the weather turned bad again.
|However, the next morning was bright and dry, if not exactly sunny. So we headed off up the ridge, retracing our steps of the previous afternoon. Below is the view over to the Kinpu-san and Kobushi-ga-take ridge where we've had a number of walks.|
Yatsu-ga-take was also looming prominently over the central plains of Kofu.
It got generally brighter as we climbed higher, eventually turning into a sunny day.
|I don't know what those Arthurian swords were doing in the top of a big rock and we did not try to pull them out. There were were several shrines on the route (and summit) so maybe there is some religious significance.||The summit of Kita dake (above) was occasionally clear of clouds.|
The summit wasn't really very far but we were slow and took advantage of the fine weather to thoroughly test out my new camera.
By the time we got to the top, there were a few who had come up from the other side (who must have had a really early start) and the path got busier for the first half of our descent. I think most people must do this peak in a single day from the south side, staying in the hut at the bottom (since access is limited to the busses, you can't drive in at dawn).
Below, Kita dake is partly cloudy again, in the distance to the right of the jules on the summit rock.
Since we had lots of time, rather than precisely retrace our steps all the way down, we took a left fork and aimed for the valley to the east. This route was also quieter than the main path from the pass
|The last part of the
walk was along the path of a small river, so just before hitting the
road we had a crafty splash in a quiet pool. Very cold but made the
journey home more comfortable for us (and probably those sitting
There were a lot of people waiting for the buses out, but not as many as were arriving, so there was no problem getting a seat on the convoy of buses running the route (up to 6 at a time in peak periods, you'd think they could run more than 3-4 times a day instead). At Hirogawara, we were expecting an annoying wait for the not-really-connecting bus to Kofu, but a "Noriai Taxi" (shared 10-seater style minibus thing) driver offered us a lift straight away for only ¥100 more than the bus fare, so we hopped in.
After a rather too rapid drive out of the mountains we reached Kofu at least an hour ahead of schedule, walked straight onto an express train and had a very quick change at Shinjuku too. We were much earlier home than expected and had a quick look at the Bonbori festival lanterns in Kamakura on the way home from the station.
|So as usual here's a map of our
route, which this time starts and stops in the same place (green dot)
with loops to the south and north. This map doesn't show the (minor and
private) access road which follows the valleys to the south east and
north west (Hirogawara is in the bottom right corner).
Some more pictures can be seen here on jules' flickr album.
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