is justifiably one of Japan's most popular peaks. It's relatively
accessible, not as challenging as the Kita Alps but with a similar
flavour, especially along the rocky ridge which runs north-south in the
vicinity of the main peak of Akadake. We've climbed it twice in
September and October respectively: most of the pictures are from our
second trip which had markedly better weather than the first time.
The name means "8 peaks": the mountain consists mainly of a ridge running north-south, but I'm not sure which of the numerous peaks make up the official 8 (or indeed if this is number is meant to be an exact count or just a vague impression). The mountain range seems to look different from all approaches - it's not one of those characteristic shapes like Yarigatake or Tateyama - not forgetting Fuji :-) It is volcanic, so onsens abound.
The LP guide recommends a 2-day trip (even do-able in 1 long day) from east to west. On our first trip, we took 3 days, walking from south to north along most of the ridge. We started at Kobuchizawa station, staying in Seinengoya and Akadake Choujou Sansou before walking out to the Shibu-no-yu onsen and bus stop.
2nd time around, we only had 2 days and so chose the Minotoguchi start point a la LP guide. This was the Sunday of a holiday weekend and also the first spell of fine weather after a couple of wet weeks, so the trains and buses were very busy, and the area around Minotoguchi was heaving with people. However, rather than heading up the valley on the standard path, we chose the ridge over Amida dake and hardly met anyone all day. This route is significantly longer and harder than the valley ascent but well worth it for those with the time and energy.
|It was a lovely clear sunny day, but surprisingly cold and windy, with what appeared to be a sprinkling of snow around the summits. Over the previous few days, a typhoon had passed close by - not actually hitting us, but it was now somewhere in the region of Hokkaido which meant a Siberian airstream across the country.|
|Once we got closer, it became clear that this "snow" was actually rime ice.
It's rare to have such wonderfully clear views across the valleys and summits. Below left is of course Fuji, and right is Amida Buddha (and jules) on the summit of Amida-dake, with the main summit Aka-dake behind.
The strength of the wind made the final ascent hard work, and I was pretty knackered by the time we got to the summit, where we stayed in the comfortable hut perched right on the summit. It was a bit cloudy in the evening, but the forecast for the next day was great. I'd been planning on walking along the ridge a bit before dropping back down to Minotoguchi but wasn't sure I would have the energy...
next day was again sunny but also much warmer. After a relatively
leisurely breakfast we wandered down to the next hut (Aka-dake Tenbo
Sou) for an early coffee and rethink.
The huts make few concessions to visual impact! The location made for a great spot for coffee, but this picture is taken looking back up to the summit where the hut that we stayed at can also be seen.
Again we could see for miles around in all directions. The whole range of the Kita Alps was clearly visible right from Hotakadake to Shiroumadake, all lightly dusted with snow. Unbeknown to us, about half a dozen people (4 in one group) had just died there over the weekend.
The view below is looking roughly NW directly towards Norikura Kougen, with Amida dake in the foreground at the left. The towns of Chino and Kamisuwa fill the valley floor.
|Looking towards Hotakadake and Yarigatake, the gouge of the Daikiretto was shown very clearly from this angle.
There was a descending route from the col close to the hut, but despite our tired legs, the ridge to the north over Yokodake was too enticing to ignore.
In the warm morning, the ice was melting fast, and jules got hit on the arm by quite a large chunk while traversing under some rocks.
|We had considered just going up to the top and back to the col to descend, but in fact the summit of Yokodake was a bit further than we had expected. By the time we were up there, there was not much point in turning back. so we wandered round the now much more gentle path.|
|The descent back down the valley was easy enough with occasional views up to the ridge.|
|There was plenty of autumn colour in the sun.
We got back to the Minotoguchi hut in time for a bath and some late lunch before catching the bus out. They serve stone-baked pizza which went down very well with a cold beer. We even timed it just right to catch the one-per-day-only-on-holidays Hamakaiji train from Chino which avoids Shinjuku and took us straight to Yokohama.
|If you go further north along the
ridge like we did the previous time, the path takes you past a couple of huts
close together, one of which (Yamabiko sou) seems to keep a "momonga"
as a pet. This is some sort of cute sugar-glider-cum-flying-squirrel
thing that seems to leap around and fall off things a lot.
However, this end of the mountain is not very exciting and the Shibu-no-yu onsen is pretty grotty, so I wouldn't call it a must-do.
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