Posted tagged ‘Minami Alps hikes (南アルプス)’

Mt. Shiomi (塩見岳)

August 26, 2008

Last updated: August 18, 2017

This blog post was updated in 2017, but if you’re looking for the latest information about this hike (including color photos and maps), please consider purchasing my guidebook to the Japan Alps. 

Mt. Shiomi is a rugged, twin peak situated roughly halfway between Kita-dake and Mt. Warusawa in the Minami Alps. The panoramic views of Mt. Fuji and the Chuo Alps are incredible in favorable weather.


The hike: From the bus stop, take the trail just to the left of the hiking registration box and enter the forest. The route is divided into 10 stages and is clearly marked with signposts counting up from 1. It climbs steeply for about an hour to a ridge, where’s there’s a long traverse along a path loaded with wooden stairs and precarious walkways. Just before the 9th stagepoint (9/10) you’ll see a roped-off junction on your left that leads down to Shiokawa. This used to be the main trail up to the pass before the road was washed out in a typhoon. Continue on for another 30 minutes and you’ll reach Sanpuku-tōge (三伏峠), the tallest mountain pass in Japan. It should take about 4 hours or so to reach the mountain pass, where you’ll find an excellent mountain hut and campground. Sanpuku-tōge hut (三伏峠小屋) is open from July 1st to September 30th and charges 8500 yen for 2 meals or 5500 yen for sleeping space only. Click here for the website. I’d really recommend staying here, as it helps break up the very long climb of Mt. Shiomi and makes for a good base camp. The only drawback is the lack of drinking water. You can either buy bottled water from the hut or hike 20 minutes down the trail to get water. From the hut, turn left and walk past the campsite until reaching a junction. Turn left towards Mt. Shiomi (塩見岳). The trail drops to a saddle before climbing up to the treeline and the summit of Mt. Sanpuku (三伏山), which provides wonderful panoramic views in clear weather. If the weather is fine then you’ll see Mt. Shiomi towering above you across the valley and you’ll realize just how far you need to go. Continue along the ridge towards Mt. Shiomi and you’ll eventually drop down to the tree line and start losing altitude, where you’ll meet a junction with a closed trail on your right. This trail used to lead down to the old Sanpuku hut and campsite, which is now closed. Climb the steep trail in front of you past some wildflowers and after about a half an hour of steady climbing you’ll reach the summit of Mt. Hontani (本谷山), which also pokes out above the treeline. On the left-hand side of the summit you can see Kitadake through a clearing in the creeping pine. Keep to the ridge and you’ll once again drop down to a lush forest and reach a low point, where the trail will veer towards the right for a very long traverse towards Shiomi hut (塩見小屋), which sits perched on the edge of the treeline. Just before reaching the end of the trees, veer right at the junction marked for 塩見小屋 and follow the switchbacks through the creeping pine. It should take about 90 minutes from the saddle below Hontani to this hut, which makes for a great place to catch your breath before the final assault on the steep western face of the peak. The hut was completely rebuilt in the summer of 2016. It is now a clean hut with very friendly staff. Reservations are required to stay here, but they might be able to accommodate you if you show up early and they’re not fully booked. From the hut, the trail starts climbing towards the summit of Tengu-iwa, but just before reaching it there’s a traverse path on the right that skirts the edge of the mountain through a large maze of rocks. The route is easy to find in clear weather, but when the cloud is in then look for the yellow paint marks on the rocks. After reaching the far side of Tengu-iwa, you’ll get your first views of Mt. Shiomi in all its intimidating splendor. It’s hard to believe there’s actually a trail up that mass of rock on a nearly vertical face but rest assured – there is a path. Drop down to the saddle and carefully pick your way among the maze of yellow paint marks. There’s one section at the start of the climb that is susceptible to rockfall from hikers above, so make sure you keep your eyes and ears peeled for any falling stones. It’s a thrilling, somewhat precarious climb of around 45 minutes until you magically pop out on the summit plateau and can once again walk on relatively horizontal ground. The first summit is the western peak (西峰), which is just a few meters lower than Shiomi’s twin summit Tōhō (東峰) which is fortunately an easy walk along the ridge for another 5 minutes. After admiring the views, retrace your steps all the way back to Sanpuku-tōge, or continue along the ridge for another couple of hours to Kumanodaira hut (熊ノ平小屋), which will set you up nicely if you plan on continuing on to Kitdake the following day.

When to go: This hike can be done from mid-July to late August, when the bus to the trailhead is running. If you’ve got your own transport, then you can go much earlier/later than this. Alternatively, you can approach via Kita-dake, but you’ve got to be careful if descending to Torikura if you’re out of bus season as it’s an awful long way from anywhere.

Access: From Okaya station (岡谷駅) in Nagano Pref. take the JR Iida line (JR飯田線) and get off at Ina-Oshima (伊那大島) station. The local train takes about 90 minutes. From there, take a bus bound for Torikura tozanguchi (鳥倉登山口) and get off at the last stop. The bus stop used to run to a place called  Shiokawa (塩川), but the road has been washed out and there’s no plan in the immediate future to rebuild it. This bus only runs from mid-July to the end of August, and there are only 2 buses a day. Click here for the schedule. My advice would be to take the last train to Ina-Oshima and either sleep at the unmanned train station or at the bus stop. The bus stop is sheltered with a long bench, making it perfect as a place to sleep. Just bring your sleeping bag. That way, you can easily catch the 6:45am bus! If you’re hiking out of the bus season, then you could pay 10,000 yen for a taxi ride to the trailhead.

Be careful if approaching this hike from Nagoya, because the JR Iida line from Toyohashi station takes over 5 hours to get to Ina-Oshima! It’s much faster to take the JR Chuo line and change at Shiojiri.

Level of difficulty: 5 out of 5 (elevation change 1717m).

Mt. Senjo (仙丈ヶ岳)

June 23, 2008

This blog post was written back in 2008. For the latest information about this hike (including color photos and maps), please consider purchasing my guidebook to the Japan Alps. 

Mt. Senjo, situated across the valley from Mt. Kai-komagatake in the Minami Alps, rounds out the top 10 for the tallest peaks in Japan. The views are awe-inspiring, with an excellent vantage point of the entire string of mountains in the Minami and Chuo Alps clearly visible on a nice day.

The hike: From Kitazawa-toge, you’ve got two options, but I’ll describe the more popular route that starts directly across from the Chouei-sou hut (長衛荘). The trail enters the forest and starts climbing almost immediately. You’ll pass by trail markers set up to divide the mountain into 10 stages (I’m not sure why the number 10 was chosen, but it’s consistent no matter what peak you climb in this country). It should take about 2 hours or so to reach the 5th stage (五合目), where you’ll find a trail junction. Both paths lead to the top, so consider doing a loop hike to minimize the environmental damage. I recommend taking the left fork towards Little Senjo-ga-take (小仙丈ヶ岳). You’ll break above the tree line pretty quickly after leaving the junction, so pray that the wind isn’t howling or that it’s not hailing. I had rainy weather but miraculously it wasn’t foggy at all, so visibility was phenomenal. I could even see Mt. Fuji! Anyway, when you reach the top of Little Senjo, you’ll see the huge col below the summit come into view. The ridge line is pretty rocky, and the path pretty much stays right on top of it, so follow the paint marks and you’ll be ok. It should take an hour or so to reach the top of Mt. Senjo, where you’ll have a birds-eye view of a fairly significant number of alpine peaks. Take a break and enjoy the vista! If you’ve got several days and would like an alternative trek bypassing Kita-dake, then you can take this ridge line all the way to Mt. Shiomi. Just take a left at the summit via Big Senjo-ga-take (大仙丈ヶ岳). Otherwise, continue towards the right and drop down to the Senjo hut (仙丈小屋). There’s a water source here and you can stay in the hut if you’d like to break the hike into 2 days (and try to catch the sunrise/sunset). Otherwise, keep going on the same path for about an hour until reaching Uma-no-se Bunki (馬ノ背分岐), which translates at “the horse’s back junction”. Take a right and soon you’ll reach the Uma-no-se hut. This is also a good place to stay, and if you continue past another trail junction you’ll find yet another hut. This one’s called Senjo-yabusawa (仙丈薮沢小屋) and it’s only open between mid July and mid August. There are no meals served here, but they have futon you can use. Just past this hut you may find a lingering snow field or two. They seem to stay around this part of the mountain even in the warm summer air. In around 20 minutes or so you’ll reach the trail junction at the 5th stage (where you started the climb above the tree line towards Little Senjo). Take a left and head back down to Kitazawa-toge. The entire hike should take anywhere from 5 to 8 hours depending on the weather and your speed.

When to go: As with Kai-koma, this hike can be done anytime the road to Kitazawa-toge is open. I’m not sure of the exact dates, but probably from Golden Week to early November. If you can make it to Kitazawa-toge, you can try a winter ascent just like these people did on New Year’s Eve!

Access: From Kofu station (甲府駅), take a bus bound for Hirogawara (広河原). From there, change to a bus bound for Kitazawa-toge (北沢峠) and get off at the last stop. Click here for the bus schedule (in Japanese).

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 1003m).

Mt. Akaishi (赤石岳)

May 12, 2008

This blog post was written back in 2008. For the latest information about this hike (including color photos and maps), please consider purchasing my guidebook to the Japan Alps. 

Mt. Akaishi, or ‘red stone peak’, is one of the most sought-after peaks of the southern half of the Minami Alps, and the red glow of the summit around sunrise/sunset makes the long, long slog worth it.

The hike: From the bus stop, hike a short way up the paved forest road (near the camp site) and you’ll find the trailhead. Make sure you take a left and follow the signs towards Akaishi hut (赤石小屋) and not towards Mt. Arakawa (荒川岳). The trails follows an old logging road for the first 2-1/2 hours or so, and then makes its way up the spine of the mountain. It should take about 5 hours or so to reach Akaishi hut, where you can either pitch a tent or stay in the hut. The hut costs 8000 yen with 2 meals or 5000 yen for a futon only, and is open from July 16th to October 13th. If you’ve gotten a super early start and want to make it to the summit, then you’re only 3-1/2 hours away! The hut has a water source, and there’s no water between the start of the hike and here, so bring plenty from the trailhead. If the weather is good, then wake up really early the next morning and time your hike so you can see the sunrise from Fujimidaira (富士見平). It’s on the trail to the summit, so you’ve got to pass by here anyway. It should take about 40 minutes from the hut, and it’s a good place to see the red glow of the signature peak. From Fujimidaira, you’ve got about 2-1/2 hours before reaching the proper ridge line just below the summit. It’s rocky and exposed, so watch your step in wet weather. Shortly after leaving Fujimidaira, you’ll see a signpost on your right marking the winter climbing route (冬山ルート), but ignore this and follow the paint marks on the rocks. Eventually you will reach the ridge and a trail junction, so turn left for the 20-minute climb to the summit. If the weather is good then you’ll have outstanding views of Mt. Fuji and the other huge peaks of the Minami Alps. About 5 meters below the summit there lies a manned emergency hut, which will cost 5000 yen to stay in, despite the fact that there’s no water! The man who runs the hut, however, is incredibly friendly and plied me with free warm tea after climbing during the middle of a typhoon! From the summit, you’ve got 3 options. Option 1 is a traverse over to Mt. Hijiri (聖岳), breaking up the trek by staying at Hyakkanbora Yama-no-ie (百間洞山ノ家) – a glorious hut famous for their tonkatsu. Option 2 is to head in the opposite direction and climb Mt. Arakawa (荒川岳), breaking up the trek at Arakawa hut (荒川小屋), another fantastic hut with great people and awesome views out to Mt. Fuji. The third, less desirable option would be to head all the way back the way you came down to Sawara-jima. Not only would you contribute to trail erosion, but your 2000 vertical meter climb will have gone to waste. When you’ve put in so much time and energy to reach the ridge line, you might as well stay on it for a few more days!

When to go: I used to recommend doing this hike year round, but because of the new bus limitations (see below), those without private transport will be forced to do this hike between mid-July and August. Hitchhiking will be difficult from Shizuoka, because it’s a walloping 3-1/2 bus ride to the dam! Hitching from the dam, however, should be relatively easy on the weekends. If you do this hike in winter, be prepared for lots of snow, so bring winter climbing gear. Click here to see someone who climbed around New Year’s.

Access: From Shizuoka station (静岡駅), take a bus bound for Hatanagi-daiichi Dam (畑薙第一ダム) and get off at the dam. Change to a shuttle bus bound for Sawara-jima Lodge (椹島ロッジ). Please note that the bus to Hatanagi-daiichi has been discontinued as of May 31st, 2008, and has been replaced by a seasonal bus running only from July 19th to August 31st. Click here for the bus schedule. These kind of antics really tick me off, because it is encouraging people to use their own transport to get to the dam and punishing those of us who don’t have cars! Click here for the shuttle bus schedule from the dam to the lodge.

Level of difficulty: 5 out of 5 (elevation change ~2000m).