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Doppyo / Nishihodaka - October 1989

With the date of my departure from Japan to return to the U.K. getting ever closer, the week end of 21st/22nd October was to be the last chance that I would have to get in to the mountains. I contacted friend Tim Herrmann and we decided to go up to Nishihodaka in the North Alps, tackling it from the Shin Hotaka Spa side via the cable car, rather than going in to Kamikochi.


Tim stayed overnight at our house, and we set off by car at 5 a.m. on the Saturday morning. After 2 hours driving we arrived at the Lake Suwa rest area and took our first break. By 7-30 a.m. we were exiting the Nagano Expressway at Matsumoto. This was the quick part of the journey. The ride up the twisting roads to the entrance of the Kamikochi valley was much slower, and at this point we took a sharp left to continue along the road to Takayama. Immediately after this point the road goes in to a series of hairpins, and in October the leaves of the trees make a spectacular splash of colour with reds, yellows and browns. At certain points the snow covered mountains were visible, giving an alluring view of the walk ahead.

Passing over Abe Toge at 1,790 meters we dropped down and eventually turned off to the right along route 475 towards Shin Hotaka Spa. It was 10 a.m. by the time we reached the car park and got in the queue for the cable car. Although the queue was not so long, we were told that it would take two and a half hours to reach the top. This was because there was a wait after riding up the first cable car. The capacity of the long second cable car was limited and it was necessary to get a numbered coupon and wait our turn.


 


Cable Car Station



The Easy Way Up!

We eventually got to the top, enjoying spectacular views on the way up, and headed off to Nishihodaka Sanso. The trail was quite muddy, but picturesque with beautiful fir trees and scattered snow.

 

 

The walk to the lodge took an hour or so, and we left our rucksacks there so that we could climb unhindered. The trail up to Doppyo itself was not difficult, but after that it became quite tricky. With ice and snow on the rocks and with drops of several hundred feet just off the track we had to take great care. I went as far as Doppyo, but Tim was feeling more adventurous and went to the top of Pyramid Peak. By now it was late afternoon and getting very cold, so we started back down to the lodge.

 


 

Last scramble over rocks up to Doppyo

 

 

Doppyo 2,701 meters

Looking across the valley to Okuhotaka

Heading back down to Nishihodaka Sanso

The lodge was not full and we had a tatami room that normally sleeps 6 to ourselves. It was very cold in the lodge, and within a few minutes of crawling in to my sleeping bag I was fast asleep. After an hour's kip I went down to join Tim who was having the evening meal supplied by the lodge, and after that we went in to a small room where there was a stove and TV to watch a home video made by the lodge owner.
We woke the next day to find that the weather was glorious, and had to make the decision whether to climb Doppyo again or whether to go to Takayama sightseeing. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so we retraced our steps to Doppyo. I went a bit further this time, but Tim "the mountain goat" Herrmann pressed ahead and managed to climb Nishihodaka itself.

Nishihodaka Sanso


 

Pyramid Peak in glorious sunshine

Doppyo, with Pyramid Peak behind

View towards Nishihodaka

Pyramid Peak

 


 

We arranged to meet back at the lodge and as I made my way down a "raicho" in full winter plumage crossed the trail in front of me. It is amazing how their plumage turns white to blend in with the snow in the mountains in the winter.

 

View down the Kamikochi Valley

We set off down raly afternoon back to the cable car, and got back to the car park by 3 o'clock. The traffic was quite heavy and we decided to stop for a quick meal at McDonald's in Matsumoto. Despite being a Sunday night in late autumn the traffic on the Chuo Expresswas was stacked up for miles, and it was 10 o'clock before we eventually got back to Shibuya.
It was a great week end in the mountains with spectacular scenery, but one thing I shall not miss on return to the U.K. will be the traffic jams on the Chuo Expressway!!