Okuhodaka, Kamikochi - July 1988
Getting up at 2-30 a.m., I had a quick breakfast
and left Tokyo at 3 a.m. to drive to Shinshimajima, near Matsumoto.
Driving so early in the morning was a real pleasure with so little
traffic about, and I arrived at Shinshimajima at 5-25 a.m., having
taken the Expressway from Okaya to Matsumoto. I was soon on the
5-35 a.m. bus leaving Shinshimajima and arrived at the bus terminal
at Kamikochi around 6-45 a.m.
Kamikochi bus terminal, in the days before millions
of tourists descended on Kamikochi each year
Crossing the famous Kappabashi bridge and taking
the trail on the left hand side of the Azusa River I soon came
to the entrance to the path leaidng to Dakesawa.
The early part of the trail is pretty, with large
rocks and broken trees, but it soon passes into open ground and
the real climbing begins. It was at this stage, the climb up to
Dakesawa, that I began to wonder what I was doing being out so
early walking on my own in the Japan Alps! It is much harder motivating
oneself when alone, and the temptation to go for the easy life
is much greater!
View looking back down in to the
The way ahead
Signpost at Dakesawa Hut, 2,200m.
Maehodaka, 3,090m signposted to the right, and 3 hours.
Kamikochi signposted at 2 hours to the left. Nishihodaka and Okuhodaka
signposted to the left via Tengu Col.
Having reached Dakesawa, however, and having rested
up, I felt ready for the next part of the walk, the steep climb
up to Maehodaka. This is a long, long climb, quite steep in places
and necessitating the use of iron ladders fixed to the rockface
in certain places to get up the steep bits.
Having organised the trip quickly I was rather
light on supplies. In fact, for the weekend I had brought two
packs of cup noodles and coffee granules! I was pleased to have
my first coffee brew near Maehodaka. Soon after leaving this spot
and traversing a narrow rock path I became aware of another foreigner
gaining on me quickly. He soon caught me up and introduced himself
as Roger Davis, an Australian working with Citibank. Roger was
walking with a Texan, Jim Thompson, and had been about half an
hour behind me on the same trail. He was intrigued when each time
he met Japanese climbers they asked him if he was with the other
"gaijin" up ahead, so Roger put in a spurt to catch
up with me. This turned out to be most fortunate from my point
of view, as Roger and Jim were good company and were carrying
more food than I have ever seen on the mountain!
In light rain we carried on to Hodaka Lodge, approaching
the lodge down a steep rock face on iron ladders, and then across
a shale slope. Rather tricky and easy to go sliding down the shale
with a drop to a path at the back of the lodge.
The descent from the peak to the lodge viewed
from the lodge. You can see the iron ladders if you look closely.
The lodge was very well equipped. We had a small
tatami room to ourselves and the evening meal of chicken was one
of the best meals I have had up in the mountains, especially when
supplemented by Roger and Jim's food stash! The lodge had TV,
video and even a CD player with hundreds of CDs. In the evening
they even showed a cine film of mountains after the dinner had
been finished and cleared away.
The next day we were up early but the weather was
not so good. It was raining, windy and there was a great deal
of mist swirling about. Roger was keen to take the trail to Kitahodaka,
but we were advised that this would take about 3 hours and we
simply did not have enough time. Nevetheless we did the first
part of the trail to have a look see. Returning to the lodge we
started the descent to Karasawa, which is a popular camping ground
in the summer. There was still some snow and a few people skiing.
Leaving Karasawa we headed for Yokoo, and then
back to Kamikochi via Tokusawa. Taking a taxi out of the valley
we dropped into the ryokan where Roger and Jim had spent Friday
night, and made use of their ofuro to soak our weary bones. This
was really relaxing and it was nice to drive back to Tokyo feeling
clean and refreshed.