Tsubakuro / Mt Yari - September 1989
With the 15th, 16th and 17th being a long week end due
to the Friday being "Respect for the Aged Day" I planned
a trip to Mt. Yari along the classic "Omote Ginza" route.
Of the seven invitations I sent out I had three "affirmative"
replies from Yoshi Minegishi, Dave Sturges and Tim Herrmann.
Tim stayed overnight at our house and we arranged to meet Yoshi
and Dave outside National Azabu supermarket at 4 a.m. on the Friday
morning. Everyone turned up on time and by 4-15 a.m. we were on
the Shuto Expressway heading out towards the Chuo Expressway. After
taking a coffee break at Lake Suwa service area, we turned right
on the Nagano Expressway and were soon in Matsumoto. Taking a few
minutes for a side trip we went into the town for a quick look at
Matsumoto Castle before driving to Shinshimashima.
We arrived at Shinshimashima shortly after 7 a.m.
and organised our rucksacks and climbing gear ready for the off.
We then took a taxi from Shinshimashima Station to Nakabusa Onsen,
arrriving at 8-40 a.m. after an hour's ride. The taxi ride was quite
interesting as it took us along backroads through apple orchards
before climbing up the mountain to a height of 1,800 m, the start
point of our walk at Nakabusa Onsen.
Mick at Nakabusa Onsen
We climbed for the first 3 hours, past 1st Bench
and 2nd Bench (convenient rest points) until we finally reached
Resting at 1st Bench
There is a small cable car system from Nakabusa Onsen
to Gasen Lodge, but unfortunately it is only used for bringing food
and supplies up the mountain. My pack was very heavy and I constantly
lagged 10 minutes behind my three companions, who were super fit
and were carrying lighter rucksacks. Some entrepreneur could make
a fortune operating a "rucksack delivery service" between
Nakabusa Onsen and Gasen Lodge.
Leaving Gasen Lodge we climbed up the last part of
the trail to Enzanso Lodge, arriving at 12-35 p.m. This part of
the climb is more interesting and Tsubakurodake was clearly visible
off to the right.
Dave, Mick and Tim at Hutte Enzanso
Tim, Yoshi and Dave
Unfortunately by the time we had reached the top
Tsubakurodake was beginning to become enveloped in mist - "gasu"
as the Japanese call it - and we decided it was not worth the effort
to climb Tsubakurodake as there would be no view.
Mist coming in over Tsubakurodake
After lunch at Enzanso we donned our raingear as
the weather turned for the worse, and we headed off along the trail
to Otensho (or Otenjyo as it is sometimes called).
Trail leading away from Enzanso
The wind was strong in places, and a sudden gust
blew my hat off. I looked all around but could not find it; the
other three came back to search; we were just about to give up assuming
it had gone over the edge when I suddenly discovered it between
my head and my rucksack! The other three immediately thought that
I was playing for more rest time, and I have to admit that with
the weight of my rucksack the break was appreciated!
We arrived at Hutte Otensho at 4-30 p.m. having skirted
the Otensho peak by taking the trail to the right. It was a welcome
sight as we dropped down the mountain side onto a saddle where the
lodge is nestled. The weather was getting worse with thunder and
lightening and we were glad to arrive when we did. Many people had
already checked into the Lodge and more arrived as the afternoon
wore on. We were assigned to "Room 10" which under normal
circumstances would sleep 6 comfortably, but as so many people were
staying at the Lodge that night we had 12 people in the room! Packed
like sardines it was difficult to sleep comfortably, but at least
we were warm and dry.
The next day we had breakfast and set off just after
7 a.m. The weather was rather unsettled and we were constantly putting
on and taking off our rain gear. Along the ridge to Nishidake we
came across three raicho nestling in the low undergrowth and it
was surprising how close we could get to them to take photographs.
Approaching Nishidake Lodge
We arrived at Nishidake at 8-45 a.m. and decided
to take a long break for some food and coffee. Fortunately water
was available at the Lodge at Yen 150 per litre and we were able
to make up some Pocari Sweat from crystals for the long walk ahead.
Leaving Nishidake at 9-25 a.m. we dropped down quite
a long way using metal ladders fixed to the rock and also chains
in part, before coming to a saddle at the lowest point. Here the
ridge leading all the way up to Mt Yari itself begins its long climb.
Again the fitness of Yoshi, Dave and Tim showed and they were generally
10 minutes ahead of me in the climb.
Tim tackling one of the ladders
Using chains to descend steep bits
The next major stop was Hutte Oyari, and we reached
it around 11-20 a.m. Lagging slightly behind the group and going
slower, I was fortunate enough to spot wild monkeys on the mountain
just before Hutte Oyari. Quite interesting as I had not realised
that monkeys got so high in these mountains.
Leaving Hutte Oyari at 12-04 p.m. we arrived at Yari Sanso, the
main lodge on the side of Mt Yari itself, at 12-34 p.m. Again we
took a short break, and then leaving our rucksacks at the lodge
we climbed the last section over steep and rugged rock to the summit.
Going up was easier then coming down, as it started to rain again
and the rocks became quite slippery.
Mick, followed by Dave and Yoshi,
on the final climb of Yarigadake
Yarigadake 3,180 m
Yoshi and Tim having lunch
Leaving Yari for the descent into
the Kamikochi Valley
Leaving Yari Sanso at 2-13 p.m. we began the long
hike down the valley over rugged broken rocks. Care had to be taken
not to go over on an ankle and twist it and a whole new set of muscles
came into play on this downhill section. As we approached Yarisawa
Lodge towards 5 p.m. the terrain changed to a fairly level path
alongside the narrow gorge, but the most amazing thing was the amount
of snow still remaining there after last year's winter. A snow tongue
of at least 2 km long at 20 foot thick remained, complete with snow
bridges and water rushing underneath, and in parts it was necessary
to walk over it as it obliterated the normal trail. We eventually
came to a stone hut with a few people camping along side it, which
was a sign that we were approaching Yarisawa Lodge. Mick's "
It's only about 300 meters more" became a joke as the trail
seemed to go on and on. So much so that at one point we actually
thought that we might have missed the lodge. However we arrived
at Yarisawa Lodge at 5-15 p.m feeling rather weary, and headed straight
for the trough of cold water containing the cans of beer on sale.
The first sip was nectar!
Yoshi made the arrangements with the lodge for the
night and we were allocated a fairly spacious upper bunk area.We
were delighted to learn that Yarisawa Lodge had an ofuro, and we
made a bee line for it to soak our tired muscles and to get cleaned
up. We were carrying so much food between us that we decided not
to have the evening meal at the lodge, and had a vertiable feast
of our own instead.
After a good nights sleep we left Yarisawa Lodge
the next day at 6-48 a.m and made our way to Kamikochi, arriving
at 10-15 a.m., after short breaks at Yokoo and Tokusawa. To our
delight that taxi driver who had taken us over to Nakabusa Onsen
two days before was standing there, and we were soon in a taxi heading
back to Shinshimashima. We made our way to the Royal Host restaurant
on the outskirts of Matsumoto for lunch, and after that we headed
back to Tokyo. We met heavy traffic on the Chuo Expressway but arrived
home at 5-40 p.m. which was not bad at all.
It is obvious why I was slower than
the others... sheer weight of rucksack!
But what on earth did I have in it for a 3-day hike?