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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.


Matsumoto Castle

Shinshimashima Station

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 Gasen Lodge.


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 Lodge



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.


Nishidake Hut


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 of rock

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!

Yarisawa Lodge



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?