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Tag: Mountaineering

Hiking the Yakushima Traverse: Ohokabu to Yodogawa – Part 2

This post is part two of two about hiking the Yakushima traverse in Japan, for part one go here.

After waking up to a little bit of sun peeking through the trees, we had breakfast and started to pack up. The tent was wet from the inside due to condensation and there was no way it was going to dry out in the humid climate, especially with the forest blocking out the direct sunlight. At least it wasn’t raining. At around 7:45am the first day hikers arrived at the Ohokabu (大株歩道入口) coming up from the Arakawa Trial Head (荒川登山口) and said hello while we had a coffee. The day was going to be long so we finished everything up quickly and left at 8:15.

After 30mins we arrived at the famous Wilson Stump (ウィルソン株), which is Cedar tree stump so large that you can go inside!

Special about the Wilson Stump is the shape of the cavity in the stump, it is shaped like a rather perfect heart and thus very popular in Japan! Apparently, most Japanese people have seen the stump’s shape at some point on TV.

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Hiking the Yakushima Traverse: Miyanoura Port to Ookabu – Part 1

This two part series will give an overview over hiking the Yakushima traverse in late summer (beginning of September) in 2017. Part 2 can be found here. Yakushima itself is an island in southern Japan (south of Kyushu) and a part of the Kagoshima prefecture. So consider this to be an excourse from Hokkaido ;)! There are no more active volcanos on Yakushima but still plenty of (amazing, seaside) onsen around.

Planning the tour

The Yakushima traverse hike is the grandfather of the hiking routes on the island but multiple variations of the route are possible. We decided on the route starting at Shiratani Unsuikyo, passing Jomon Sugi, climbing Mt. Miyanoura and finishing at Yodogawa. Furthermore, we aimed at bringing the least amount of gear possible with us to keep our pack weight low. However, as it was the first attempt we kind of failed and brought too much of all types of items (food, clothes, misc stuff that “might” be needed). We landed at the northern Miyanoura Port (宮之浦港) at 13:50 by high speed ferry from Kagoshima (depature 12:00), which was a little bit late in hindsight. A note on Kagoshima port: you can leave your car at one of the public parking lots near the ferry terminal for a fee.

Then we took the bus at 14:00 from the port directly to the northern trail head Shiratani Unsuikyo (白谷雲水峡) which took around 45mins. The trail head is at an altitude of 600m and lots of day tourists were coming back from a hike around the massive Cedar trees close to the trail head, such as the Yayoi Sugi. At the entrance, you have to pay 2000JPY per person if you indent to sleep within the National Park (same for Hut and Tent) and fill out a hiking iternary, in case of emergency. Strangely enough, after asking I was told that we don’t need to fill out a similar sheet upon completion of the hike. At that point we hadn’t decided yet if we were going to stay at the Shiratani Hut (白谷小屋) or walk further so we left both options on the sheet.

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Climbing Mt Yotei in Mid October

The weekend from 18th to 19th October was said to have great weather in Hokkaido, so I set out to try to climb Mt Yotei (Yoteizan or 羊蹄山). Mt Yotei is one of Japan’s 100 famous mountains and is also called Ezo Fuji, meaning “Fuji of Hokkaido” because of its shape which resembles Mt Fuji. While it is “only” 1898m high, it is Japan’s 10th highest mountain by prominence (basically relating to the elevation of its surroundings). Starting at 300m the difference in elevation is about 1600m, which is pretty close to Mt Fuji’s difference in elevation at 1700m when starting at the 5th station. I chose the Hangetsu route from Hirafu Station, next to Niseko because it was the most accessible to me (as I don’t have a car). The plan was to arrive as late as possible at Hirafu station, maybe stocking up on food at a Convenicene store, having a little rest and then starting the climb at around 1am to reach the summit at sunrise.

I arrived at 21:23 with the last train at Hirafu station and it was pitch black. This time I also took some video footage, but I am not sure really what to do with it yet. I might figure out something later.. Anyway, I was amazed by how much the camera was able to see in the darkness!

To my surprise, there was even a little building beside the tracks and the light was actually still on! I went inside and discovered that it was a little self-service guesthouse. I was even more suprised that there were actually people staying there, as the climbing season in Hokkaido is officially over and the skiing season has not begun yet. The people were very nice and we talked about the surrounding mountains, had tea and I ate something. Assuringly they also told me, that bears (which are not uncommon in Hokkaido) are usually not seen around this area, which was good to start with.
Hirafu

I changed clothes and left at around 23:30 for the trail head, as I wanted to take some pictures along the way. It’s about a 2km walk on a road from the station to the camping ground next to the trailhead. The weather was clear and no clouds in sight, making for an amazing night sky!

Yoteizan

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