Purpose one: writing a travelogue to describe my various trips.

Purpose two: muse.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


You got to say it fast, or the locals won't understand you.

From Tateyama, I went down to Takayama, which was a tourist trap I promptly made my escape from by taking the bus to Kamikochi. Kamikochi is famous for its natural beauty. I didn't see the big attraction to Kamikochi itself. Sure, it's a nice river valley, with good views of the surrounding mountains, but all the hotels, shops and crowds give it a city-park feel and there isn't much to do. Kamikochi makes Yosemite Valley look like the backcountry.

Kamikochi from Nishiho ridge

However, it does work well as transit to the surrounding alpine destinations. I had wanted to make it up to the Dakesawa hut, but it turned out to be closed, having been crushed in an avalanche. I ended up going up to the Nishiho-sanso instead, and I loved it. Sanso is a Japanese hut. Nishihosanso is up on a ridge, so protected from avalanches and you get better views. The drawback is, there is only that one ridge to ascend. Climbers do use it to reach routes on Mt. Okuhodaka, Japan's third-highest peak.

Sunset view from Nishiho-sanso

Not having any equipment with me, I just wanted to climb up Mt. Nishihodaka.

The Japanese must really like crampons. At both Tateyama and at Nishohosanso, when I told people I didn't have crampons, I got the ominous little "ooh." Yet, on neither route did I encounter any sections where I would have wanted crampons. If I had carried them, I never would have donned them. I saw many Japanese hikers or climbers wearing crampons through miles of perfectly good snow.

Okuhodaka from around Nishoho-doppyo

I made it up past Nishoho-doppyo, a worthwhile destination in itself. It got a little more technical from there. I would call it class two, with a couple of short class three sections where I skirted a hard patch of snow. Although I got some exposure, there was really only one spot where I would have been a goner if I fell.

On Nishoho-doppyo, on the way up

At the sanso, I met the nicest Japanese people so far. I find that outdoors people tend to connect, even across language and cultural boundaries. I got a new friend, Hiro, who shared his lunch and was terribly concerned about me. I felt bad about making him concerned, but fortunately he got good reports of my progress.

Nishiho-sanso is recommended, but if you go, bring a stove to melt snow. They charge $3/500ml of water.

On Nishohodaka Summit, descending from the summit, and Nishihosanso

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