First day back in the Japanese Alps, it was a pretty serious day with a lot of up in a short time; tomorrow will be far, far worse. My goal is Yarigatake, at 3384m the fifth highest mountain in Japan; often considered one of the best climbs in the Hida Mountains.

Yari is not that high but it’s position means you need a few days to get to it, up, and then back out. There are numerous ways routes but I was planning on a fairly straightforward way from Kamikochi. I would have liked to have come across from the Shin Hotaka ropeway as I was on the West Coast, but that involved walking across some particularly highly exposed cliffs faces. When I talked to people in the huts, no one had yet tried that way this season – there were many meters of snow up there and avalanches were common. Starting at Kamikochi means luggage is very easy too, as there is cheap luggage storage at the bus stop at the start point.

The huts higher up have a lot fewer people but they are very often friendly. I met two older guys, now retired, doing a three day version of Yari. Both retired, one lives in Yokohama and the other in Kawasaki.  One bought me a beer, which is hard to refuse, even when I have been on anti-cold medication for a week! My head is now spinning, probably not the best at over 2000 meters, before an early start and big climb – c’est la vie!

Unfortunately higher huts also tend not to have hot baths (Ofuru), at the end of the day which are really, really good! Whether they have baths or not most huts also can provide breakfast and dinner, it makes your pack so much lighter.

I will try for Yari tomorrow but I’m not really equiped, I only brought 8 point crampons and didn’t want to juggle airports and Tokyo trains with an ice axe – not great these conditions. It is possible to self arrest with poles but it is no where near as reliable as with an axe.  I should be able to hire a helmet at Yarigatake Sanso – mine, forgotten at the last minute, is sitting on a nice visible bench in my garage in Australia – not much use when my head is here 🙂

The view of the mountains from the hut here is great, but it is no match for Karasawa, which are stunning.

When packing I agonised for ages whether to bring an ipad/keyboard or laptop. I made the wrong choice and brought the laptop. It’s easier to type on but is much heavier and takes up lots of space in the pack. I thought I might do some picture editing/writing in the long evenings. With lights out at 8:30 PM, breakfast at 5:30 AM, and almost always people to talk to there is no time for writing or editing. An iPad would have been fine, smaller, and lighter. I have picture editing, writing and sort of coding apps on the iPad. And of course, the iPad is much better for reading and far,far easier to charge. Time to move with the times!

At 5:30 the next morning I was eating my miso, rice and fish and getting ready for some climbing. I decided to go up and come back to the same hut, that way I could leave behind a bag of clothes and make my pack even lighter. 

I was prepared for a long, steep climb, with some snow, but this may as well have been a ski run – in fact staff from the top hut were skiing down it! The snow was soft and about knee deep, about the worst conditions for a nice fast ascent, not !  I really wanted to be well off these slopes by the evening, it was still dropping a long way below zero at night and with 45-60 degree angles this would become a vertical ice rink. The path is very clear up the middle of the slope, with steep sides covered in late spring snow the avalanche risk would be far too great anywhere else anyway. The middle was safe, just really hard work.

Most of it is straight forward but the top 50 meters or so are pretty much vertical rocks. As with many Japanese mountains, there are ladders and chains installed for the trickier parts, it does take away from the achievement a bit, but also makes it not that hard (as long as you watch your footing and don’t mind BIG drops ). The view on top was superb and absolutely worth the hike.

After many trips in Kamikochi where people were asking if I had just been up Yari, I can now say I have and you should too!

Climbing Yari

The Path

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