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TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

Nara, Japan
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TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

I do not know why this is so, but anytime I hit Kamikochi I start shaking like a high school kid on his first date, presumably because I get awed at the sight of Dakesawa Chimney: the huge mountain slopes outstretched before your eyes when you stand on Kappa Bridge, or perhaps at the picture-perfect lines of ‘Suspension Ridges’ of the Northern Alps Hotaka Mountains. The night before, I stayed in an onsen village called Shin–Hotaka, one of the best in the Okuhida areas, IMO. Yes, it was very hazy, the reason being sand dust bombarded not only Takayama but the Hotaka-Kamikochi area. Newspaper said it was the first time the sand dust from the continent had ever reached Takayama and its surrounds. Back in the Kansai area, May is the hazy, sand-dust month when you can see dusty car roofs everywhere though.

Anyway, I had expected to see, while driving my rental car, an awe-inspiring snow-capped mountain view when I got out of the tunnel at Hirayu, a gateway to Kamikochi from the Takayama side; on a clear day, part of the Northern Japan Alps: Mt Spearhead, West Hotaka and the ridges running from east to west, loom ahead. It was overcast, and even spitting with rain right at the moment I set my foot outside JR Takayama. Had thought of just grabbing a bite somewhere around here, but I had half an hour to kill before having to show up at the rental car office, so I ended up at a table in some ramen restaurant opposite from that railroad station…, which I shouldn’t have. Sorry, but the ramen didn’t quite agree with me. Then I checked in at the rental office and hit the road all the way to Shin-Hotaka, via Hirayu. Sakuras, on the wane though, were still pretty much visible while driving on Route158 and 471. Once you got to the outskirts of the city, the traffic was light and smooth: 70-75 minutes after departure, I arrived in Shin-Hotaka.

Sorry for rambling, but that was my Day1.

Not up to par at all, far below is the link to my photos.

Caveat: most of the stuffs are somewhat blurred images of snowy mountains, so if you aren't into nature and permissive as well to lousy shots you'll end up in clicks-after-clicks...but then I'd be glad if you came to find something unique about my destinations:

…smugmug.com/Nature/…1289394520_44dHHZd

Lastly, here’s a big thank-you to my fellow TA'er, who pasted the link in one of her previous posts. And so, al-the-squid, I hope you don't mind me making use of it to upload mine.

Regards,

Shot

Stockholm, Sweden
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1. Re: TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

Oh, it's beautiful!! I love your photos! Thank you for posting this!

Now I really want to go there during my summer visit. Would you say that early July is an ok time to visit as well, or would you advice against that? I know it's during tsuyu, but it's the only time I can go...

Nara, Japan
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2. Re: TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

Thanks for the kudos, arevan.

Early July is fine. FYI, Kamikochi doesn't get more rain in July than you might think. No, not that it's perfectly tsuyu-free at that time of the year, though. So you'll be fine coming to KK in early summer, when it's in luscious green. You'd be just as awed as I am every time I hit there.

Stockholm, Sweden
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3. Re: TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

Ah, that is great to hear! I don't mind a little bit of rain either. Growing up among mountains, I'm very used to it. I'm sure I've done a lot more hiking in rain and snow storms than in sunshine, LOL. It makes you appreciate the occasional clear, warm days all the more.

And the great thing about hiking in Japan is that after being soaked, you can always get warm again in an onsen. We don't have that in my country :) And our mountains are not luscious green during ANY time of the year! I look forward to Kamikochi already!

Stockholm, Sweden
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4. Re: TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

Oh, and by the way. Since you seem to have travelled to Kamikochi a few times, have you any recommendations as to accommodation? Do you usually stay in KK itself, in mountain huts, or in one of the onsen villages like Hirayu? Or do you make daytrips from somewhere like Takayama?

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5. Re: TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

I love your photos and have just looked at some of your older photos of Kyoto In November and the autumn leaves look so beautiful. What sort of camera do use?

Nara, Japan
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6. Re: TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

arevan,

If you are really thinking of a serious hike, I suggest hitting from the central KK to Karasawa Col: depending on which one of the two trails you take, a 4-7hrs' strenuous walk from Tokusawa, which is a campsite and 40-50min walk-away from the central KK. There's two large mountain huts in Karasawa Col; one down at the base of Mt North Hotaka, the other opposite from it down the rocky slope leading to Mt Karasawa and Oku-Hotaka.

Since it seems you know all too well about what a mountain hut is like, maybe you don't like me to dwell on it. Yes, meals are very basic; you can claim one-futon space for your sleeping territory when in the peak season, so a delicate guy like me has to toss and turn for many minutes, if not for hours, when suffering from an incessant rhythmic snore of his fellow lodger whose face is only 50cm apart from his. No it's nothing to sneeze at. Lack of sleep sure tells on you sometime next day. No worries: ladies are on the upper bunk futon-bed; guys down.

Yes, you need to wake up at dawn's early light refreshed and ready to roll, you know. Of course, there's no bath or shower facilities. You are required to not use your tooth paste when brushing your teeth for the sake of the preservation of the nature as is; yes, there's a large oblong sink with tap/mountain waters in the corridor and gender-segregated western-style toilets also, where....um....hate to be emphatic about this, but, umm...you can't flush it out with paper for the sake of nature, for which there's a garbage box to throw the stuff in in each toilet room, unless of course you take it home. Shocking, eh? Anyway, one thing you need to take heed of when hitting KK and its surrounds is, you never ever leave trash behind.

With all of that said, it's a paradise particularly when you think of the chily rain outside. This is where lots of hikers are captivated by the beauty the Hotakas have to offer. You sure like this place.

As for accommdation in the central KK, I can vouchsafe for the cleanliness of the room and other places inside it; needless to say, the friendliness and politeness of the satff, easy-going buffet-style eclectic meals and the view of Mt 600 and the Azusa when you stay at Gosenjaku Lodge, which is located on 'the Right-Hand Side Promenade' (as you face toward downstream), across from Kappa Bridge. Near it are other accommodations like Hotel Shirakabaso and Nishiitoya. I guess HS commands the best views of the Hotakas/Dakesawa, though.

Yes, there were times when I stayed in Shin Hotaka Onsen Village and sorta commuted from there to KK. If you are into onsen and great mountain views, you may as well do the same. But if I were you, I'd never miss out the KK stay.

After all the experiences around here, I never end up staying only in Takayama. To me, Takayama is more of a gateway to S-Hotaka and Kamikochi than a destination. No, am not saying Takayama is not worth your stay. I'm a guy, you know, who never comes to Takayama without rambling along Sannomachi Old Street.

Enjoy your trip!

Nara, Japan
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7. Re: TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

Shasuu,

I never hit the open road without my somethin-something Fuji Film, the make of my digital camera. Um, the one I borrowed from the chef/heir to Chirori-an in Shin Hotaka, though, is Lumix. Ummm, I always thought like it's not the camera that really matters. But I now know I better not stick to mine and go buy a better one for my next trip to KK this summer. BTW, Tofukuji and Nanzenji are untra-beautiful for fall colors, so when you come to Kyoto don't miss them.

Regards,

Shot

Stockholm, Sweden
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8. Re: TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

Shot-san: Thank you so much for all this information! It's really valuable to me.

As you say, mountain huts are mountain huts... But at least they are better than cold wet tents that you have to carry around... And basic meals sounds better than cooking miserable freeze-dried food on a portable stove...

Still I am a light sleeper too so maybe the best option is to stay in KK at a comfy place like Gosenjaku Lodge (thanks for the tip, it seems great!), and make day hikes from there.

I hope to find some compromise between just strolling around Kappabashi bridge and the multi-day hikes to the great peaks. I don't mind hiking for ~10-12 hrs per day, but I guess a day-trip to Karasawa Col wouldn't be doable (even if I were tostay at the Tokusawa Lodge)?

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9. Re: TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

arevan,

Challenging though it may seem, no one dares to make a return leg from Karasawa if they start from the central KK on the same day. As you may have already gathered info on this, just covering the walking trails along the river takes pretty much of your time for a day. FYI, if you really want to set your foot on a high peak as a day hike, I'd suggest going to Shin Hotaka to save time. You can bus it there from KK, via Hirayu, and then from there ride the cablecar just like I did about a fortnight ago today. See the pictures of Mt West Hotaka, snowman and the snow corridor in the link I pasted? From the uppermost station: approximately 2100meters above sea level, you can make it all the way to Doppyo Peak, via a mountain hut, um...not quite, but relatively, easily. Yes, there's two places equipped with iron-chains for climbers. But that's a cinch compared to other places up on other peaks. Yet, you'll be amply rewarded by the awe-inspiring views you get from here. KK way down below looks tiny; the 3K-high elegant Norikuras look floating over the clouds; Pyramid Peak and West Hotaka sure look inviting.

Some years back, I saw a young Italian female hiker and her boy friend make it here together; I guess she was from the Italian Alps 'cause she was so mighty and fast trekking up and down the rocky paths she eventually left her boy friend behind, who was content to absorb the views with his video camera. Maybe it might've been a breeze for her to make it even to Pyramid Peak. That said, West Hotaka would've been in a different league even to her.

I saw a solo-clibmer the second day of this month, through binoculars set up on the observatory deck at the cablecar station, 'attacking' the incredibly beautiful, pure-white, north-east wall of West Hotaka: maybe he was only a hundred meters down the peak...but minutes later...inching his way backtracking. I just couldn't believe my eys. With a tad little more effort, he should have made it. Yet that may have turned out his last straw... Had he fallen from there, he sure would've lost his life.

When I told this to Naoto-san, the young chef/heir to my lodge, one of the pension-style accommodations in Shin Hotaka: he is also a veteran member of the alps rescue team byw, he said that, since he hadn't been contacted by the mountain-rescue police, the solo-climber I'd seen desperately struggling on the snow-wall of the precipice should be all right, and he went on to say that the climber might well be scared and decide to call the whole thing off, which was good for him: a nice try he made and a sound mind/judgment he had. According to Nato-san, those trying to traverse the ridges running between West Hotaka and Oku-Hotaka during winter months in deep snow are numbered quite few and that they have been the best of the bests in the history of the Northern Alps.

With all of that being said, anytime I look at the mountain valley you'd see from Doppyo Peak down toward Shin Hotaka and/or KK looks really inviting and makes me imagine how nice it'd be for me to run down there on my ski boards. No way...I sure get engulfed by avalanches. Um, if it's in summer, I may end up greeting a bear or two, running for life.

Edited: 18 May 2011, 02:51
Stockholm, Sweden
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10. Re: TR on Kamikochi and Shin-Hotaka

Shot: To hike from Shin Hotaka seems like a wonderful day hike. But would I be able to make it without climbing equipment? I really hope I can go there, it sounds amazing :)

Thank you very much for your help!