35.34°N/138.11°E, Nagano-ken/Shizuoka-ken, Minami Alps, Central Honshu
Torikura-rindo (1800 m) - 2hrs 30 min - Sanpuku-toge (2615 m) - 15 min - Sanpuku-zawa (2460 m) - 45 min - Hontani-yama (2656 m) - 1 hr 20 min - Shiomi-goya (2725 m) - 45 min - Shiomi-dake (3052 m)
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It is possible to climb Shiomi in two days, but this usually means a very tough first day. Three days give you more time to enjoy the scenery and to acclimatize. I have done it both ways and I definitely prefer the three-day option. Most people approach Shiomi-dake from the south via Sanpuku-toge but those who whish to spend four or five days up there can combine Shiomi with two of the three Shirane peaks (Kita-dake, Aino-dake) and aproach from the north via Hirogawara. The following is a description of the hike I did with my seven-year-old son Fabi in the middle of October 1996:
|We left Nagoya at around 7:00 AM and drove in our little Suzuki Alto on the Chuo Expressway to Matsukawa , then along the Koshibu-gawa to Oshikamura. Here we took the Torikurarindo, a mostly sealed forest road, which leads straight into the Minami Alps. It is about 20 km to the small parking lot at 1600 m, there are outstanding views of Akaishi-dake, the Tenryu Valley and the Chuo Alps along the way.
|We parked the car and changed into our hiking gear. My pack was kind of heavy, about 30 kg, because I had to carry Fabi's stuff as well. The weather was great, and a few trees had already changed their colors. For the first 30 minutes we followed the dirt road before we got to the trail head at 1800 m. There is a sign which says it will take 3 hours to Sanpuku-toge, but even with a heavy pack it shouldn't take more than two and a half (given hiking times in Japan are usually very generous).
|The trail leads through mixed forest, zigzagging steeply upwards most of the way. Two hours after leaving the car we came to a freshwater spring at 2300 m. The air temperature was +8°C and we decided to put on our jackets. Another 200 meters up we got to the junction with the Shiokawa trail, from here it was only 15 minutes to Sanpuku-toge, at 2615 m the highest pass in Japan. There is a large hut at the pass but no water. This hut is operated during July and August only but open for hikers all year round. We took a short rest and then made our way down the gentle slope on the north side towards Sanpuku-zawa, a little creek. We got a fine view of Shiomi-dake from the pass, but clouds started moving in and the peak was soon hidden behind a grey blanket.
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|Ten minutes after leaving the pass we reached the small Sanpukuzawa Hut and campground. There are sites for about 20 tents but only two were occupied. It feld great to put down the heavy pack. We quickly set up our little tent and changed into the "relax gear": sweater, down jacket and long underwear - the temperature was +5°C. We cooked dinner on our camp stove and went to bed early.
|We woke up at 4:00 AM because of the noisy people in the other tent - for some reason Japanese hikers always get up at 4:00 and they make sure everyone else gets the message. Of course it was still pitch dark out there, so we decided to stay in our cozy sleeping bags for another hour. The tent was covered with ice. After a quick breakfast we were ready to take off at 6:00 AM. We left all the heavy stuff in the tent (our "Shiomi Base Camp") and left with the essentials for a day hike only.
|Hontani-yama to Shiomi-goya
|There were some high clouds, but the summit was visible and it was dry. The trail went steep up out of the valley to the summit of Hontani-yama (2656 m). From here we had a good view of Shiomi-dake. The trail descended through pine forest for about 200 m. Some sleet fell but it wasn't windy. At 8:30 we arrived at Shiomi-goya, the small hut at the base of the summit. The peak of Shiomi-dake is very rocky and exposed, something I wouldn't want to do in bad weather.
|For the last stretch I roped Fabi up and we started our climb. The trail is marked with dots of yellow paint, some moderate rock climbing is required. It took about 50 minutes from the hut to the first of the two summits, the second one only a couple of minutes to the east. We took the obligatory pictures and had a snack. The scenery around us was splendid: Aino-dake (3189 m) and Kita-dake (3192 m, after Fuji-san the second highest peak in Japan) to the north, Arakawa-dake (3141 m) to the south, directly below the Sanpuku Valley with our tent. The sky was overcast and a few snowflakes fell with the promise of more to come later. We stayed for about 45 minutes on the summit before we started our descent.
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|Returning to Base Camp
|We were back at the Shiomi Hut at 11:00 AM and took another rest of 45 minutes before we returned to our base camp. It started snowing heavily but not for long and it was too warm for the snow to stay on the ground. We reached our tent at 2:15 PM. Soon after it began to rain, so we stayed the rest of the afternoon in our cozy little tent and brewed endless cups of tea. Dinner was early and we were asleep by 8:30.
|We woke up early, Shiomi-dake was hidden in the clouds but it was dry. The tent was covered with ice. We had muesli and tea for breakfast and I started packing our gear. At 7:10 AM we set off for Sanpuku-toge where we got half an hour later. Without stopping for long we started our way down to our car. Going down was a lot easier than up, of course, and we arrived at the car at 10:30 AM.
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|At the Hot Spring
|The leaves were beginning to turn, another one of these gorgeous Japanese autumn days. We loaded our stuff in the car and drove down to Akaishi-so, one of my favorite hot springs where we took a long leisurely soak in the open air pool overlooking the Koshibu Valley. The peaks of the Chuo Alps could be seen in the distance. After our bath it was an easy drive back to Nagoya where we arrived in the early afternoon.