Snow had not been on the menu after work last night. A starlit sky, half moon, and 2000 meters of ascent I had been looking forward to, but not this massive old snow bank stretching up to the sky as far as I could see. Running shoes were less than ideal. I backtracked and followed the left edge of the ice where it met rock. And what rock!
The map states that this west route up Okuhotaka, approaching from Shin Hotaka, involves a long gareba (rock field). Indeed. It rises 1000 meters, and frequent rock slides had blotted out most of the path with painfully sharp fresh rock surfaces. Poor Hana. I knew her paws could not withstand this.
Once again, there was no one to disturb the solitude. I walked softly past the beckoning warmth of Hotaka Sanso hut, put the dog in the rucksack for the final chains and ladders, and reached the summit just before midnight. A small soft light several hundred meters below marked Karasawa hut, while city lights glimmered far beyond in most directions.
We picked our way carefully back over the interminable broken rocks, and upon reaching the gravel forest road, could finally enjoy a 5-kilometer gentle run down to the car. As I drove back through Matsumoto and along the expressway toward Yatsugadake, dawn was breaking and the dew lay thickly over velvet meadows.
Three weeks later, walking to Kasagadake along the ridge on the opposite side of the valley, I was surprised to see the route up Okuhotaka that I had taken during the night: