Okuhotaka – snow!




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: 

7 thoughts on “Okuhotaka – snow!

  1. You did the back way up Oku-Ho in the dark?!? Kudos.

    My first foray into the alps more than ten years ago involved two-nights in tents starting from Shin-Hotaka, and covering Oku-Hotaka and Yari before returning. At least that was the plan. The treasure hunt (where’s the next mark? Oh there it is! No, that’s just a sulfur rock… etc. ad infinitum) through the rock field with full packs on our backs wore us out, and we only managed to summit Oku-Ho and Karasawa-dake in our three days.

    So do you plan to commute to all the peaks in the North Alps like that?

  2. Hi Bob, it’s good to know you have done the west side of Okuhotaka. I guess the route has not got any easier to find in the last 10 years – I didn’t see any marks at all until three-quarters of the way up! I had not done the route before, so would not have attempted it in the dark without GPS.

    I hope to do some of the remaining peaks in the daylight – it would be nice to see the scenery. But there are not enough weekends remaining to cover them, and I’ve taken too much time off work already this year. Next year, I will *enjoy* hiking…

  3. Another great climb, congratulations. I took a look at your log too – incredible time! Looks like things got a bit funky part way up, too 🙂 That’s a great Fuji shot as well, wonderfully deep colours.

    Let’s hope the weather holds this weekend. I’m hoping to get up to Kurobe-Goro and Washiba..

  4. Thanks, Chris. The GPS track is bizarre – looks like I was wandering around drunk, though I actually simply followed the river in a straight line. Any ideas why that could happen?

    Forecast is looking great for this weekend. I’m looking forward to your report and photos afterwards.

    BTW, I felt a little sorry for what you put Yuka through, with a round-trip from the *bottom* of Fuji! Wonder how her legs are feeling.

  5. Looking at where you were on the map, that’s quite a steep gully so it’s possible the GPS unit was picking up a signal that had got bounced off the walls perhaps? Or maybe the satellite was near the horizon, and the signal was getting scrambled by thick cloud, or something similar?

    Yuka’s surprisingly well, a fact she puts down to three days of post-climb zazen and fasting, but I secretly think might be more to do with my home-made energy gel (now with added amino acids!). She was really glad she did the whole mountain, and I was very proud of her.

  6. Wow, your latest adventures give “sanpo” a whole new meaning. I wonder what Hana would think if she had a chance to talk to other dogs to find out how lucky she is to be getting so much exercise!

    Good luck with the remaining peaks. I hope you can get them under your belt before the snow starts falling later this month!

  7. Chris, it looks like your guess about GPS signal reflection off steep rock faces is correct. After a little research, these “multipath errors” are common when canyoning. Here’s a good example:

    Wes, a woman once scolded me for running a trail race with the dog. “Inu ga kawaii-so,” she said. I suggested that keeping dogs cooped up in concrete mansions was not kind.

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