Category Archives: Northern Alps

Hiking in the Northern Japanese Alps

From the Azusa River to the peak of Mt Yarigatake, through the exhilarating Daikiretto, over Mt Hotaka and back down to the valley floor of Kamikochi. There were a lot of great opportunities for photography during my hiking trip in the Northern Japanese Alps and these are my favourites. I loved exploring such a unique part of Japan and hopefully I’ll come back one day to check out any spots I missed the first time round.

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Panoramas of the Japanese Alps

Here’s a few panorama photos from my time climbing in the Japanese Alps. There’s the Azusa River, Mt Yari and some other gorgeous views that I encountered along the way.

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Mt Hotaka to Kamikochi

After battling through some heavy fog I eventually made my way back down to civilization, it seemed to take forever but there were some nice views and a few double ladders to enjoy along the way. When I arrived back in Kamikochi the first thing I did was hunt down food and lots of it. After some yakitori, koroke, noodles and ice cream I got on the bus and made my way back to Tokyo, what a trip!

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Mt Maehotakadake – Summit Fever

It’s official, I have summit fever. Mt Maehotakadake was next on the list and not even common sense was going to stop me. The 3090 metre summit ended up having some of my favourite views, I could even see Mt Fuji!

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Staying at Hotakadake Hut for a Night

I may have been tired after climbing Mt Yari yesterday but it’s nothing compared to tonight where I’m also cold and wet. It rained steadily late in the afternoon and unfortunately I couldn’t escape it, it’s amazing how difficult climbing over rocks becomes when the conditions are slippery. I’ll be resting up at the Hotakadake hut for the night which is similar to the Yari equivalent, quite modern with most of the facilities you might require (what? no pachinko parlor?!).

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Climbing Mt Hotakadake

At 3190 m (10466 ft), Mt Hotakadake is Japan’s 3rd tallest mountain, just 10 m taller than Mt Yarigatake (which I climbed yesterday) and 3 m shorter than Mt Kita in the prefecture of Yamanashi. It isn’t as spectacular as the jagged peak of Mt Yari but it does take some serious effort to get there. Coming from the Daikiretto side takes a lot of energy and I imagine it is the same coming from Kamikochi, there’s a lot of scrambling over rocks as well as ascending and descending steep slopes. This is however the kind of hiking I enjoy, so I loved every minute of it (ok except when it rained, that was awful).

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Just Me and a Raicho (Rock Ptarmigan)

Inevitably it started raining during one of the most difficult sections of the day. Just when it was getting really tough I came across a family of birds known as Raicho (‘lightning bird’) to the Japanese. I learnt later on that night that, according to legend, they are guardians of the mountain. I don’t know if this means they were supposed to throw me off the mountain or look after me but either way it was a nice distraction during a difficult climb.

Educational update: Turns out Raicho are a Japanese subspecies of Rock Ptarmigan (Partridge).

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Yari to Hotaka Traverse in the Hida Mountains

The Mt Yari to Hotaka traverse through the Hida Mountains in the Northern Alps of Japan is one of my favourite climbing experiences. I got a thrill out of every ladder I climbed and every unique panorama I saw while climbing my way through gorgeous sunshine, driving rain, thick fog and everything in between. The Daikiretto was incredible and the scenery seemed to change around every corner.

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Surviving Daikiretto – The Big Cut

If you’re a little crazy, the best route from Mt Yari to Mt Hotaka is through the infamous Daikiretto (meaning ‘big cut’), one of the most exhilarating hiking trails in Japan. In a nut shell it’s a 300 metre vertical drop followed by a ridge line crossing and a 300 metre vertical ascent. I’d done my homework but didn’t really know what to expect until I got here and gave it a crack. I was hoping for something spectacular and that’s exactly what I got, steep drops, jagged rocks, rusty chains, knife edge ridge lines and incredible views, awesome stuff. For the most part I had good weather, which is important, I’m not sure it’s the kind of crossing you’d want to attempt in bad weather.

Rock face.

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Yarigatake Hut for the Night

Boy do I need some rest, conveniently for me the Yarigatake hut isn’t too far from the summit. The sleeping arrangements can be a little cramped during the busy season but that’s pretty standard for Japan and who really cares when you’re exhausted after a days climbing. It was relatively quiet when I was there so no problems finding a bed, the hut is quite modern so you can enjoy some food, get a packed lunch for the next day and keep warm in front of the fire.

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Climbing Mt Yarigatake

At 3180 m high (10433 ft), Mt Yarigatake is Japan’s 5th tallest mountain. From the bottom of the valley right up to the final ascent, climbing Mt Yarigatake is a great experience. There’s beautiful scenery, challenging climbs and an incredible view from the top as your well deserved reward. I took a little break at the Yarigatake hut before doing the final ascent which I think is a good idea. Climbing those last few ladders might give you a little vertigo but it’s definitely worth it!

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Mt Yari Summit and Still Smiling

Well I made it to the top of Mt Yari (3180 m) and I still have enough energy to smile about it (just). The final climb to the summit up a series of ladders was a real adrenaline rush and the view from the top when the sun broke free was amazing. That’s the Mt Yarigatake Hut in the background by the way, my accommodation for the night.

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