Summer 2017 East Alps Trip: Intro

Hey all! I’ve been silent for quite a while, but I’m hoping to put out some regular content for the next few days as I do a series on my recent hiking trip in the Japanese East Alps (東アルプス). I envision the series as being part background on the the places I visited and part being a narrative of the events itself, with pictures of course! Stay tuned in the next few days. I hope to get out one post per day. Until then, here’s a brief overview of the trip.



Vacation was less than a week away and I knew without a doubt that I was going hiking (the decision was made easy by the fact that my bicycle is on a boat somewhere in the Pacific, so biking was out). But, as usual, I waited until the last minute to make any definite plans. I tend to justify this retrospectively by saying that I just enjoy flying by the seat of my pants, but maybe the truth is I’m just a bit lazy about it. With days to go, I had to answer the question, where would I go?

Pulling up a map of the Tokyo area on Google and checking the various mountain ranges on the edges of the Kanto Plain, I found that Chichibu City (秩父市) in Saitama Prefecture (埼玉県) offered the fastest and cheapest access to the mountains. With the search thus narrowed, I now had to actually find a course. This time I googled Saitama hiking in Japanese and found some nice courses, but most of them were only a single day. I wanted to go hiking at least three days. The longest course I could find was Kumotori Yama (雲取山, “Cloud Catcher Mountain”), but it was only an overnight trip. I knew I needed to find a site with complete trail maps for the entire area so I could plan to my own specifications.

The answer came when I discovered Yamakei Online, which is easily the best website for planning hiking trips in Japan that I’ve discovered so far. It has complete trail maps for all of Japan’s major parks, with water access points, major landmarks, elevation, shelters, and mountain huts and lodges all marked. What’s more, you can plot your own trips by clicking on the points on the route that you want to take. Check out the plan I made for my trip here. There is one downside to the site, however — it’s only in Japanese! You’ve gotta have a pretty good grasp of the language to navigate the site with ease. For those who are interested, I am considering writing a tutorial on how to use the site even if you can’t read Japanese that well yet. Leave a comment below and let me know if you want me to write it.

So what trip did I decide on? A 50 km trek from Taiyôji Temple (太陽寺, “Broad Sun Temple”) to Kobushi ga Take (甲武信ヶ岳, “Peak of the Armored Warrior’s Fidelity”) and then down to Nishizawa Gorge (西沢渓谷, “Eastmarsh Gorge”) to catch the bus back to civilization.

The map of my course. To view in greater detail, click here and scroll down until you see the map.
The change in elevation over the course of the trip.
Course Statistics
Horizontal distance 50.8km Course time 30 hours
Cumulative change in elevation (up) 6,193m Cumulative change in elevation (down) 5,393m

I was set to go and psyched up. I had work on Saturday, Sunday I would buy supplies, and Monday I would catch a train to Chichibu bright and early. Only one thing: I had to check the weather of course. Fast forward to Sunday night. Bag is packed, alarm is set, transportation itinerary is planned. One small problem, though. According to the weather report, a typhoon was scheduled to hit Monday. But was that gonna stop me?

This post is part one in a multi-part series. Click the buttons below to navigate to the other posts in this series.

© 2017 Brian Heise

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