14 August 2010

Tateyama to Kamikochi - Day Three

8 August 2010

The morning of the third day was the most beautiful. Not too clouded over, not raining, not cold - beautiful.

We ate breakfast and packed up in an hour and were on the trail by 6:00. The first four hours of the hike were great - a nice breeze and not too much change in elevation. It took an hour to climb to the second highest peak of the day (2616m) and another hour from there to a peak at 2591m. From there we could see the hut we'd be eating lunch at. It was around 2 kilometers away but we had to drop down to 2000m and then back up to 2300m to get there.

It was a little tiring to trudge down 500m and then back up 300m but we did it in about 2 hours and were only a little hungry and sweaty when we arrived at the camp. Lunch was excellent. We brought salami and Gouda cheese to eat with walnut bread - a delicious combination at home and downright kingly while hiking.

The above picture is at the 2591m mark from where we could see the hut we would eat lunch at.

As we were packing up to head back out Al and Holly came up the trail looking pretty wiped out. As I told you in the last post this was the last time we saw them. They were taking the same route to Kamikochi we were but they likely changed their minds and went a different way. If this were a novel I would tell you that after beginning our descent of the 2926m peak at the end of today's hike we heard the agonizing screams of a man and a woman tumbling down the mountain, followed by the whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of a helicopter coming to rescue the poor souls/collect the bodies. But it's not. As I said they likely changed their minds and went a different way. They had mentioned they might do that exact thing when we first met them. [Brief aside: it costs 3,000,000¥ ($30,000) to be taken off the trail/mountain/rock you're impaled on by helicopter, so be careful.]

After lunch our day got pretty tiring. The ascent to 2926m was long and tiring. We only had to gain 600m but there was a lot of up-down to gain those 600m. We got cranky at different times for different reasons. Me: Hungry and sweaty. Aimee: Sore and tired. It took us about 2.5 hours to get to the top.

There are 5 symbols on the bottom of that post:
  • 二 = 2
  • 九 = 9
  • 二 = 2
  • 六 = 6
  • m = m
This was the highest point of our day. From here we could see another expensive hut and the campsite beyond it that we would be staying at. We took some time to rest and eat and then started on our way again. Even though the hut and the general area of the campsite looked close, we still had 3-4 kilometers to go.

It ended up taking 2.5 hours to get from the peak to the campsite. At least a kilometer of the walk were switchbacks down the mountain to the hut. The slope on the descent side was pretty steep and covered in scree so it was a pain in the ass to descend. About halfway down we started to get passed by endurance runners. Where they came from and where they were going we had no idea. I was impressed enough that someone would run up just the one peak we had just ascended, but we got passed by some more the following day about 10 kilometers from where we first got passed.

We eventually made it to the hut and shortly after it we entered a dry creek bed to complete our descent to the campsite. If this sounds cool it was. At first. The creek bed was pretty easy to navigate at the top but further down the rocks turned into boulders and it became an arduous descent. What was really frustrating was that the people who had built the wooden bridges and walkways we had crossed at earlier spots during our trip were now sending people through a dry creek bed. Aimee and I both thought that the wooden walkways through grasslands were ridiculous and unnecessary, but if they were going to be built then someone should have had the sense to build them around boulder-strewn creek beds instead of across soft, lush grass.

The dry creek bed finally became a wet creek bed and at this point we had made the camp. And we immediately ran into our next foreigner - Glen.

Glen is a 40 year old Australian teaching English in Korea and was vacationing in Japan for a month. He had been all over the South Japan Alps and had hiked a little in Hokkaido (the large island north of Japan). He was a pretty interesting guy and also quite nice. He pointed us to the best campsite in the area. It was up a short path and overlooked the rest of the large campsite. He had already set up his tent before finding it and he didn't want to move. We were quite happy that he told us about it since the campsite was packed. For some reason camping damn near on top of each other doesn't seem to bother most Japanese. In North America most people seek out campsites as far away from others as possible; in Japan most people try to camp as close together as possible. It's really quite strange but it meant that the best spot in the area was open for us.

Glen also mentioned an area of the creek where we could bathe. He had found a way down to the creek and found a pool formed by a small waterfall that was hidden from the path so bathing without being seen was possible. We were elated at this news since we didn't think we'd be able to bathe until we got to Kamikochi, which was still 3 days from where we were. We thanked him again and, like Al and Holly, would only see him one more time...

I'm kidding. We saw him a few more times on the trip. But in the novel he'd either kill us in our sleep at the secluded campsite he conveniently found or slit our throats while we bathed.

After dinner we bathed, brushed our teeth and went to bed clean for the first time in 3 days. It was fantastic.

Day One
Day Two
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six


  1. Looking forward to the next installment.... Sounds like a great hike!

  2. It was an awesome hike! Sorry I took a while to finish the fourth day - got sidetracked with the rest of summer vacation.

  3. hello mike!
    my name is ester, i'm 30 years old and I'm from spain.
    next summer i'm going to do the tateyama-kamicochi hike with my boyfriend.
    I would like to ask you some questions.
    do we have to bring our tent or are we going to find places to sleep along the way?
    do you have to be fit in order to do this hike?
    i have never climb a 3000 mountain.
    thank you very much!

  4. Hello Ester,

    Good choice of hikes! Tateyama is a really beautiful mountain.

    You will find huts along the way that you can sleep in so you don't have to bring anything other than a backpack with a little food and water, but it's an expensive way to travel. You can either have food included in your stay, or just rent tatami, but either way is quite pricey. When we did the hike we carried all of our stuff: tent, sleeping bags, and food. There are lots of places to find water along the way so that was less of a problem.

    You do need to be pretty fit to hike to the top of Tateyama because it's a long walk and it's pretty steep. If you look in Lonely Planet's "Hiking in Japan" they have a section on Tateyama that provides really good information for route planning and estimated travel times.