Winter overnighter in Japan

9:16 p.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
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Recently back from a overnight trip to Mt. Gozen (5400ft) and wanted to post a few pics. Since I'm without a car for the year, I'm relying on trains/buses for trail access, which makes the approach to some out-of-the-way trailheads pretty long. Can't complain, because it's nice to have these options though! My guidebook says this hike can be done in a day (6-7hrs) in summer and with a car, but why rush?


Got an early start from camp not too long after sunrise. Left the tent up and sleep bag inside, and packed for a long day-hike. Quite a bit of snow on the ground, but no wind at all and pretty mild temps. I know I'm pushing it using this tent in mid-winter, but I had been watching the weather forecast like a hawk pre-trip.

The hike follows this stream up to its source, and a series of narrow (but sturdy) bridges crisscross the creek the whole way up.

Looking upstream from the bridge. Water is still flowing pretty well, not much freeze-over.

Here's an idea of the how narrow the bridge was. Put the camera away and proceeded carefully..

The next log bridge in the distance, this one was wider and had handrails. Really deep snow from here on up.

Looking back at the bridge.

A shrine gate along the trail, leaning with the weight of the snow. I ducked down and walked right through it. Entering sacred ground?

Spray-painted rocks, yuck. Well, at least I know which way to go now.

Getting higher up now and the sun is coming in over the top of the mountain. The climb is really steep from here to the summit, less than an hour away.

The forest in this area was beautiful, an old growth stand of cedar/spruce trees (says the guidebook). I may have to come back in the summer...

Looking back across the ridgeline, away from the actual peak I'm aiming for (which is behind me).

Made it to the top! Saw this little summit marker attached to a tree branch, everything else was buried in snow. But the best view is behind me...

One reason I wanted to hike this mountain was for the views of Mt. Ontake (~10,000ft), about twice the elevation of where I'm standing. Lucky to have weather this nice!

A parting shot, and it's time to head a train to catch later in the afternoon.

Another pic of one of the bridges on the way down, I think I crossed at least four of these. Once I got back to my tent, I packed everything up and started the 2.5 hr walk back down to the train station. Looking forward to hiking this trail again in the summer! 


6:51 a.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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Very cool trip! Thanks for sharing bigup79!

12:00 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
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Get a mountain bike! I have never owned or driven a car/motor vehicle and use my Trek mountain bike to tour on and go everywhere I go year round. I ride about 5000 miles a year. Cycling is free after the initial cost of a bike. I have never bought gasoline except for my old MSR stove back in the early 80's. I have ridden about 120,000 miles since my first tour in 1982. I ride from NW Wyoming to Arizona and back every fall, winter and spring.

Nice pictures! 

And a bike can be shipped to anywhere you go on a bus,train or through UPS. Personally I rarely take buses or trains, just ride. I rode 2500+ miles last fall from Sept-Dec, WY-UT-AZ-Ca and back to AZ.

I carry everything I normally carry hiking on my bike, tent,sleeping bag, pad,rain gear, stove/cook gear water bottles and food as needed. My gear alone not including the bike weighs about 12 lbs. The bike weight in nothing as it rolls along almost effortlessly. 

Bike maintenance is as cheap as a set of boots every year, tires range from $5 at Kmart to $40 at bike shops. Keep your spokes tight and use slime in the inner tubes and you will get 1000's of miles from tires. Keep the bearings and gear cleaned and lubed and you'll get many years from your bike. I have had my current Trek 4500 series aluminum bike 7 years, replaced the chain about once every two years. Old chains can wear out the teeth on the gears front and back.

I rode my bike across Alaska from the Bering Sea at Prudoe Bay to Homer Spit on the N. Pacific Ocean in  30 days/1000 miles in August 2006.

My longest tour was 7000 miles from WY-NY-AR-AZ and back to WY in 1983-84. I met a couple this fall who are riding from NY-MT-AK-Mexico to FL-ME and back to NY. They are in Louisiana now and have been 10's of thousands of miles since leaving NY last April. 

In a few months I will be riding to N.M. and TX then up to CO and into N. AZ and Utah from April to next fall.

Touring is a fun way to get around and get to the off the beat places. I am sure you could find a bike there in Japan and go everywhere?

Good luck on your travels.

10:12 p.m. on February 6, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks for the comments!

Gary--Since I'm only here for a year, I don't plan on getting a bike, and will just take advantage of the amazing public transport system. The only drawback is that you really pay the price for the convenience (although cheaper than owning a car here!) When I was living here a few years back, I used a bike to get around town. If I ever end up here for an extended period again, I will certainly get a bike--Hokkaido (the northern island) is supposed to be incredible for bike touring/hiking.


11:51 a.m. on February 10, 2013 (EST)
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Gorgeous winter hike and a really pretty winter trail! Love the views of the Mt Ontake. 

Distance, elevation gain, temperatures? So you hiked partway in and camped, did your summit push the next day, then went straight out? 

Nice to see that you can safely leave your expensive gear by itself for a day. It's the same at most campsites in Canada, but apparently not so safe in some other countries. 

9:56 p.m. on February 10, 2013 (EST)
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Peter-Thanks for the comments. I kind of take it for granted that I can just leave my gear out all day without worrying about it here. Haven't heard of any incidents of stolen gear yet. Even in the cities, if you drop/forget something in a public place it will mostly likely be there when you remember it and come back. Safety and respect for others' property are a couple of the selling points of living in Japan.

Details on the hike: about 17k round trip, with 1260 m of total elevation gain. Day 1 (to campsite) 6k, 460m ascent; Day 2 (camp to summit) 2.5k +800m; (down to station): 8.5k -1260m.

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