Hiking Japan's Central Alps

by Steve Morton
Japan Travel
Day1: Missing the halfway point
 
For anyone hiking along the Central Alps from Mount Kiso-Koma, (Kiso-koma-ga-take) up to Mount Utsugi-Dake, the first thing you will need to decide is where to stay overnight! Since this hike takes about 10-12 hours to complete it’s almost impossible to do in a day. Unless of course you’re superman!
 
For most people, the best place to start is from the top of Senjoiki Cable Car Station. From this point you can do the 6-8 hour hike up to the peak of Kisondo Sanso where a mountain hut awaits you. 
 
Naturally, this is what I had originally planned on doing since this option allows a shorter and more comfortable hike on the second day. Unfortunately, I arrived several hours later than expected. Consequently, this meant having to shorten the first days hike to 4 hours in order to make it in time for the last hours of daylight. This change of plan now involved staying overnight at the closer peak of Hinoki-Dake where a small emergency hut and tiny campground awaited me. 
 
Although a fairly low-key spot, this area proved to be an excellent place for staying overnight as it strategically overlooks several valleys below and is perfectly placed to catch sunrise
 
Day2: From Mount Hinokio-dake to Utsugi-dake
 
After spending the night on top of Hinoki-dake’s barren peak, I awoke just in time to catch sunrise. As the morning sun rose higher, I could witness the spectacular sight of the mountain's narrow ridgelines and deep valleys being illuminated by the morning sun. Thankfully this sight provided the perfect start to the day.
 
Because I had to shorten my previous days hike to 4 hours instead of the originally intended 6 hours, today was going to be a long 6-8 hour trek to Komagane-Kogen via Mount Usugi-dake. Fortunately, the weather was exceptionally clear on this occasion enabling me to experience some amazing views for miles around. 
 
Ending several hours later at Komagame-Kogen, I was able to reflect on the day’s journey while catching the last train back to Tokyo. Without doubt, the highlight was stopping by the craggy peak of Utsugi-dake. Standing at 2864 meters high, this mountain is the second highest in the Central Alps and offers some fantastic panoramic views where it is possible to catch a glimpse of both the Southern and Northern Alps. 
 
Even more remarkable was the fact that I wasn’t presented with bad weather, something which I seem to be constantly cursed with whenever I want to go away somewhere.
 

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