Vista 2360 veces, descargada 13 veces
preto de Koyasu, Kanagawa (Japan)
I decided to go again to Tonodake before the snow starts to melt with the weather getting warmer these days. After the historical snowfalls of Feb 8 and 14 I expected 100 cm or more even from low altitudes, and so decided not to venture on the North side of the mountains.
At Hadano station I saw a sign indicated that the buses to Yabitsu were only going to Hinoge... well my plan was to start from Hinoge (to start earlier and walk longer) so I was fine.
From Hinoge the first part of the forest road was free of snow but once I reached the last house there was soon 30 cm then close to 50 cm of accumulated snow. At the end of the forest road there was easily 100 cm of wet and heavy snow. It was still early and although facing south the trees blocked the sun for the most of the trail so the snow was hard. This was helpful since the trail to Yabitu, all but flat and easy to run when free of snow, is exposed on one side and there are multiple stretches were the mountain is crumbling on the other side. The result is that there were many places were the width of the trail was barely wider than 10 cm, without crampons I progressed gingerly, taking my time between each step. I made it to Yabitsu in more time than I thought and was surprised by the amount of snow there. The road had been neatly shoveled but the snow melting from the side of the road had frozen back on the asphalt making large patches of black ice. As a result just a few dozens of meters before the trail head near Fujimi sanso I had no choice but to put on my crampons to walk on asphalt... unbelievable, I couldn't bypass the patch of black ice as there was close to 150 cm of snow on the side of the road and it would have taken a lot of energy.
From the trail head to Ninoto the track was clear and the snow well packed so no need to use the snowshoes. At first the forest is relatively dense and so the layer of accumulated snow impressive with cornices starting to break apart and creating some sort of crevasses over several meters in length. People who broke the trail days earlier chose to stay away from the summer trail where it passed inside a trough (and where the snow level is considerably higher) and went through bushes at times.
From Ninoto Fuji-san emerged and no clouds were to occluded it from sight. The slopes around San-no-to were quite steep and the tracks were straight, as long as the snow was hard it posed no problem. Due to the small number of trees on the ridges all the way to Tonodake, a few spots particularly exposed to the sun had completely melted and revealed a thick layer of mud. After such spot for about 50 meters the track was filthy with the mud left on top of the snow by the few hikers who ventured on this trail since the last heavy snow.
When I reached Tonodake around 12:00PM, I had met only 3 hikers, 2 going down and 1 I passed before Yabitsu. However there was as usual a small crowd on Tonodake. Some old guy was impressed that I came from the East as most people use the overcrowded okura ridge. Last time I did so myself but the only purpose was to get to Tonodake early to have enough time to get to Hirugatake and finish with the North part (with more snow). Otherwise the okura ridge is very boring and there is so much traffic that the snow is packed to the point if feels like rock. From Tonodake summit, Hirugatake came to sight, although all the snow had melted from the trees since Feb. 14, it appeared whiter than I ever saw and even though not impressive by its shape seen from this angle, gave the impression of being at much higher altitude.
From Tonodake to Nabewari there was a lot more hiker than during the morning and through the trees the view expanded towards West Tanzawa. The visibility wasn't fantastic towards the South and West and so it wasn't possible to discern the South Alps.
At Nabewari I hesitated to follow my original plan of going towards Ameyama pass or take the quicker and much easier trail which goes straight to Yadoriki bus stop. I thought I had time and a lot of energy left so my instinct told me to go for the original plan. There were much less tracks in the snow but since the snow was hard most of the way so far and I knew the way I decided it shouldn't pose any problem. Upon reaching the chains (which are more technical than between Tonodake and Sanoto) I changed the trekking poles for the ice axe. At places the trail was exposed on both side with slopes leaving no room for error. At places exposed to the sun the snow was softer and it was easy to sink at thigh level, also when the slope was very steep I had to make sure the snow would support my weigh to minimize any risks of fall. Taking my time I reached Ameyama pass safely.
From Ameyama the trail follows a river and signs advise inexperienced hikers not to venture there (similarly from for the trail from Nabewari to Ameyama pass)
There were tracks of about 3 persons and I missed signs if there were any, as a result I soon lost the trail and ended up walking in a sort of gorge, walking as much as possible on the side while minding the cliffs for possible rock falls. It felt like a different world, for a few minutes. I suddenly saw a big dark bird, which fled a split second after I registered its presence. It was massive but fled at a surprising speed making a raucous in the process. A quick search on wikipedia reveals it was probably a grey partridge, actually it looked like a rock ptarmigan (雷鳥) but all dark but I cannot be sure for all happened in a very short span. A few hundred meters later the silence was suddenly broken by a group of 3 of the same birds, flying away with a noise that sent my heart racing before I understood what happened.
As the snow got softer and it became hard to make a few steps without falling into a hole I switched to the snowshoes. During the process of cleaning the crampons and putting on the snowshoes I was hearing what sounded like a dog crying. For about 5 to 10 minutes I could hear it howl every 20 seconds or so, however I could never see what animal it was. The cliffs on the side of the river were too steep to have a clear idea where the howls were coming from. I can't be sure but it pictured it like a beast of the brink of falling from a cliff, not entirely accepting its fate. A few minutes later I came upon a dead dear, laying in the middle of the snow covering the river. The slopes were quite far on each side so it seemed impossible it fell, it was also too far from the place I heard the howls to be the same animal... it will remain a mystery for me.
All this and I still didn't take the hint that I was on the wrong trail, until I realized that I was getting close to a dam when I finally checked the GPS. Then a pink ribbon indicating the trail appeared to my sight, it was a good 50 meters higher and a very steep slope led to it. I packed the snow shoes and decided to go for it, instead of going back on my footsteps to find the trail indicated on the map because it would have taken more than double the time.
When I got to the ribbon I saw more indicating it was a trail but it was all covered in snow so path finding was still key. Checking the GPS and confirming by sight the shape of the mountain and looking for other ribbons I eventually made it back to the normal trail, with clear wooden signs.
Shortly after than I found was walking on a forest road and finally a paved road.
Overall it was a great hike, the weather was fantastic maybe too hot, the trail from Yabitsu to Tonodake was better than ever with all the snow. I had my share of adrenalin between Nabewari and Ameyama and then all the way to the forest road via the river trail. I never got startled by a bird before... and I was back to my place at 19:15, 13 hours after I left it in the morning.
Time stats: actual time / map time / % map time
Bus stop -> Yabitsu: 1:37 / 1:40 / 97%
Yabitsu -> Tonodake: 3:34 / 3:40 / 97%
Tonodake -> Nabewari: 0;55 / 1:10 / 78%
Nabewari -> Ameyama pass: 1:17 / 1:15 / 103%
Ameyama -> bus stop 2:22 / 2:25 / 98%
Overall with breaks: 10:06 / 10:10 / 99%
More pictures here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/nfvwjgzl0mewz73/3k7iRCjGdX