Oct 29, 2009

Oct 21 : Yokoo - Karasawa Cirque : Northern Japanese Alps

8:36 am. As I entered Karasawa cirque, straight ahead, Mt.Okuhotaka,
the third highest mountain in Japan, appeared.
Its strong existence. The vivid colour of the sky and shining snow.
Just gorgeous.

Departed to Karasawa at 5:57 am. The sun rose at 5:59. Soon high peaks started glowing.

At the front of Yokoo bridge - Glowing Mt.Maehotaka - Glowing Mt.Minami through Screen Rock

Mt.Kitahotaka and Mt.Minami. Large Kiretto in between - Mt.kitahotaka - Mt.kitahotaka and Hontani bridge

Autumn color of rowan and Mt.Minami - Erman's Birch and Mt.Minami

Mt.Kitahotaka - Trail along Karasawa Valley - Mt.Okuhotaka and Karasawa Hütte appeared

Hotaka Mountains

Hotaka means "Spike High". One of the most famous name of mountain in Japan.
There are four peaks which have that name.

Mae-hotaka: Front Hotaka (3090 m).
Oku-hotaka: Inner Hotaka (3190 m).
Kita-hotaka: North Hotaka (3106 m).
Nishi-hotaka: West Hotaka (2908 m): Can't see from Karasawa.

There are two huts at the bottom of the cirque and two on the ridge of Hotaka mountains.

Karasawa Hütte (Karasawa Hyutte) (2300 m).
Karasawa Hut (Karasawa Goya) (2350 m).
Hotakadake Lodge (Hotakadake Sansou) (2996 m).
Kitahotaka Hut (Kitahotaka Goya) (3100 m): The highest mountain hut in Japan excep Mt.Fuji's.

English Map of Karasawa Cirque

Karasawa Hütte (Karasawa Hyutte)
was under the snowshed. Covered with extra roofs and poles, it looked different. Many men were working outside for the construction. Sounds of hummers and electric drills. A young woman at the front desk was genial and cheerful as usual. There were several young female workers. Every one of them was like her. They came such a remote place for work because they loved mountains. And sociable. Their friendliness reminded me of Youth hostels in Canada and US. Much different from some huts like hotels for tourists. Is that atmosphere unique in Karasawa? Nearly arrived climbers are slightly excited at the alpine picture of Hotaka and also excited from several hour exercise and delighted at getting to the destination. Everybody have to walk by their foot to get to Karasawa. They come because they want to see the scenery and want to be there. Meeting those people might make the staff happy. And they tell they are happy to meet you with their smile and laugh.
Karasawa Hütte entrance at 9:14 am - Karasawa Hut and Mt.Kitahotaka

Karasawa Hut (Karasawa Goya)
places 50 m higher than karasawa Hütte. Its looks is cool. Guarded with the rock wall behind, it can avoid avalanches. Over it's head, Mt.Kitahotaka stands high showing its rocky south ridge.

Both huts have very good reputations. You can enjoy staying at Karasawa Cirque if only you can avoid the high season. Especially in the highest season, both of those hut are packed like hell and you have to sleep touching to somebody' body. Their dinner don't have "very" hight reputations generally. I've never had though, I guess it's average in Northern Japan Alps. It means "not bad".

karasawa Kar (Karasawa Kaaru)
They call this place Karasawa Kar. Kar is a German word means cirque. Many German words are used for mountaineering in Japan.
Sutokku-Stock (stick), Tseruto-Zeltsack (tent for bivouac), Ryukkusakku-Rucksack (backpack), Aizen-Steigeisen (crampon), Pikkeru-Eispickel (ice axe), Yakke-Jacke (jacket), Zairu-Seil (rope), Morugenrooto-Morgenrot (morning glow), Aabentorooto-Abentrot (evening glow)
And Hyutte-Hütte (hut)

I pitched my tent at the rocky camp site. Nice view. Nice weather.
At the bottom of the cirque. Little wind. Sunshine.
Dreamingly good place to camp. I could stay over a week if I didn't have the time limit to return to work.

Mt.Maehotaka to Mt.Okuhotaka and the cirque - My tent, Hilleberg's Akto at Karasawa Cirque
The ridge between Mt.Maehotaka and Mt.Okuhotaka is very thin and straightly connecting two hight peaks at high altitude. They call it "Tsurione". I translated it "Suspension Ridge". It must be thrilling to walk on it.

is pronounced "Zaitenguraato" in Japanese. It's a German word means "branch ridge". In japan, it's lost the feature as a general noun and just means this "seitengrad" of Karasawa. Seitengrad is made of hard rock which resisted glacial erosion and was remained after the glacier disappeared.
It's the main route to climb to Mt.Okuhotaka from Karasawa. The standard course time to Col of Shiradashi is 2.5 hours. From col of Shradashi to the peak of Mt. Okuhotaka, about 1 hour.
As climbing up Seitengrad, could see well serrated north ridge of Mt.Maehotaka.
Over 2500 m, it was in winter.
Looked down Karasawa Cirque from the middle of Seitengrad
North Ridge of Mt.Maehotaka at the front

Arrived to Hotakadake Lodge within the course time. Since I didn't have enough time, I was just going back to Karasawa, content with coming to the ridge. A female staff of Hotakadake Lodge told me I could climb to Mt.Karasawa instead. Finished her hot chocolate, I took her advice and started to Mt.Karasawa.

Terrace of Hotakadake Lodge - Col of Shiradashi and Hotakadake Lodge - Mt.Okuhotaka from Mt.Karasawa

Peak of Mt.Karasawa - Looking toward North - Sticking out "Spearhead" of Mt.of Yari

Over Mt.Maehotaka North Ridge, Yastugatake Range clearly.

These glowing three rock points are called "Three spears of Mt.Maehotaka". 4:57 pm - Had dinner on the middle of Seitengrad. Baguett, cheese, prosciutto, freash onion and green pepper
It was so tasty that I was almost cry. Seriously.

At the bottom of Seitengrad, watching Jupiter appeared. 5:48 pm - Then it turned completely dark soon.
The sky cleared up perfectly as the evening fell.

Took the way to Karasawa Hut. Through branches of trees, Karasawa Hütte's lights were blinking far below.
Following the stone-paved road, reached to Karasawa Hut soon. But I felt it was long. Erman's birches which seemed like a bush from the camp site were indeed a wood. I felt as if I were a lost child in a forest. And like in a fairytale, arrived reach to the hut at last, guided by the lights through the trees.
I went to Karasawa Hut to buy wine actually. "Hütte" also sells it, but I didn't want to walk up moraine to "Hütte" just after got back to the tent. It was rather far. And I was a bit curious to see how was "Hut".

Krasawa Hut
had vibrant atmosphere however the numbers of guests were few. The staff should be busy for closing and preparation for winter. The entrance of "Hut" was also covered with snowshed. Even they were free from direct hit of avalanches, during winter "Hut" is completely buried in deep snow. They already had closed the toilets outside. They let me use inside toilets. The wooden building, rebuilt at 2001, was still new, clean and looked very comfortable.
I came across a group of young female staff of "Hut". They were merrily talked to me. They must be curious seeing a new person at that time of a day. It must be 6:30 already. In mountain huts, it was the time when dinner had finished and everybody were enjoying their free time before lights-out (usually 8-9 pm). I toled I was camping down there. "Oh! Isn't it cold?", they said. "It's OK. I make hot water bags.", I said. "Yeah! Hot water bag! It's necessity, isn't it?", They replied. I knew some (or all?) of them sometimes went hiking to other mountains when they were off. I read a blog of one of them.(http://umi63.blog43.fc2.com/) She went to a hike for a few days to Mt.of Yari in the end of September, alone, carrying her tent. She wrote how it was cold at dawn and how beautiful the sunrise was. I didn't recognize her. She might be in that group at the time. I don't know. But I felt they felt an affinity with me, a solo woman hiker with a tent. So they gave me their cheer with their laughter.
The guests also were merry (by Beer's aid. Maybe those female staff too? ). They were happy, a bit excited and totally enjoying being in karasawa at that evening. Thousand of stars in the sky. Even we were disturbed with electric lights of Hut, we could see much more numbers of stars than in cities from the terrace. There were few lights of tents below. In high season, the same place would be filled with hundreds of lights. Someone told me Orionid meteor shower had its peak at the next dawn.
Said good night, I walked down 50 m to my tent. Feeling happy. And made two platypus of hot water.

Lights of Karasawa Hut and behind the shadow of Mt.Kitahotaka.
You can see the lights of Kitahotaka Hut on the shoulder of The north peak of Mt.Kitahotaka,
which you couldn't see in daytime. It says, "Welcome to such a high remote place! You, mountain lover, our friend!"

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