Mt. Hayachine (早池峰山）
Mt. Hayachine is a deceptive-looking peak situated almost due east of Morioka city. The wildflowers are beautiful and access is difficult, attracting climbers looking to escape the crowds of nearby Mt. Iwate.
The hike: From the bus stop at Hiratsuto, walk a short distance back toward the direction you just came from (toward Morioka) and you’ll find a small road and bridge crossing the river on the left-hand side. Take this road and follow it for about 45 minutes or so. At first the road is paved but it gradually turns into a forest road following a beautiful stream. You’ll find several road junctions, but as long as you follow the signs to Hayachine trailhead (早池峰登山口) you’ll be fine. Fill up your water bottles along the way, as there’s no reliable water on the mountain. After about an hour of hiking, the road will split, so go toward the right and you’ll find the trailhead after about 1km or so. Enter the forest and climb. This trail is well-marked but very rarely used, so you should have the entire mountain to yourself. The trail initially runs parallel to the forest road, crossing it once before heading along the spine of the mountain. In about an hour or so, you’ll reach the 6th stage (六合目) and a trail junction. The trail to Kadoma (門馬) leads off to the right. This is an alternative approach up the mountain, shorter than the way you came. It was closed to hikers when I climbed, so I’m not sure of the current status. Anyway, the trail steepens significantly from here, as the forest gradually thins out. The trail becomes rocky, and you’ll find a water source at the 9th stage (九合目). This water source is usually dry in the summer and is unreliable. After about 20 more minutes of climbing, you’ll reach a junction and will probably see your first hikers of the day. Turn right and hike 10 minutes to the top. There’s a free emergency hut and shrine on the summit. The views are amazing out to Mt. Iwate and even over to Mt. Chokai on a clear day. Unfortunately, it was a big, white foggy mess when I climbed. It should have taken you about 5 hours to reach the peak from the bus stop, and if you continue on the same trail you’ll reach another trailhead and parking lot in about an hour. This is the path that most hikers take to the top, and makes for a good traverse. Make some friends on the summit and ask them to give you a lift back to civilization. Alternatively, if you’re a sucker for punishment, then you can descend all the way back down the way you came, which is what I did. Call me foolish, but I was on a tight schedule and needed to get back to Morioka so I could make my train to climb Mt. Chokai the following day. If you’d like to climb 10 of the Hyakumeizan in Tohoku in 10 days without a car, then ask me how to do it.
When to go: This hike can be done from late April to November. A winter hike is a serious undertaking and access is next to impossible without a snowmobile or some cross-country skis.
Access: From Morioka station (盛岡駅), take a JR train on the Yamada line (山田線) bound for Miyako station (宮古駅) and get off at Hiratsuto station (平津戸駅). There are only 1 or 2 trains per day, and there’s a bus that runs the same route as the train, so it’s much better to take the bus. Ask the information counter outside of Morioka station for more details. There’s a much shorter approach up Hayachine via Kawarabou (河原坊) but you really need your own transport to get there. Rumor has it there’s a bus from Shin-hanamaki station (新花巻駅) but I climbed Hayachine after coming off of Mt. Iwate, so it was much more convenient to just jump on a bus at Morioka station.
Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change ~1000m)