Mt. Akaishi (赤石岳）
Mt. Akaishi, or ‘red stone peak’, is one of the most sought-after peaks of the southern half of the Minami Alps, and the red glow of the summit around sunrise/sunset makes the long, long slog worth it.
The hike: From the bus stop, hike a short way up the paved forest road (near the camp site) and you’ll find the trailhead. Make sure you take a left and follow the signs towards Akaishi hut (赤石小屋) and not towards Mt. Arakawa (荒川岳). The trails follows an old logging road for the first 2-1/2 hours or so, and then makes its way up the spine of the mountain. It should take about 5 hours or so to reach Akaishi hut, where you can either pitch a tent or stay in the hut. The hut costs 8000 yen with 2 meals or 5000 yen for a futon only, and is open from July 16th to October 13th. If you’ve gotten a super early start and want to make it to the summit, then you’re only 3-1/2 hours away! The hut has a water source, and there’s no water between the start of the hike and here, so bring plenty from the trailhead. If the weather is good, then wake up really early the next morning and time your hike so you can see the sunrise from Fujimidaira (富士見平). It’s on the trail to the summit, so you’ve got to pass by here anyway. It should take about 40 minutes from the hut, and it’s a good place to see the red glow of the signature peak. From Fujimidaira, you’ve got about 2-1/2 hours before reaching the proper ridge line just below the summit. It’s rocky and exposed, so watch your step in wet weather. Shortly after leaving Fujimidaira, you’ll see a signpost on your right marking the winter climbing route (冬山ルート), but ignore this and follow the paint marks on the rocks. Eventually you will reach the ridge and a trail junction, so turn left for the 20-minute climb to the summit. If the weather is good then you’ll have outstanding views of Mt. Fuji and the other huge peaks of the Minami Alps. About 5 meters below the summit there lies a manned emergency hut, which will cost 5000 yen to stay in, despite the fact that there’s no water! The man who runs the hut, however, is incredibly friendly and plied me with free warm tea after climbing during the middle of a typhoon! From the summit, you’ve got 3 options. Option 1 is a traverse over to Mt. Hijiri (聖岳), breaking up the trek by staying at Hyakkanbora Yama-no-ie (百間洞山ノ家) – a glorious hut famous for their tonkatsu. Option 2 is to head in the opposite direction and climb Mt. Arakawa (荒川岳), breaking up the trek at Arakawa hut (荒川小屋), another fantastic hut with great people and awesome views out to Mt. Fuji. The third, less desirable option would be to head all the way back the way you came down to Sawara-jima. Not only would you contribute to trail erosion, but your 2000 vertical meter climb will have gone to waste. When you’ve put in so much time and energy to reach the ridge line, you might as well stay on it for a few more days!
When to go: I used to recommend doing this hike year round, but because of the new bus limitations (see below), those without private transport will be forced to do this hike between mid-July and August. Hitchhiking will be difficult from Shizuoka, because it’s a walloping 3-1/2 bus ride to the dam! Hitching from the dam, however, should be relatively easy on the weekends. If you do this hike in winter, be prepared for lots of snow, so bring winter climbing gear. Click here to see someone who climbed around New Year’s.
Access: From Shizuoka station (静岡駅), take a bus bound for Hatanagi-daiichi Dam (畑薙第一ダム) and get off at the dam. Change to a shuttle bus bound for Sawara-jima Lodge (椹島ロッジ). Please note that the bus to Hatanagi-daiichi has been discontinued as of May 31st, 2008, and has been replaced by a seasonal bus running only from July 19th to August 31st. Click here for the bus schedule. These kind of antics really tick me off, because it is encouraging people to use their own transport to get to the dam and punishing those of us who don’t have cars! Click here for the shuttle bus schedule from the dam to the lodge.
Level of difficulty: 5 out of 5 (elevation change ~2000m).