Mt. Washiba (鷲羽岳)
Mt. Washiba, or ‘eagle feather’ mountain, is a glorious alpine peak lying on the Nagano-Toyama border in the Kita Alps. The granite peak is famous for its mysterious volcanic crater lake, situated just below the summit.
The hike: From the bus stop at Shin-hotaka, cross the bridge and follow the paved road toward the right. It’ll climb past the Hotel New Hotaka (ホテルニューホタカ) before turning into a dirt forest road. The road is really easy hiking, following a river. Follow the road for about 90 minutes, being careful not to take the trailhead to Mt. Kasa. You’ll pass by a campground and hut at Wasabi-daira (わさび平) before finding the trailhead another 20 minutes up the road. The trail starts climbing up a cirque, and after about 2-1/2 hours will reach a junction called the Kagami-daira bunki (鏡平分岐). Take the trail to the left if you’d like to climb directly up to the ridgeline towards Mt. Yumiori (弓折岳). Both trails eventually meet up on the Yumiori summit, so it might be better to stay to the right, so you can see the phenomenal reflections of Mt. Yari in the mirror lake at Kagami-daira. Kagami-daira hut (鏡平小屋) is open from July 10th to October 15th and has no campground. Click here for the website. Most people stay here for the night, but if you’ve brought a tent or it’s still relatively early in the day, you can continue on to Sugoroku (双六), which is another 2 hours away. Continue climbing on the same trail and you’ll reach Mt. Yumiori. From here to Sugoroku it’s a relatively easy ridge walk with wonderful views. Sugoroku hut (双六小屋) is run by the same people as Kagami-daira and offers exactly the same prices, but has the added advantage of a large campground. Use this as your base for exploring the surrounding peaks. The next day, follow the trail in front of the hut towards Mt. Sugoroku (双六岳). You’ve actually got 2 options. You can either climb up to the peak and stay on the ridge line to the summit of Mt. Mitsumata-renge (三俣蓮華岳) or you can opt for the easier shortcut trail that bypasses all of the peaks. Just take a right at the first trail junction you see after leaving the hut. Both trails meet up at the same place, so take your pick and head towards Mitsumata hut (三俣山荘). You’ll find another campground at this hut, as well as a water source. The hut sits at the foot of Mt. Washiba (鷲羽岳), and you’ll see it towering directly in front of you. It should take about an hour or so to reach the summit, where you’ll pass by a spur trail leading down to the volcanic crater lake. On a clear day, you can see all of the Kita Alps, including the peaks of Hakuba and Tateyama, as well as Mt. Yari, Hotaka, Kasa, Yake, Norikura, and out to Ondake. From here, you can either continue on the same ridge line over to Mt. Suisho (水晶岳), which is also one of the 100 famous mountains, or retrace your steps back to Sugoroku. The options for multi-day traverses are endless, and if you’ve made the effort to climb all the way up here, you might as well stay on the ridge line for a few days.
When to go: This hike can be done from late May to early November. Just like the neighboring peaks of the Kita Alps, Mt. Washiba is considered an expert climb in the winter, and challenging even during Golden Week because of all the remaining snow.
Access: From Takayama (高山駅) station, take a bus bound for Shin-Hotaka Hot Spring (新穂高温泉) and get off at the last stop. Click here for the bus schedule. There are also buses from Matsumoto station (松本駅) in Nagano, and there may even be direct night buses from Tokyo.
Level of difficulty: 5 out of 5 (elevation change ~1900m)