Mt. Shiomi (塩見岳)

Last updated: August 18, 2017

Mt. Shiomi is a rugged, twin peak situated roughly halfway between Kita-dake and Mt. Warusawa in the Minami Alps. The panoramic views of Mt. Fuji and the Chuo Alps are incredible in favorable weather.

 

The hike: From the bus stop, take the trail just to the left of the hiking registration box and enter the forest. The route is divided into 10 stages and is clearly marked with signposts counting up from 1. It climbs steeply for about an hour to a ridge, where’s there’s a long traverse along a path loaded with wooden stairs and precarious walkways. Just before the 9th stagepoint (9/10) you’ll see a roped-off junction on your left that leads down to Shiokawa. This used to be the main trail up to the pass before the road was washed out in a typhoon. Continue on for another 30 minutes and you’ll reach Sanpuku-tōge (三伏峠), the tallest mountain pass in Japan. It should take about 4 hours or so to reach the mountain pass, where you’ll find an excellent mountain hut and campground. Sanpuku-tōge hut (三伏峠小屋) is open from July 1st to September 30th and charges 8500 yen for 2 meals or 5500 yen for sleeping space only. Click here for the website. I’d really recommend staying here, as it helps break up the very long climb of Mt. Shiomi and makes for a good base camp. The only drawback is the lack of drinking water. You can either buy bottled water from the hut or hike 20 minutes down the trail to get water. From the hut, turn left and walk past the campsite until reaching a junction. Turn left towards Mt. Shiomi (塩見岳). The trail drops to a saddle before climbing up to the treeline and the summit of Mt. Sanpuku (三伏山), which provides wonderful panoramic views in clear weather. If the weather is fine then you’ll see Mt. Shiomi towering above you across the valley and you’ll realize just how far you need to go. Continue along the ridge towards Mt. Shiomi and you’ll eventually drop down to the tree line and start losing altitude, where you’ll meet a junction with a closed trail on your right. This trail used to lead down to the old Sanpuku hut and campsite, which is now closed. Climb the steep trail in front of you past some wildflowers and after about a half an hour of steady climbing you’ll reach the summit of Mt. Hontani (本谷山), which also pokes out above the treeline. On the left-hand side of the summit you can see Kitadake through a clearing in the creeping pine. Keep to the ridge and you’ll once again drop down to a lush forest and reach a low point, where the trail will veer towards the right for a very long traverse towards Shiomi hut (塩見小屋), which sits perched on the edge of the treeline. Just before reaching the end of the trees, veer right at the junction marked for 塩見小屋 and follow the switchbacks through the creeping pine. It should take about 90 minutes from the saddle below Hontani to this hut, which makes for a great place to catch your breath before the final assault on the steep western face of the peak. The hut was completely rebuilt in the summer of 2016. It is now a clean hut with very friendly staff. Reservations are required to stay here, but they might be able to accommodate you if you show up early and they’re not fully booked. From the hut, the trail starts climbing towards the summit of Tengu-iwa, but just before reaching it there’s a traverse path on the right that skirts the edge of the mountain through a large maze of rocks. The route is easy to find in clear weather, but when the cloud is in then look for the yellow paint marks on the rocks. After reaching the far side of Tengu-iwa, you’ll get your first views of Mt. Shiomi in all its intimidating splendor. It’s hard to believe there’s actually a trail up that mass of rock on a nearly vertical face but rest assured – there is a path. Drop down to the saddle and carefully pick your way among the maze of yellow paint marks. There’s one section at the start of the climb that is susceptible to rockfall from hikers above, so make sure you keep your eyes and ears peeled for any falling stones. It’s a thrilling, somewhat precarious climb of around 45 minutes until you magically pop out on the summit plateau and can once again walk on relatively horizontal ground. The first summit is the western peak (西峰), which is just a few meters lower than Shiomi’s twin summit Tōhō (東峰) which is fortunately an easy walk along the ridge for another 5 minutes. After admiring the views, retrace your steps all the way back to Sanpuku-tōge, or continue along the ridge for another couple of hours to Kumanodaira hut (熊ノ平小屋), which will set you up nicely if you plan on continuing on to Kitdake the following day.

When to go: This hike can be done from mid-July to late August, when the bus to the trailhead is running. If you’ve got your own transport, then you can go much earlier/later than this. Alternatively, you can approach via Kita-dake, but you’ve got to be careful if descending to Torikura if you’re out of bus season as it’s an awful long way from anywhere.

Access: From Okaya station (岡谷駅) in Nagano Pref. take the JR Iida line (JR飯田線) and get off at Ina-Oshima (伊那大島) station. The local train takes about 90 minutes. From there, take a bus bound for Torikura tozanguchi (鳥倉登山口) and get off at the last stop. The bus stop used to run to a place called  Shiokawa (塩川), but the road has been washed out and there’s no plan in the immediate future to rebuild it. This bus only runs from mid-July to the end of August, and there are only 2 buses a day. Click here for the schedule. My advice would be to take the last train to Ina-Oshima and either sleep at the unmanned train station or at the bus stop. The bus stop is sheltered with a long bench, making it perfect as a place to sleep. Just bring your sleeping bag. That way, you can easily catch the 6:45am bus! If you’re hiking out of the bus season, then you could pay 10,000 yen for a taxi ride to the trailhead.

Be careful if approaching this hike from Nagoya, because the JR Iida line from Toyohashi station takes over 5 hours to get to Ina-Oshima! It’s much faster to take the JR Chuo line and change at Shiojiri.

Level of difficulty: 5 out of 5 (elevation change 1717m).

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5 Comments on “Mt. Shiomi (塩見岳)”

  1. Willie Says:

    I was at the Shiomi Hut a couple of weeks ago and it seems things have changed for the better. The staff were incredibly friendly, and yes, space is a bit of a problem. But I arrived late one afternoon at the height of hiking season and they had me accomodated in no time. You do have to poop into your own purpose built plastic bag (on a western style seat to boot) which is great as there is no reek from the toilets that have serviced the million or so hikers that passed that way before you. And they helicopter out the poo you don’t lug it out yourself.

  2. wesu Says:

    willie:

    thanks for the update on the Shiomi hut. It’s nice you don’t have to pack out your poop and I’m glad the staff have changed for the better. It seems like Japanese people always call ahead and make reservations for the hut, but I always just rock up and have never been turned away.

  3. Kirt Cathey Says:

    Thanks for this. I just bought the Kitadake map the other day and was planning a trip down there.

  4. Ollie Philcox Says:

    The old Shiomi hut was knocked down a couple of years ago and a brand new one was opened this year. It is spacious, comfortable with good toilet facilities. What’s more, the notoriously bad mannered hut owner was sacked by Ina city this year too and a far nicer chap has taken his place. So everything is rosey on top of Shiomi.

    • wes Says:

      Awesome news Ollie! Glad to hear about the improved conditions. Shiomi is on my re-climb list, so I hope to make it up there sometime soon.


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