Mt. Shiomi (塩見岳)
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, follow the trail that leads away from the end of the forest road. The path is well-marked and relatively easy to follow if you look out for the tape marks on the trees. It follows a stream for quite a ways before finally branching off to the right for a long, steep slog up to Sanpuku-toge (三伏峠), the tallest mountain pass in Japan. Be careful during the first hour of the hike if the river is swollen. There are a few river crossings, but there are logs laid across to make it easier, but they could be underwater in heavy rains. Anyway, it should take about 4 hours or so to reach the mountain pass, where you’ll find an excellent mountain hut and campground. Sanpuku-toge hut (三伏峠小屋) is open from July 1st to September 30th and charges 7500 yen for 2 meals or 4000 yen for sleeping space only. Click here for the website. I’d really recommend staying here, as they’ve got plenty of fresh water, lots of space for camping, and a clean, spacious hut with friendly staff. From the hut, turn left and follow the signs towards Mt. Hontani (本谷山). It should take about an hour of relatively easy hiking to reach this peak, where you’ll have outstanding views towards the summit of Mt. Shiomi. It’s still a few hours away, so continue climbing on the same trail until reaching the hut just below the summit. This is the Shiomi hut (塩見小屋), which is one of the worst places to stay in the Minami Alps. Besides the lack of fresh water, they’ve got a big problem with toilet space, and are asking everyone to pack out their poop. Additionally, the staff are really unfriendly and made my friend and I wait outside in the cold, pouring rain while the staff sat comfortably inside with kerosene heaters! This was 5 years ago, so I really hope the staff has become more hospitable since then. It’s in huge contrast to the emergency hut on top of Mt. Akaishi, where the hut owner invited us in to escape the raging typhoon and plied us with free cups of hot tea! Anyway, enough digression for now. Continue past the hut and up into the exposed, rocky summit area. There are two peaks on top, and the second one you come to is the highest point. On a clear day, the panoramic views are angelic – some of the best the Minami Alps has to offer. On a cloudy rainy day, it’s a miserable place to be, so get off as soon as possible and backtrack to Sanpuku-toge for a well deserved meal. If you want to traverse over to Kita-dake, then follow the trail for another two hours or so and stay/camp at Kuma-no-daira hut (熊の平小屋).
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 Shiokawa if you’re out of bus season.
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 be known as Shiokawa (塩川), but the name has changed. This bus only runs from July 19th to August 31st, 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: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 1717m).