Mt. Suisho (水晶岳）
Mt. Suisho, also known as Mt. Kuro, is a spectacular alpine peak located a stone’s throw from Mt. Washiba in the Kita Alps. In fact, most people climb these 2 peaks in succession as a side trip from the main Kamikochi-Tateyama trekking route.
The hike: Follow the same instructions for the Mt. Washiba hike. From the top of Mt. Washiba, continue hiking north on the ridge line (up and over Mt. Warimo) until reaching a junction called Iwakoke-norikoshi (岩苔乗越). If you turn left then you’ll soon reach a 3 way junction down to Kumo-no-taira (雲ノ平), but ignore this and continue on the trail in front of you. In about 30 minutes or so you’ll reach the Suisho hut (水晶小屋). Open from mid-July to mid-September, it’s a very small hut with room for only 30 people. Click here for the website. There’s no reliable water source, so make sure you’ve filled up your bottles at the Mitsumata hut before the climb up to Washiba. Leave your pack in front of the Suisho hut and prepare yourself for the short, adrenalin-inducing climb to the summit. Unlike its close neighbor Washiba, Mt. Suisho is a steep, rocky peak with plenty of chains bolted to make things easier. The views from the peak are stunning to say the least. Retrace your steps back to the hut and make a decision about where to go next. You have 3 options. The first option is to retrace your steps all the way back to Mitsumata and the main trekking route. Option 2 is to retreat back to the junction and descending down to Kumo-no-daira. I must admit that it’s one area of the Northern Alps I have yet to explore, but the area looks spectacular and there’s a hidden hot spring at the end of a long valley. The third option would be to take the only trail you haven’t been on, which will take you across a long saddle and over to an adjacent ridge line. This is the route I took and it should take you about 90 minutes or so to reach Mt. Masago (真砂岳). Just before the summit you’ll find a trail junction that leads down to Yumata Hot Spring (湯俣温泉). This is another of Japan’s hidden hot springs, and there are a couple of huts you can stay at. It really is in the middle of nowhere, and it’ll take a few hours to get there from the junction. Unless you’re anxious to get out of the mountains, I’d recommend staying on the ridge for the time being and climb up and over Mt. Masago. 20 minutes past this peak, you’ll be sitting on top of Mt. Noguchigoro (野口五郎岳), which has incredible views back across the valley to Mt. Suisho. It’s from this vantage point that you can see how Suisho also goes by the name of Mt. Kuro. There’s a hut and plenty of fresh water here. If you’ve still got the energy, then I’d recommend continuing along the ridge to Eboshi hut, which is about 2-1/2 hours further north. Click here for the hut website. I made it all the way from Sugoroku hut to this point in one day, but I was carrying a fairly light pack and was acclimatized to the altitude. There’s plenty of room to camp around the hut and the sunsets are magical. The next day, wake up early and traverse about 40 minutes further north to the summit of Mt. Eboshi (烏帽子岳), one of the 200 famous mountains. The final rock climb to the summit is pretty challenging, but fun. You can continue climbing on the ridge line all the way to Hakuba if you’d like, but please make sure you take a right when descending to the river and not a left, or you’ll end up at Kurobe lake and not at the top of Mt. Harinoki. If you’d like to get out of the mountains, then it’s a 4-hour hike from Eboshi hut to Takase dam (高瀬ダム), which is an 8000 yen taxi ride out to Shinani-Omachi (信濃大町) station. You could also try your luck hitching.
When to go: This hike can be done from late May to early November. Just like the neighboring peaks of the Kita Alps, Mt. Suisho 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 1896m).