Posted tagged ‘Kyushu’

Mt. Nanatsu (七っ岳)

May 10, 2014

Mt. Nanatsu is a series of craggy knobs situated in the middle of Fukue Island in the Goto Retto archipelago off the coast of Nagasaki Prefecture. The unspoiled scenery, splendid ocean views, and relative lack of people make it a great weekend getaway for Kyushu residents and visitors alike.

nanatsu7

The hike: The trail starts at the top of the mountain pass. There are a couple of high-tech environmentally friendly toilets at the trailhead and a small parking lot, but not much else. Pass through the shrine gate and into the forest. After passing by the box-like shrine, the path will climb up a series of stairs before turning left for the short but steep climb to the ridge. Once you hit the ridge, turn right and follow the gentle grade for about 20 minutes before the start of the climb begins. You’ll climb up sharply to the summit of a small peak before descending the other side for the final push toward the summit plateau. There are several tricky rock sections to traverse, so make sure you secure your footing and use your arms to help pull yourself up. There are no chains or ropes in place to help with the ascent, and it is a battle against gravity for most of the way. The rocky outcrops offer spectacular views toward Arakawa bay and the surrounding hills. After another 20 to 30 minutes of relentless scaling you’ll pop out on the summit of Mt. Nanatsu, marked by a small summit sign and 270-degree views all around. If short on time, you could descend back the way you came and hitch a ride back into town, but the best part of the hike is the traverse over 4 of Nanatsu’s rocky perches. Continue on the ridge on the opposite side of the Nanatsu summit post and you’ll soon work your way through a short section of knife-edge ridge with vertigo-inducing drops on your left. Once past this the route drops back into the forest and descends steeply to a saddle. The final rock formation can be tricky to descend, so if you look to your right you’ll see a safer alternative through the forest. Once at the saddle the path climbs steeply to the summit of peak #2 (no signpost), before dropping again to another saddle on the other side. Then it’s another sweat-inducing climb to the 3rd peak, where you’ll find views toward the exposed rocks of peak #4. Drop down to another saddle and brace yourself for the final push to summit #4, which has the best panoramic views of all. While there is no signpost on the summit, there is a long wooden pole with peeling red and white paint that serves as a landmark. If you look out to the sea, you can see a narrow valley in front of you. This is where the trail will spit you out if you continue along the ridge. I recommend retracing your steps all the way back to the parking lot, as it’ll be a lot less hassle trying to figure out how to get back into town. However, ff you want to try your luck, then it’s another half hour along the ridge until you reach the junction at Nanatsu pass. Turn left there and follow the signs to Nanatsu shrine. From there, you can follow the road through the valley until it connects with route 384 at the mouth of Arakawa bay. Turn left on the road and walk until you reach route 27, where you should find a bus stop back to Fukue port. If you’ve got the time and energy, I recommend you climb Mt. Tete (父ヶ岳), the highest peak on the island. When you reach the junction to head towards Nanatsu shrine, continue heading on the ridge for another 90 minutes or so until reaching the top. Supposedly there are amazing views towards the emerald green waters of Takahama from there. From Tete, retrace your steps back to the junction and then turn right for the short drop to Nanatsu shrine. Again, there’s no bus stop there, so you’ll need to walk to the coast or try to get a lift from another hiker. The scenery more than makes up for the effort it takes to get to this beautiful area of the island.

When to go: This hike can be done from March to December, when there is no snow on the peak. The rocky terrain and vertical cliff faces make it a precarious proposition during the snowy months. Spring and fall are the most comfortable times on the mountain, as the summer heat may drive you to leaping off the precipices.

Access:  Your first step is to get to Fukue island. There are a couple of regular ferries per day from Nagasaki port, along with a couple of high-speed jetfoils that’ll shuttle you across the sea in about 90 minutes. There’s also an overnight ferry from Fukuoka port. This site gives an overview of all the ferry options, along with links to the timetables. Once you arrive at Fukue port, you’ll need to take a bus bound for Arakawa (荒川) and get off at Nanatsu Tozanguchi (七っ岳登山口) bus stop. There are only 4 buses per day, so it might be faster and easier to take a taxi for the 40-minute journey to the trailhead. You could also try your luck hitching. Click here for the bus schedule.

Map: Click here

Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change ~300 meters)

Distance: 3.5km (2 to 3 hours)

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Mt. Yufu (由布岳)

January 30, 2011

Mt. Yufu is a massive volcano towering over the idyllic hot spring town of Yufuin. The views from the summit are impressive on the rare day when the cloud isn’t in.

The hike: After exiting the bus, turn left and walk along the road a few meters, and you’ll see the entrance to the trail on your right. The first part is a vast meadow with views of Mt. Yufu towering above. There are several trails in this area. Take whichever you like, but make sure you head towards the forest under Mt. Yufu and not up the bald conical peak to your left. You should reach the edge of the forest in about 10 minutes or so. There’s a trail branching off to the right, but ignore this trail and head straight ahead. The woods are quite beautiful and surprisingly quiet, and the path meanders a bit before shooting off towards the left and up to the ridge line. At the junction, you’ll find a couple of places to sit down. This junction is marked on the maps as 合野越, but I don’t recall any signposts indicating this name. Take a breather because the real climb is about to begin. Take the trail to the right, where you’ll soon start the first of many switchbacks. How many, you ask? Well, I basically stopped counting after 40! The route is well-trodden and impossible to get lost as long as you follow the switchbacks. The views will gradually start to open up as you climb higher above the valley. In no time you’ll have a view directly down into the grassy crater of Mt. Iimorigajou, with the town of Yufuin beyond that. As you reach the saddle below the peak, the switchbacks become shorter and steeper, with the last few meters up a series of large steps built to keep erosion at bay. Once at the junction, you have two options. You can either turn right and climb to the summit of Higashi-mine (東峰) or turn left for the treacherous ascent of Nishi-mine (西峰), the higher of the two. If you have any fear or heights or no confidence using metal chains, then I recommend opting for the safety of Higashi-mine. Otherwise, turn left at the junction. Immediately after climbing, you’ll reach your first set of chains. If the cloud is in, then it could easily be mistaken for one of the trickier sections of the Japan Alps. There’s a fair amount of up-and-down between here and the summit, so follow the paint marks, chains, and crowds if there are any. After around 15 minutes you’ll reach the summit of Nishi-mine, where the views are supposedly spectacular. I spent the entire climb in the clouds, so hopefully you’ll be luckier that I was. If you’ve got time, then you can actually do an entire loop of the crater, taking in Higashi-mine before descending back down to the saddle. Just continue on the path you haven’t taken from the summit. The maps recommend one hour for the loop, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it if visibility is poor. If you’re short on time, then simply retrace your steps back through the danger zone of the chains and back down to the saddle. Descend down the same switchbacks you used to climb the mountain, and amuse yourself by trying to determine the precise number of switchbacks. Once you’re back at the junction of 合野越, instead of turning left to head back to the parking lot where you started, take the faint, overgrown straight ahead that leads towards Iimorigajou (飯盛ヶ城). Follow the path for about 50 meters before reaching a rather large clearing. This is actually an old forest road, and you’ll see an unmarked and incredibly steep trail directly in front of you that leads to the summit of Iimorigajou. It only takes about 5 minutes to reach the summit, and the views are totally worth it. With all of the lush greenery, it’s a splendid place to take a break and admire both the view of Yufuin and of the towering volcano you just finished climbing. After admiring the views, retrace your steps back to the forest road and turn left. After a few minutes of descending, you’ll see a white sign that says 湯布院町に至る、西登山道、岳本. The trail branches off towards the left and, honestly speaking, is a bit difficult to follow. Scattered throughout the grasslands are red signs reading 西登山道 and the grass is greatly overgrown. If you’re not up for the adventure, then never fear, because if you stay on the forest road then it’ll lead you to the junction. Whichever route you decide to take, once the trail intersects the forest road again, you’ll see a path heading into a cedar forest with a signpost marked for Takemoto (岳本). Follow the path through the forest and watch out for spider webs. Eventually, the path will end behind a series of greenhouses. Turn right when you hit the paved road and then a left at the first junction and you’ll descend to a larger road with a Lawson convenience store. Walk over to the Lawson and take the road next to it that descends towards the town of Yufuin. Take your first left and you’ll arrive at a small lake and the wonderful thatched-roof bath of 下ん湯. Drop 200 yen in the honesty box and enjoy the angelic hot-spring waters. After a soak, you can walk through the touristy town back to the station in about 25 minutes.

When to go: This hike can be done year round if you bring crampons and an ice axe in the winter. The final climb to Nishi-dake should not be attempted in icy conditions. November is the best time to see the autumn colors.

Access: From Yufuin bus center, there are regular buses to Beppu that stop at Yufuin Tozanguchi (由布岳登山口). The bus takes about 15 minutes and costs 360 yen. Yufuin bus center is about 20 meters east of JR Yufuin (由布院) station. Go out the main exit and walk down the main street running perpendicular to the station. The bus center is on your left. Click here for the bus schedule.

Map: Click here

Live web cam: Click here and select ライブカメラ

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 813m).

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Mt. Kaimon (開聞岳)

February 12, 2008

Mt. Kaimon is a perfectly conical dormant volcano rising straight from the sea on the southern point of Kagoshima prefecture, and features a unique trail devoid of a single switchback.

The summit of Mt. Kaimon

The hike: From the trailhead, follow the trail straight through a somewhat dense forest. The trail is well trodden and there’s only one way to the top, so it’s pretty difficult to get lost. You should reach the 5th stage (五合目) in about 30 to 45 minutes. From here the fun begins, as the trail follows the contour of the mountain in a full circle, without ever doing any switchbacks. There’s no other trail like it in Japan. You will have wonderful views of the surrounding coastline and the crystal clear waters. The trail is quite rocky, so make sure to wear a sturdy pair of shoes. Continue winding your way around the mountain for about 90 mintues or so until the exposed, rocky summit comes into view. In wet weather this final section can be very slippery, so take care. Once on the top, enjoy the amazing panoramic view. On a clear day you can see all the way to Yakushima! After a well deserved break, head back the way you came, and watch out for the crowds if you got an early start.

When to go: You can pretty much do this hike all year round, although it may be a little icy on top during the winter, so bring a light pair of crampons just in case.

Access: From Kagoshima station, take either a local or kaisoku train on the JR line to Yamakawa (山川)station. From there you can transfer to the IbusukiMakurazaki Line (指宿枕崎線) to Kaimon Station (開門駅). Be warned that trains are NOT frequent, so it might be better to either fork out 3000 yen for the 20 minute taxi ride or try your luck hitching. If you’re taking the train, the trailhead is a 30 minute walk due south of the station (just walk toward the towering peak in front of you).

Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change: 764m)

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