Nasudake 那須岳 1917m difficulty~2 scenery~5 20/08/06
As we headed of on the highway for Nasu it started pissing down rain at 5am but as we drove up into the mountains to the starting point for our hike blue sky started to preveil.
At the carpark there were only a couple of other cars there at 5:30am most probably because the huge cablecar to the volcano rim didnt start until 8:30.
Nasudake is an active strato-volcano with hot steam hissing out of the ground in various places. Our main goal was not the crater rim summit however. No our summit lies a further 5km hike along ridges and up and down smaller peaks to Sanbonyaridake, all for an astonishing 2 meters elevation gain higher than the main crator rim. All
the books tell me this is the summit you need to get to if your doing the hyakumeizan. The crator rim's high point is 1915m and after 8:30 in the morning is frequented with family's, young kids, people in sandles and some who look like they just stepped out of the office thanks to the cablecar that runs visitors most of the way up the volcano.
The hiking on Nasudake is very different to the other mountains climbed so far on the hyakumeizan list as there are no trees so its easy to see where you are going. But there are lots of rocks to walk over so there is a high possibility of twisting an ankle.
During most of the climb visibility was very bad as we were in the thick of the
clouds. One section of the climb had some dangerous exposure mixed with slippery rock and so was equiped with shiny chains to hang onto. This was a traverse around towering rock that we were unable to go over. The traverse was in 2 sections of about 15 meters each. The interesting part was you could only see down for about 20-30 meters then a thick layer of cloud so it kept me wondering if slip of this ledge how
far until I come to a stop somewhere?
After a couple more hours of hiking up and down peaks, across 2 valleys and through bush full of bees (nice enough not to bite us) we made it to the main peak of Sanbonyaridake (三本槍岳）. At the top there was thousands of dragon flys and one other hiker, a lone guy in his 40's who kept entertained by talking to himself constantly. Haruna and I wern't sure if he was talking to us half the time. Perhaps the years of climbing Japans mountains has made him a bit crazy.
So after some lunch we headed back down to near the starting point before making the short hike to the top of the volcano itself, a very straght forward climb up loose rock and boulders, some with hot volcanic gas coming out from under them. Had a quick look around the summit and crater before getting down as quickly as possible to head back home. The carpark and road at the base of the mountain was dead quite just a few hours ago but now at lunch time was packed with tour buses and cars from all over Japan so it took more than twice as long to get back to the highway as the trip up this morning.
Nasudake is highly recommended for its amazing rock features and landscape. You can safely skip hiking all the way to Sanbonyaridake without missing too much, unless your doing the 100 mountains challange.