For literally years now I’ve been wondering how could I get up on Kasagatake. This mountain in the northern Japanese Alps is right above Shin-Hotaka. You get a really good view of it from the ropeway up Nishi-Hotaka and you hike by its trailhead on the way up to Sugoroku. The problem is that it’s a long, tough and steep straight climb which means doing it in one day is not fun. I didn’t know of a way to get there for an early enough start either unless I stayed a night in Shin-Hotaka—until now. Once you learn of the Mainichi Alpen-go (and manage to secure a seat) things get much easier.

I decided that I can pull this off even now off-season when the top of the mountain is snowed and the hut near the summit closed for winter. The weather forecast was nice and I have the gear for a cold night. It was still way tougher than I expected, mostly because I didn’t bring my snowshoes and the snow quality made walking really hard. The climb up was a good 9 hours, which was way more than planned.

It was super beautiful though. On the lower elevations it’s the beautiful autumn colors of the forest. Especially with the sun shining through the bright yellow and red of the leaves has a wonderful atmosphere. Once out of the woods (at the Shakushi-daira) the trail pretty much disappears as most people seem to turn back there before the snow. Instead of the forest you get clear views of the Hotaka range and the clear snowy area around you.

And there is plenty of snow. Not compressed at all since it’s so early in the winter, not very deep either, but it’s enough to cover shrubs and hide the trail completely, which means it’s a challenge to find the “right” way and very exhausting to move on. At least the general direction (up) is obvious…

I was pretty exhausted by the time I reached the campsite below the hut. I quickly set up my tent and hurried up the summit to see the sunset. Surprisingly enough there was even 4G reception up there, so I could call family and share the view.

The night was far from uneventful too. While the forecast was clear and no wind, there were quite strong gusts of wind, so I had to get out of my comfy and warm sleeping bag in the middle of the night to reinforce my tent with some heavier rocks, because the pegs and smaller rocks I used couldn’t handle it. At least it was just wind and not a blizzard…

The way down wasn’t much easier as the wind blew over my trace from the day before making it just as exhausting as it was on the way up. It was cloudy, but luckily there was no rain so I got back to Shin-Hotaka dry and safe, on time as planned too.