For the first climb of the season I chose Neishi-dake. I’m glad I did.
The ascent to the top is quite gentle, interwoven with a few flat paths, so that it’s totally doable even if (like me) you haven’t done any physical activity in a while. The trail first runs along a vivacious mountain stream and then through a moist moss-covered wood, all the way under the refreshing shade of the tall conifer trees.
This is the report on the hike:
After 1 hour and a half of walking uphill the path opens up, the trees giving way and disclosing a breathtaking view of the surrounding Yatsugatake peaks. At this point we have reached Natsuzawa Pass and we now stand on the ridge of the mountain. On the right Mt. Iou-dake seemingly pierces the sky. From this side it looks like the mountain was cut in half, the external layer quilted in green, the inside powdery and yellow. Its name “Iou” means yellow Sulphur after all, and I cannot think of a more appropriate name.
From there we keep going up, coasting the mountain ridge, a thin layer of sparse vegetation separating us and the precipice. No more than 50 minutes later we have reached the top of Mikaburi-yama and start a brief descent along a set of stairs. What awaits us at the bottom is better that anything we were expecting.
The mountain is clear on both side, we are now walking on the ridge treading on a light-colored dirt that looks a lot like sand. In front of us, the peak of Mt.Neishi-dake solemnly rises, behind it its cousins, the twin peaks of Mt. Tengu-dake, stand stark against the horizon.
On the left side, a view of Chino spreading at the foot of the Yatsugatake and the deep blue sky reaching all the way to the Alps; on the right side, Saku area hidden by a smoky mist which shatters on the rocky mountain side. It is so surreal to see such different weathers existing at the same time at just a few centimeters distance. It’s like the world is divided in two and we’re standing in the middle.
Once on top, we take a break and enjoy an espresso at 2603m.
After enjoying the scenery for a while longer, we quickly descend through a different trail and in less than one hour later we’re at Orengoya hut, where we have a hearty lunch. We keep going down for another 40 minutes and we reach Natsuzawa Kosen hut. This hut is provided with natural hot springs and we cannot say no to a nice bath after the exercise. The spring is rich in iron and a bit salty and washes all the fatigue away.
The parking lot is only half an hour away and we make the way back all contented and refreshed. It was a satisfying climb and hasn’t left us exhausted.
On the drive home we stop at the Italian restaurant l’Essenza for a cool shaved-ice. I have mango flavour, by the way, and it’s delicious.
To climb Neishi-dake:
1. Go to Sakura-daira trailhead by car (about 50 min. from Chino station)
Please be aware the last 20-30 min the road is bumpy with gravel footing.
2. Park the car at the 2nd parking which is 15 min from the entrance to the trail.
(the 1st parking lot is far, 2 h to the trailhead, and the 3rd is small so it gets full early).
3. After you park the car, enter sakura-daira trailhead.
Sakura-daira →30min. →Natsuzawa Kosen hut →50min.→Orengoya hut→20min.
→Natsuzawa Pass →40min.→Mikaburi-yama→15min.→Mt.Neishi-dake (goal!)
4. On the way back
Natsuzawa Kosen hut→20min.→Sakura-daira trailhead
*Please submit your climbing card with your itinerary details at Natsuzawa Kosen.
*If you feel energetic, from Mt. Neishi-dake you can reach one peak of Mt.Tengu-dake with an extra 40min., both peaks with an extra hour.