Cloudy views of nothing but rocks and the summit marker at the Mt. Shiomi summit.

Hiking: Mt. Shiomi in the Minami Alps

The cloudy ridge line of the Minami Alps.
A section of the Minami Alps ridge line south of Mt. Shiomi.

The start.

The weather this August—torrential rain day after day for almost two weeks. One of my goals this month was to do plenty of hiking, with Mt. Shiomi (塩見岳) in the Minami Alps being the main objective. It’s a mountain I’ve wanted to climb for some time now but never quite managed it due to various reasons.

Originally I had planned to hike up Mt. Shiomi early in the third week but relentless downpours put a stop to that. Late last week, however, there was what looked like a break in the rainy weather (it wasn’t) and a slim opportunity to do the climb and stay relatively dry. I also wanted to avoid the weekend to have more of the mountain to myself but that became more unrealistic the more the rain persisted. Early to mid August is never usually like this. In the end I got neither of my wishes – it rained for most of the hike and the only realistic opportunity to hike was on Friday and Saturday when there’d be plenty of other hikers around.


The hike.

The hike was long (19.4kms), difficult (climbing from 1600m to just over 3000m), and of course very wet. Today, a few days later, my muscles still ache. I was carrying my tent with sleeping gear, waterproof clothing (which I treated with a waterproof spray before leaving—in hindsight a great idea), food and cooking gear, as well as my camera with spare batteries etc., meaning my pack weighed in at roughly 11kgs. In recent months I’ve been hiking with my daughter on my back in one of these which totals 14kgs so I was fairly light in comparison this time.

Fortunately I only needed to hike the initial part of the climb with a heavy pack because I had reserved a night at Sampukutoge Lodge (三伏峠小屋 – ¥1600 for solo camping). I would sleep there on Friday night and head to the summit on Saturday morning for sunrise. From the Torikura trailhead (鳥倉登山口) to the campsite would also cover most of the elevation gain so once I’d set up camp I’d be much lighter for the longest part of the day. Having a much lighter pack would also help with scrambling over the loose rocks and boulders near the summit that Mt. Shiomi is known for.

The majority of the hike was through lush green forest along the ridge line between Sanpukutoge and Mt. Shiomi. It was magical in the early hours with nobody else around and even more so when heading back through the mist and fog. It was also satisfying to be walking back as most hikers were still making there way there. But a one a.m. start in the cold and rain was the price I had to pay for that privilege.


The summit.

Mt. Shiomi (3052m) is Japan’s 16th highest peak. The views are apparently spectacular but I never saw any. Instead I was greeted with mist, clouds, and rain once the sun rose. But I actually prefer the bad weather so long as it’s not dangerous. Why? Because it makes for a more memorable adventure, more unique photo opportunities, and the drudgery of the rain, cold, and mist makes you appreciate the clear, sunny days more.

  • Cloudy views of nothing but rocks at the Mt. Shiomi summit.
  • Cloudy views of nothing but rocks and the summit marker at the Mt. Shiomi summit.
  • Hikers walking through the mist towards the Mt. Shiomi summit.
  • Hikers scrambling over rocks in the mist descending Mt. Shiomi.

Reflection.

Nothing in August has gone according to plan (that seems to be the new normal nowadays) but I’ve tried to be persistent and aim for the goals I set out earlier in the year. This goal—the summit of Mt. Shiomi—has me wondering though of the value in hiking to the actual summits of mountains. Yes, it’s nice to get to the top, especially when there is a good view, but that shouldn’t be the main goal. Instead, it should be to enjoy the hike regardless of the summit. That was something I found myself thinking about more and more on the descent.

  • The Mt. Shiomi mountain lodge. Two very wet hikers take a break on a bench.
  • A sign showing the way back to Sanpukutoge.
  • Shirabiso (Silver fir) forest on the hike.
Looking back at the mountains shrouded in clouds after the hike.

You can see the data as usual on my YAMAP account here.


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Lived in central Japan since 2001 and spend free days exploring.

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