(北岳) Kitadake Hike

 

It is the North Mountain of the Southern Alps, and believe me, I got utterly confused learning the Japanese for this hike. Tricky Japanese aside, this hike has given me one of the most magical views of Mt. Fuji both for sunrise and sunsets, and I cannot recommend doing this mountain enough, both for fit beginners and experienced hikers. 

Budget: JPY8,260 (~USD81)
  • JPY4,360. Local trains, Tokyo area < > Kofu Station. (JPY2,180 one way)
  • JPY3,900. Bus, Kofu Station < > 広河原. (JPY1,950 one way)
Hike Date / Difficulty (Elevation: 3,193m / 10,476ft)
  • July 14-16, 2018; June 22-23, 2019
  • Difficulty: 4 out of 5.
  • Route below is around 10.8kilometers, with an elevation change of ▲1,917m/ ▽1,917m
  • Map Link

When to Go
The bus only runs from latter June to early November, and private cars are not allowed to the trailhead, so that's a restriction. Others go as far as possible though and just walk a couple of hours to the trailhead. 

If climbing before mid-July, there may be some snow left on the trail that passes through the lower part of the mountains and locals actually strongly discourage taking that route (the right trail on the map above).

Special Notes
  • Weather forecast. English / Japanese. English more detailed, Japanese more accurate. 
  • If hiking from July, make sure to bring a net for your head, as there is plenty of bugs particularly past Shirakane-Oike. Once you reach the ridge the bugs are gone, but that's quite some time just waving your hands in front of your face. 
  • Trailhead: Hirakawara (広河原)
    • Train, Tokyo to Kofu Station (甲府駅)
    • Bus, Kofu Station (甲府駅) to 広河原. 
      • Buses are not running for 2020, but here's the schedule for 2019. JPY1,950 one way. Cash only, and if you're taking the earliest bus, the collectors may not have a lot of change so do try to make it exact.  
      • Cars are not allowed to the trailhead, so if you're driving, you'll need to drive and park, then take the bus.
  • Mountain huts. 
    • Paid. I've actually been to all these three. Starting 2021, some reservations are online
      • Shirakane-oike (白根御池小屋). Futon type, with women and men separated rooms. Plenty of tables inside and outside. 
      • Katanogoya (北岳肩の小屋). Less than an hour from the summit, but the hut is the biggest no-no. Imagine a big floor, and you are given half a meter wide space to put your sleeping bag on, and if you don't have a sleeping bag, you pay an additional JPY1,000 fee! And this is after paying JPY4,700! And you are not even allowed to go inside the hut or anything! Really, worst deal ever. If possible, push on the next hour and go to Kitadake-sansou. However, the camp site in the area has a great view of Mt. Fuji. 
      • Kitadake-sansou (北岳山荘). Futon type. The place is huge, has wifi if I remember correctly, and free charging! Highly recommended. It is also in between Kitadake and Ainodake, so it's a perfect spot to try to summit both mountains. 
    • Free. None.
    • Camping. Next to all of the paid mountain huts above. 
  • I would recommend doing this with Ainodake, climbing via Kitadake summit and staying at Kitakade-sansou for day 1, and the summiting Ainodake at day 2. 
    • In one hike, we arrived at Katanogoya camp site before 2pm and my partner just did Ainodake while I sleep, and was back in two or three hours. 
Itinerary
Friday
  • Train, Tokyo to Kofu Station. Stay in Kofu Station area. Some people sleep in front of the station. In our case, we camped in the castle nearby (google maps pin). Someone did see us set up camp, but he just let us be. Simple rule - leave no trace. 
Saturday
  • 04:35am. Bus, Kofu Station to 広河原
  • 06:28am. ETA: 広河原
  • 06:30am. Start hike
  • 02:00pm. Arrive at Katanogoya, set up camp. Summit Kitadake and go back to camp.
Sunday
  • 06:00am. Enjoy the sunrise, head back down. 
  • 11:00am. Back at 広河原. 
  • 11:00am. Bus, 広河原 to Kofu Station.
  • 12:55pm. ETA: Kofu Station. Train, Kofu Station to Tokyo. 
Do you see what's behind this building (toilet)? No? Good. 

The loooooong line for Hirakawara at 4am! In our case they had another bus to cover the remaining passengers that didn't fit the first one. Make sure to bring cash, and if possible, the exact amount.  

The bus at the trailhead. 

Follow the signs - or the crowd. 

There's a bridge to be crossed, and then the hike officially starts. 

This is  my view looking back at Shirakane-oike (白根御池小屋).

Same view as above, but on June. 

Back to the summer hike. Kitadake sees plenty of beautiful flowers in summer. 

See?

The walk at the ridge. 

The ridge. 

Taking a look back. 

A rather steep section. Not a lot of these. 

My almost USD50 dollar accommodation. Yes, it's that little space with someone to my left and right. 

For the June hike, we decided to camp. See Mt. Fuji in the background?

Back to July. Plenty of campers.

I had some spam while looking at Fuji. 

Sunset.

Sunrise. Or the start of sunrise. 

Hey sun!

Ok, that was blinding. 

View of Mt. Fuji from the summit. 

Another pic. Coz why not. 

Looking down at the trail to Ainodake. You can see Kitadake-sansou in the ridge. It's much bigger than it looks like. 

Aaaand we're heading back down, ending our hike. 


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