Wednesday, 7 August 2013

North Alps (北アルプス) traverse (Sarukura to Ogisawa)

A short video diary from a traverse I did in the North Alps last weekend, from Sarukura to Ogisawa.

A few stats about the traverse:

Map sheets: 34 + 35 [Yama-to-kougen-chizu (山と高原地図) series]

Start: 12:28pm Fri 02 August '13 at Sarukura (猿倉

Finish: 14:52pm Sat 03 August '13 at Ogisawa (扇沢)

Total time: 26h24m (includes a 6-hour bivouac on Mt Karamatsu)

Major summits crossed:
Mt Shirouma (2932m 白馬岳)
Mt Karamatsu (2696m 唐松岳)
Mt Goryu (2814m 五竜岳)
Mt Kashimayari (2889m 鹿島槍ヶ岳)
Mt Jiigatake (2669m 爺ケ岳)

This traverse could almost certainly be done substantially quicker, by a fitter runner carrying no bivvy gear or stove.  Given the nature of the terrain, I think that a more stable period of weather would be desirable in order to ditch the bivvy gear... Strong cross-winds and wet rock did not make for a particularly fast passage between Tengudaira and Karamatsudake, whereas with bone dry rock the following morning from the ascent of Goryudake onwards it was 'game on'.  My choice to bivvy for a few hours was based entirely on the weather conditions after sunset, and was not part of my original plan... Given the wind and temperatures after dark I felt the decision to carry basic bivvy gear with such a forecast was a wise one, and chose to wait it out for a few hours at Karamatsu.  As it turned out, the morning was glorious and after setting out again at about 4am there were no further issues, and the 6 hours spent in the bivvy allowed me to enjoy the kiretto between Goryu and Kashimayari in daylight and fantastic conditions.

To conclude, I feel that this is one of the premier ridge traverses in Japan, taking in an ascent of the daisekkei (大雪渓), three big hyakumeizan peaks, and hours of superb rock scrambling in exhilerating and exposed positions.  It certainly gave me an enormous sense of satisfaction.

I would be interested to hear from anyone else who tries for a fast time on this ridgeline.  Alternatively, if you fancy hiking it at a more leisurely pace, take a look at the description on pages 197-202 in the Lonely Planet 'Hiking in Japan' guidebook, where it gets a very enthusiastic write-up and is split up into a more manageable four day hike.

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