The peaks of Nagano Prefecture are relatively inaccessible from the Kansai region, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve taken the first Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka station in order to reach numerous trailheads. It was early May, the weather looked favorable, and I was on a very tight schedule. Mt. Tateshina beckoned, and the challenge was on to conquer it as a day trip from Osaka!
The first Shinkansen rolls out of Osaka at 6am, and you can be in Nagano city around 10am by changing to the Chuo Line in Nagoya, but I was headed further south, towards Lake Suwa and Chino station. The train seemed to take forever, but I finally arrived in time to catch the 11:20am bus. I asked the driver how long it’d take to reach the trailhead, and he said I could start hiking at 12:57pm! Oops, so much for my early start. Mt. Tateshina was hidden in cloud, so I wasn’t in too much of a hurry to get up there, but was praying that the weather would clear. Sure enough, by the time I reached the start of the hike the sun was shining brightly.
The track initially climbed through bamboo grass, but quickly disappeared under a large mound of snow. I spent the next 1/2 km or so walking on top of the white stuff, wondering how much would be left on the summit. The path started entered a gully and followed it straight up. There were a few patches of snow here and there, but nothing to warrant putting on my crampons. Yatsu-ga-take was rising majestically out to my right, though the clouds were still hiding the high point of Aka-dake. Higher and higher I went, until finally reaching the huge boulder field just below the summit. This is where things got tricky, as snow was still covering most of the path. The biggest problem with walking on top of an unstable snow field is that occasionally you’ll break through the snow and realize there’s nothing below you! I did this a few times but was luckily able to dig myself out. Finally I realized that venturing off the trail was probably a better idea, and I resorted to rock hopping up to the crater rim.
The views were wonderful, with the center of the crater still filled with snow. There’s a small shrine in the middle of the summit area, and it was somewhere between the high point and here that I dropped my lens cap. It bounced off a rock and slid deeply underneath. Actually, if you look closely on the summit you can find all sorts of rubbish squeezed between the rocks. A sad state of affairs, but it really is hard to retrieve something if you drop it, and I’d wondered how many others had done the same thing as I.
Running short of time, I flew back down the same path I’d come up, just in time to catch the last bus back to Chino station. I didn’t arrive in Osaka until just before midnight, but hey, my mission was complete and in the process, I came up with another goal: a winter ascent of Tateshina from the trickier north face. The challenge was on!