Route 341 is a long, curve laden thoroughfare that would take me to the turnoff for the appropriately named ‘Hachimantai Aspite Line’, the main access route for my target peak of the day. As with the majority of the Hyakumeizan, my biggest challenge would lie in how to get there. The plan was to hitch along the busy road after taking the train to a station that offered a good chance of finding a ride: an easy task when you’re armed with Google maps, but an absolute crap shoot when referencing the area on the back of a ‘Yama to Kougen’ map at a scale of 1:350,000.
I lost the dice roll on this one, as I foolishly decided that the station after ‘Hachimantai’ would get me even closer to my desired destination. The train, much to my horror, turned away from route 341 and headed further inland. I jumped off at Yuze Hot Spring and immediately started backtracking along the deserted road. Future hitchhikers should note that Rikuchuusato station does, in fact, offer the best place to catch a ride. Lesson learned. After a 30-minute stroll, I managed to find the road of my choice and stuck out my thumb. “Toroku Onsen”, I answered, when the first car stopped to ask me my destination. The kind elderly couple took me to the start of the Aspite road, where I happened to check the bus schedule. “Wow, only 2 minutes until the next one,” I exclaimed, deciding to abandon my final hitch in favor of a guaranteed ride to the peak.
A gigantic parking lot and rest house were patiently awaiting as I exited the empty bus. I silently ate my lunch and prepared myself for the 10-minute death march to the summit, for Hachimantai has been completely robbed of its dignity through a series of intertwining concrete paths. While the paths do meander through a couple of scenic alpine lakes, the masses of crowds mar the beauty of an area once teeming with tranquil ponds. Still, I pushed on to the high point, taking a quick photo before descending to a large lake below. Instead of heading straight back to the massive parking lot, I thought Hachimantai deserved at least a few hours of my time, and I was duly rewarded for my investment.
The trail between Ryoun hut and Mt. Chausu was completely deserted and utterly breathtaking in its beauty. Pristine marshlands, migratory birds, and fantastic weather kept my spirits uplifted on the easy stroll. Just below the summit of Mt. Chausu I caught my first glimpse of the towering cone of Mt. Iwate. If all went according to plan I’d be sitting on the crater rim in the morning. I reached the summit, spending close to an hour in complete silence observing the spectacle all around. It was nice to know that, despite the encroachment of man-made obstacles, there were still areas spared the wrath of public works spending.
I meandered down to the Aspite line, waiting in vain for one hour until someone finally picked me up and took me to Hachimantai hot spring. The campground was closed and completely deserted, so I used this as an excuse to camp in an exquisite public park with unobstructed views of Iwate’s massive crater. The stage was set for the 4th peak on my unprecedented journey and the first of the tough mountains.