At the tip of Lake Biwa there sits a circular body of water by the name of Lake Yogo. It is completely framed in on three sides by peaks of a small but by no means unimportant stature. The southern shores of the pond rise sharply to the historically significant Mt. Shizu, which affords views of both Yogo and Biwa, as well as an array of peaks rising off towards the northeast. It was on a winter excursion to this summit several winters ago that I spied a collection of snow-capped beauties serving as the boundary between the Kansai and Hokuriku regions. One of these snow bluffs is known as the Mt. Nanazu, the peak of the seven heads. The adjacent mountain, Mt. Yokoyama, is also on the list of Kansai Hyakumeizan, but it requires a monumental effort to climb if relying on public transport. Nanazu rises to the modest height of 693 meters, and the bus connections from Kinomoto make it an alluring destination for another March outing. It’s just one week after the test hike of Mt. Yura, and with both the air pressure high and the pollen counts low, I set my sights on checking another mountain off the list before the true arrival of spring.
Although Kinomoto station sits on the eastern shores of Lake Biwa just a handful of stops north of the notable town of Nagahama, getting there in time for the 9:31am bus proved to be a big challenge. Fortunately, the Shinkansen runs up to Maibara station, which is only a 25-minutes by local train to Kinomoto. Though more costly, taking the fast train meant that I could lie in bed an extra hour. The bus to the trailhead was completely empty except for a father-and-son duo who got off at Sakaguchi to visit the mountainside shrine of Omi Tenmangu. I stayed on for about 10 more minutes until the knobby features of Mt. Nanatsu came into view. My eyes were immediately drawn to the outline of the peak converging to a knobby knuckle towering directly above. Perhaps this mountain would not give in so easily.
The initial part of the approach was by way of a gravel forest road that dead-ended at a bend in the swollen river. A small signpost indicated that the way to the summit lie just ahead, so I followed the well-worn path as it switchbacked towards the ridge. The trail wasted no time in gaining altitude, and soon the views not only opened up to the village below, but out to the Makino mountains lying due west. To my right, along a parallel ridge, the towering massif of Yokoyama dominated the entire eastern side of the horizon, fresh snow swirling from its lofty perch in a brave-hearted imitation of Sagarmāthā.
The forest here was mostly natural, with a few cedar trees thrown in to remind us that civilization lay not far away. Once the ridge was reached, the first remnants of winter became clear, as the trail disappeared under a long patch of wet, slushy snow. The snow was initially just a series of small tufts but eventually became deeper and more pronounced slightly below the summit. Beech trees swayed gently in the spring winds, patiently awaiting for the warmer temperatures that would catalyze the growth of their summer clothes.
I reached the summit shortly before noon and found a pair of shrines whose roofs were lightly dusted with free snowfall that had come the previous evening. Perhaps spring was not quite ready to make an appearance in these secluded heights of northern Shiga.
My map indicated a small pond just a short five-minute detour from the summit, but the deep drifts of snow made the footing precarious without crampons. I gave up, retreating back to the hut when nature decided to call. I always carry an emergency supply of toilet paper for just these kinds of situations and, when foraging around the inside of the shrine, I came across a shovel that also came in handy. It was as if Inspector Gadget had made an earlier ascent with me in mind.
After loitering in the warm sunshine, I gave up attempting a descend down the northern face because the trail was still frozen and there was absolutely no trace. There was no use in repeating the mistakes from Jyatani, so I simply retraced my steps back down to the river and sat by the swift-flowing waters fueled by fresh snowmelt.
My 56th meizan was now crossed off the list, and with plans for Aoba in the works, I knew that reaching the magic #60 wouldn’t take too long.