Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest decision to head to the Suzuka mountains during the Golden week rush, but what other choice do you have when your target peak looks like this:
So I once again found myself on an early morning train, this time to eastern Mie Prefecture on the Kintetsu line. The fastest train took over 3 hours, so shortly before noon I boarded a taxi for the short journey to the foot of Mt. Gozaisho. The only problem was that hundreds of other hikers had exactly the same intention, and the cab ground to a halt well below the trailhead. I jumped out, opting to foot it the rest of the way, finally arriving at the entrance to the gondola that whisks lazy hikers to the summit of one of the most overdeveloped of the 200 famous mountains. Gondola, you say?
I usually turn up my nose to such modern contraptions, but my target this time around was not Gozaisho but the neighboring peak of Mt. Kama. A rugged ridge line connects the two mountains, so instead of wasting precious time ascending to the ridge, I thought it best to start directly on top. I had already climbed Gozaisho one time before from the base, so the peak was already checked off of the Kansai 100 list. The top of the gondola was teeming with tourists who were more intent on viewing the skunk cabbage in bloom than hoofing it up a mountain.
From the summit of Gozaisho, the route dropped abruptly, through an area of well-worn sandstone that gave the footwork a challenge. Chains embedded in the rock helped slow the gravitational pull, and after an hour I bottomed out at Buhei pass, pausing for a short time for mid-day sustenance. The route climbed just as abruptly on the far side of the pass, through an area of Akebono azalea in full bloom. The pink blossoms, which come to life before the foliage, contrasted starkly with the gray branches and the light blue sky above. The trail intensified in gradient through a maze of sandstone and towering boulders. Just below the final climb, ropes clung precariously to the crumbly walls of the sedimentary monolith, making for a hair-raising ascent. Two hours after setting off from the top of the gondola, I topped out on the tiny perch of a summit and collapsed against a weather-beaten boulder. The panoramic views were astounding, but I was focused more on staying hydrated and cool in the thick May air.
The route dropped dramatically on the far side of the pyramid, the sandstone giving way to hard, crystalline granite that made for a pleasant descent. The peak is a geological anomaly in the contrasting rockwork of the northern and southern faces, the likely result of fierce tectonic forces millions of years ago. At the bottom of the sharp drop I reached Dake pass, with a spur trail that dropped to the east and looped back towards the bottom of the gondola. The route was difficult to pick up as it traversed the side of a narrow gorge carved out by heavy rains and flowing streams. Paint marks on the boulders and tape marks affixed at regular intervals along the deciduous boulevard made things a bit easier, and shortly before 4pm I popped out on the main road and coasted down to the bus stop with only minutes to spare.
With Mt. Kama in the books, only two more peaks remained unscaled in the mighty Suzuka range. I’d have to wait until after leech season to seize an opportunity to visit again.