For some reason, Mt. Tsubone is referred to as the Yari-ga-take of Kansai, but it seems like a bit of a stretch, unless you find the right angle. On a frigid winter day, on the summit of mountain #50 to be exact, a spear-like mountain did catch my eye, causing me to consult my map and wonder if it, too, were on the list of venerable 100.
The answer was in the affirmative, and so I set my sights for a clear weather climbing window in late summer. Time time around Paul M. and I were joined by Josh, a 40-something Californian snowboard and surfing hound turned part-time hiker. He picked us up at Yagi station in eastern Nara Prefecture and we scooted along route 166 under sunny skies and balmy temperatures. The rural route gained altitude via curving switchbacks to the base of Mt. Takami, where a long tunnel through the heart of the mountain spit us out into Mie Prefecture and into unexpected rains. It turns out that the Daiko mountains, for which Mt. Takami forms the northernmost edge, are a bit of microclimate, trapping in moisture throughout the year. We parked at the trailhead to our target peak, sorting through gear for things to help keep us dry.
The mountain hung heavy in the sticky air, the clouds gripping tightly to the summit like a toddler clinging to its mothers’ warm bosom. After a bit of a false start up a paved forest road, we spotted the unmarked trailhead thanks to a pre-set GPS bearing and trudged up through a thicket of planted cedar and cypress. After only five minutes I stripped off the rain jacket and opted for just a short-sleeved t-shirt. Temperatures were in the low 30s and the rain was anything but refreshing.
After half an hour up the trail we left the cedars behind and entered a deciduous oasis or moss-covered boulders and trickling streams that brought thoughts of the Omine mountains to mind. In our steady pace I had somehow attracted the attention of a pesky hornet, who continually pounced upon my backpack like it was some long-sworn enemy. After the fifth or sixth round I dropped my gear and stripped away my black rain cover, exposing the vibrant reddish-orange hues of the original pack fabric. The hornet shuffled off to play with something a bit more interesting while I continued on in a more relaxed pace. Apparently the bees are strongly attracted to the color black – lesson learned.
The rain abated as we hit the summit ridge, but the fog did not loosen its tight grip, lending an ethereal air to the already surreal landscape. Josh was utterly fascinated by a spectacle I’ve long grow accustomed to over the years. I will admit though, that a pristine forest draped in cloud is a thousand times more pleasant that a slog through a carpet of waist-high creeping pine and weather-beaten rocks.
Shortly after lunch the three of us popped out on the high point and immediately parked our wet, sweaty bodies on a wooden bench. Paul M. broke out the coffee cups while I chugged away at the sports drink. The top was marred by a microwave antenna jutting out on the northern face of the peak. As we sipped on our mountain mochas the clouds broke up, yielding brief glimpses of the Daiko mountains rising gallantly to the south. Josh moved closer to the microwave antenna for a better view but was immediately driven back by a swarm of bees who had nested themselves on the narrow summit plateau. Perhaps we should have saved this mountain for the cooler months when the insects are less sprightly.
We retreated the way we had come, veering right at the first trail junction at the start of the ridge for a variation loop on the descent. This route yielded scenery no different from our climbing route, but it did offer us a chance to stretch our muscles by meandering through some long switchbacks carved into the cedar plantation. By the time we had reached the forest road the mountain was bathed in unexpected sunshine. Despite our untimely visit we still had an enjoyable time on Kansai’s very own Mt. Yari. It wasn’t as steep or daunting as its more prominent cousin in the Kita Alps, but it was still a worthy investment of our time. And with mountain #65 out of the way I could finally start counting down the remaining peaks instead of counting up, as I had reached the edge of the tipping point in my quest for the Kansai 100.