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Thursday, September 14, 2017, 6:13 PM
3. Mount Kita (北岳), 4. Mount Nakashirane (中白峰山) & 5. Mount Aino (間ノ岳), Minami Alps, Yamanashi/Shizouka

Mount Kita (3,193m/10,476ft) is the second tallest mountain after Fuji-san, Mount Aino is the 4th tallest in Japan, while Mount Nakashirane (3,055m /) is located between these two giants. And all of them are a part of Akaishi Mountains−Southern Alps, in Minami Alps (南アルプス Minami-Arupusu) National Park, Shizouka prefecture. Going here isn't hard as it is can easily be accessed by public transport.

Shinjuku (train) - Kofu (train) - Hirogawara trailhead (bus schedule)

We arrived at Hirogawara trailhead around noon, but we could not start the trekking yet as we were still waiting for another two team members to arrive. They missed their flight a day before. So we decided to stay for a night at Hirogawara-sanso (mountain hut). 

Even though there's no permit issued for mountains in Japan, hikers still need to pay for facilities (if they ever use one). For instance :-

1. Toilet (100yen)
2. Campsite (500yen)
3. Water (100yen per liter)
4. Charging gadget (100yen)
5. Mountain hut (price range is usually from 4000 - 6000yen)

We started our journey to Kitadake the next day in the morning. The trail and signage were pretty well-marked and well-maintained. Clear trail all the way, But still, I used Yamap GPS as precaution. It took about 4 hours 30 minutes trekking to another mountain hut, Shiraneoikekoya (mountain hut). 

And then we proceed to Kitadake Katanokoya (mountain hut) and stayed overnight. 6 people (including me) managed to reach the mountain hut before sunset. While the others came around 9-10 PM. The organizer and the other guy (line-up) had to go back to rescue them. 

We woke up around 2AM in the morning for summit attack. It was very cold in mountain area despite the summer season. We reached the peak of Kitadake after 1 hours and 30 minutes of trekking. We stopped for awhile to regroup with other team members before continued our journey to Mount Nakashirane. After about 2 hours trekking, we reached Kitadakesanso. 

We had some issues here where some of the members did not want to proceed to the other two mountains as they did not have enough rest because they reached Kitadake Katanokoya pretty late last night. Besides, we had to speed up our pace a little bit to catch time. So, few people decided to stay at Kitadakesanso (as they were not confident enough that they can keep up with our pace) while the rest continued the journey.

It took about 1 hour to reach to the second peak, Mount Nakashirane. We did not stay for long as we were quite behind the schedule. After few minutes of rest, we proceed to Ainodake, which took us only about 1 hour to get there. Thank goodness the weather was nice towards us that day. Despite the challenging trail, we were quite lucky to be given a chance to experience sunrise and sea of clouds along the way. 

Without wasting our time, we descended as fast as we could to Kitadake Katanoya which took us about 6 hours. We packed our stuff, then headed down to Hirogawarasanso, but then due to certain issues (again), we could not make it to the trail-head on that day. We had to spend another night at Shiraneoikekoya. And this is when I suddenly became their runner/shooter to book rooms at the mountain hut. And thank goodness I was quite fit to run all the way down as fast as I could before sunset. I somehow managed to get there in time and booked it for all of us despite the language barrier (thank god for sign/body language).

This time, I had ample time to wander around, observe and use the facilities in mountain hut. What impressed me the most is, they have heated room for wet hiking clothes, stuff. So we can dry it right away while doing other things. And it's free. But this room, however, have time limit. They will make an announcement for hikers to pick up their stuff before they close the room, which is pretty convenient. 

In most of mountain huts, they provide weather forecast because the Japanese are particular when it comes to this. And their forecast is pretty accurate too. Another thing foreign hikers should take note is noise. Usually the guests in any guesthouses or mountain huts are advised to not make noise after 9 or 10PM. It is Japanese culture to sleep and rise early. So make sure you respect and follow their rules.

We continued our journey to Hirogawara-sanso (trailhead) the next morning. We also spared some time to visit their Information Center while waiting for the bus. I managed to get the mountains' stamp, took some pamphlet and bought souvenirs. 

Bidding goodbye to Minami Alps was probably the saddest thing I had to do because I love these mountains so much. The view, the trail, the surrounding, the people, are not something one can easily forget. I will definitely come again to enjoy the whole view of this mountain range. 

So this is basically summary of our hiking journey, and this is only the ascent part because we used the same trail for descend, so it was pretty much the same.

Shinjuku (train) - Kofu (train) - Hirogawara-sanso (trailhead) - Kitadake Katanokoya - Mount Kita (Kitadake) - Kitadake-sanso - Mount Nakashirane (Nakashiranesan) - Mount Aino (Ainodake) 

p/s : If you ever want to organize a hiking trip, make sure it is properly plan and you have enough crews to cater the needs of participants. Your participants are not your crew and if you gain income from the trip, the trip is definitely not trip 'kawan-kawan'. Don't take people for granted and don't simple crush the trust you have earned up until now. 

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