The Benefits of a Local Guide (Part Two) – Yatsugatake Mountains

“On a Mish” #198 The Benefits of a Local Guide (Part Two). Yatsugatake Mountains. Yatsugatake Cushin Kogen Quasi National Park. Japan. 9.6.2013. I have been extremely lucky on my overseas adventures to have knowledgeable guides leading the way. In Nepal I have had no issues with following the fellas that not only made sure I got to where we were going safely, but also provided entertainment and care that would lead to friendships forming. Local knowledge can be the key to a successful trip in a country where English isn’t spoken very much. I can also say for sure that my trip to Japan wouldn’t have been as epic if it wasn’t for my local guide…

Ladders and chains make for mostly one way traffic and, while climbing up one particularly long ladder, I looked up to see people patiently waiting for me to get to the top. I thanked them with my minimal Japanese and then realised that they were all much older than me and my girlfriend. Both puzzled and amazed (both of us) a quick chat had them nodding in approval at my homeland of Aotearoa. This continued in each place where we had to stop and wait for others to climb either up or down. It is safe to say that something like this would never get the go ahead in New Zealand thanks to good old H & S!

After traversing most of the ridge on our first day we dropped down to a campsite nestled amongst the trees high up in the mountains. After picking a good spot we kicked back and enjoyed some food. As it was a weekend we watched the campground fill up with so many tents that there wasn’t any vacant ground left. This totally blew my mind as I had never seen so many tents in one place. It really showed me what having a much larger population meant for the mountain regions of Japan. And it made me think how lucky we are in New Zealand as we can go to many awesome places and often be the only ones there. While Japan might have more people than New Zealand, like my homeland it doesn’t lack mountainous beauty.

In expected polite Japanese fashion the campsite went silent at night. Well, apart from a group of young fellas camping directly beside us. Arriving late, the group disturbed the peaceful environment like an avalanche peeling off a glacier. And like the wild wrath of rock, ice and snow that comes with an avalanche, my girlfriend sent a barrage of words to silence the tranquillity terminators. I’m not sure what was said, but a few harsh sounding words in Japanese from my guide quickly sent the campground back to silence.

Looking back at the mountains we had traversed

Early-ish the next morning we set out to climb the remaining peaks in the range, which included the highest point.

It didn’t take long for the hiking trails to turn back into another exciting day of climbing chains, ladders, and sometimes a bit of free-climbing on the volcanic rock. There were two options for upward travel in the steeper places, and when the ladders were loaded with others we would climb around the blockage on rock which was incredibly grippy. The exposure made the experience seem more raw and real when compared with the chains and ladders, but the well worn trail did mean you could travel the alpine terrain much quicker than if it wasn’t there.

After topping out at the highest point we returned to the campground and then continued the downward trend as we headed towards the bus back to civilization.

Not only was the mish one with epic views, but thanks to my guide I had insider information and track knowledge the entire time. When visiting a foreign land I highly recommend getting the assistance of a local guide. The benefits are endless and it is a sure way of getting up and down a mountain or two safe and sound!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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