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Day Five: To Sugoroku Goya

Day Five: To Sugoroku Goya

I’d been looking forward to this stretch of the hike. The guidebook recommended heading straight to Yarigatake, roughly 8-10h away, but we’d learned our lesson – clear skies in this region only seemed to last until midday or so, after which the storms would reign until the early evening or beyond. It seemed meaningless to spend even more time hiking in the rain with no visibility, so we decided to walk for 4h towards Sugoroku Goya. That meant we had plenty of time to take it easy and enjoy ourselves.

A drizzle followed us up through the forest but started to clear as we began to climb Mitsumata-renge-dake. It was really quite beautiful to see the misty shroud rise up, dissipating as it did so, and leaving us with the spectacular view of all the mountain ranges against a bright, blue sky. The Alps stretched for miles in every direction.

Gorgeous blue sky

An older Japanese gentleman, Taro san, was following the same trail from Kurobegoro Goya. We passed each other a few times, switching leads as we each paused at different spots to take photos or simply to admire the scenery. The ascent grew steadily steeper but that didn’t bother me in the slightest – the sun was out, time was on our side, and I was singing as I walked along. Days like these are a large part of why I hike.

We soon came to the junction where the trail split, with one leading down to Sugoroku Goya through a valley, and the other leading up through the more exposed peak of Sugoroku before winding back down to the hut. Unlike the previous day, where the grey skies deterred us from summiting Kurobegorodake, we were confident that the weather would hold – so we stuck to the ridge and headed upwards.

Walking towards Sugorokudake

Have I mentioned how much I love mountains? I know friends who enjoy the saltiness of the sea breeze, the crash of the waves, the feeling of sand beneath their toes; I know other friends who could lose themselves for hours in rainforests, in the lush scent of leaves and wood after the rain, in the millions of creatures who live there.

But for me, it’s the mountains that make my heart sing. I will keep climbing and climbing until I’m above the tree line, then as I draw a breath of the crisp, clear air and take in the panoramic views around me… that’s when I feel alive. There is something invigorating yet humbling about the rugged crags, the endlessly zig-zagging ridges, the hardiness of the flora and fauna that in the higher altitudes. It makes me feel small, yet simultaneously as free and vast as the sky.

Basking in the sun

Basking in the sun

The rest of the ascent was fairly unremarkable. That said, you could tell that this was a less isolated part of the Alps – at one point, we ran into a part of twenty or so middle-aged Japanese hikers, led by a tour guide who was coaxing them along. We were in an area that could be accessed not just via our route but through several others, and public transport options could be found only a day away. It also meant that the trails were very well marked.

There was a fairly flat stretch right before the summit, with a playground-like scattering of rocks and shrubs to either side. I pretty much skipped my way along. By that point, we were up high enough that occasional clouds would drift by and turn everything white and misty for a while. We had to stow the camera away due to moisture, but the weather was still more than fine enough for us to find a nearby boulder and eat our bento lunch before heading down again.

View of the valley

View of the valley

From memory, the descent only lasted half an hour or so. Bruno stopped several times to catch photos of the raichou (rock ptarmigan, whose name means “thunder bird” in Japanese), but even so, Sugoroku Goya was soon in sight. We thought the weather would stay clear for another hour so we just sat there and chatted for a while, exchanging pleasantries and exclamations of “ganbatte kudasai” and “ki o tsukete ne” with Japanese hikers who passed us on their way up. Looking at the greying skies, I’ll have to admit that I was glad to be at the tail end of our hike rather than the beginning.

View from Sugorokudake

View from Sugorokudake

It only took us another twenty or so minutes to reach the hut from our vantage point, and sure enough, Sugoroku Goya lived up to its reputation as a large, well-maintained hut. After checking in just before midday, we headed to one of the common rooms where I ordered ramen for a second lunch (though to be fair, I think the earlier bento really should have been considered brunch rather than lunch).

We then spent a while hanging out with Taro-san, the elderly Japanese man we’d met the day before, and learnt that he’d hiked both the northern and southern parts of the Alps more times and in more ways than we could count. As we spread out the maps on the tatami mats (we had #36 and #37 from yamachizu, but he had several more), he started telling us stories of all the peaks and huts he’d visited, and giving us recommendations for food, onsens, routes, and so forth. He mentioned that he’d never really interacted with foreigners before but we still found his Japanese very understandable, and he was patient with us as we scrambled around for vocabulary, particularly when we started getting to more complex topics like politics, culture and the art of preparing sashimi. I really enjoyed the conversation, both for the Japanese practice and for the sheer amount I learned.

After that came a nap and some reading time, followed by dinner in the early evening. We shared our dorm room with a Japanese couple, one of whom snored quite heavily, so I headed to bed right after dinner to try to fall asleep before they returned to the bedroom. It must have worked because the next thing I knew, it was time to pack up and head downstairs for breakfast.

 

 

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