Hiking matters #599: Yarigatake to Hotakadake Traverse Day 2 – Daikiretto (大キレット)

Daikiretto 3
TOKYO – After a restful sleep and early breakfast at Yarigatake Sanso, I set off for the most exciting 9 kilometres of the hike. It would be a traverse from Mt. Yari to Mt. Hotake, via a ridge that passes through several of Japan’s highest peaks: Yarigatake (槍ヶ岳; 3180m – #5); Obamidake (大喰岳; 3101m – #10),  Nakadake (中岳; 3084m – #12), Minamidake (南岳; 3032m – #17), Kitahotakadake (北穂高岳; 3106m – #9), Karasawadake (涸沢岳; 3110m – #8), and finally, Okuhotakadake (奥穂高岳; 3190m; #3). Between Minamidake and Kitahotakadake lies the feared Daikiretto (大キレット) – literally the ‘big cut’, considered one of the most challenging trails in Japan, even as the entire day can be considered a big challenge.

Daikiretto 2

The day can be divided into three parts: (1) the ‘warm up’ from Yari to Minamidake; (2) the Daikiretto; and (3) Kitahotaka to Okuhotaka via Karasawa. I would say that in terms of difficulty, the three can be apportioned with the following percentages: 15-50-35. Auspiciously, I woke up to see a distant Mt. Fuji behind the Southern Alps helmed by Mt. Notoridake. I started the hike at exactly 0600H. From Yari to Minamidake, one follows the ridgeline trail that features 3000-meter peaks and a (relatlively) gradual trail connecting them.

Daikiretto 4

The ‘fun’ begins past Minami-dake, when the Daikiretto commences – in my case, at 0813H. One takes the ‘plunge’ to a 300-meter ‘cut’ between two 3000-meter peaks; the descent through steel ladders, metal ropes, and precipitous slopes never seem to end.

Daikiretto 7

And just as when you think the descent is over, there are several ups and downs in the middle before finally ascending again. This is a trail that must be taken with utmost seriousness and caution. But at the same time, it’s an exhilarating ride: one that must be relished and enjoyed! (Sadly, I was hiking by myself and wasn’t able to take too many pictures).

Daikiretto 6

Finally, at 1101H, I arrived at the Kitahotaka-sanso, completing (and surviving) the notorious route! Looking at the spear-shaped Yari behind me and the great gap I had just crossed, I was filled with a reverence for the wondrousness of the Earth itself. I rewarded myself with a lunch of ramen and some drinks, but as it turns out, it was too early to celebrate. Almost as tough as the Daikiretto – albeit markedly less technical – is the traverse to Karasawa-dake. At the end of it, at last, is the destination for the day: Hotakadake Sansō, where I would spend the night. Continued in Hiking matters #600.

Daikiretto 10

Daikiretto 1

Hiking matters #596: Takao-Jinba traverse, revisited
Hiking matters #597: Mt. Fuji for the fourth time
Hiking matters #598: Yarigatake to Hotakadake Traverse Day 1
Hiking matters #599: Yarigatake to Hotakadake Traverse Day 2
Hiking matters #600: Yarigatake to Hotakadake Traverse Day 3

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