Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Exterior Mountain #1. Mocchomu-Dake

 Of all of Yakushima's Exterior Mountains, this is one of the most popular peaks. It's an intense uphill climb, and, tragically, weary hikers have gotten lost, but the rewards are plentiful.


Senpiro Falls
 The trail head is located next to the Senpiro Falls viewing area, in Yakushima's relatively sunny south. To see this waterfall is to understand the treacherous nature of Yakushima's geography. It's said that a group from mainland Japan was enjoying the river upstream, when they were caught in a storm and washed away while trying to cross. 


If you've done a lot of hiking in Japan before, than you may be used to this sort of medium-maintenance trail. As with most hikes off the beaten path, you won't find any wooden staircases. Instead you'll be searching for trail markers (pink tape) as you go an navigating rocks, roots, and a couple streams. The terrain can be slippery and foggy. Get an early start so that nightfall doesn't catch you on this trail.


Bandai Sugi
Between the first and second stream, it's a steep uphill climb. But two large Yakusugi, Bandai Sugi and Taro are waiting ahead. (If you feel warn out, know that the local kidergarten does an annual hike to Bandai Sugi!) Be careful not to injure the tree as you take a rest among the roots of Bandai Sugi.


Coptis Ramosa
Fill up your water bottle at the second stream, and the third one if it's flowing, because it's much dryer near the peak. Notice how the flora changes from mossy valleys and subtropical broadleaf species to conifers and even bamboo grass after you pass over the ridge and head down to the summit. Watch for coptis flowers in late winter, high-altitude rhododendrons in the late spring, and colorful insects in the summer. In the fall, keep an eye out for parasitic plants near the bottom. Oh, and don't overlook the bug-eating sundews in the parking lot! If you're lucky, you may stumble across an orchid in bloom, a piece of quartz, or a tribe of monkeys, but remember that this is part of the protected Natural World Heritage Site.

コケに覆われた谷に付き、おいしい水はありますし、どんどん登ると、植物の垂直分布はきれいに見えます。標高が高くなると、冬か春ならオウレン 、夏ならシャクナゲが咲いて、色とりどりの虫が飛びます。秋なら、標高の低い所で、寄生植物が見つけられるかもしれません。駐車場にも面白い植物がありますよ。それは、虫を食べるコモウセンゴケです。(本当の苔ではありません。)運が良ければ、ランの仲間、水晶、猿との出会いも可能ですが、この山道は世界遺産に含まれていますので、充分ご注意下さい。

Alas, the peak!
To visit Mocchomu-Dake, you should be in good physical shape. You'll be climbing over roots and rocks in one minute and holding on to them tight the next. To make it up the last few meters, you'll want your hands completely free to hoist yourself up a final rope. Bring a lunch, a water bottle, and a light jacket even in the summer. Depending on your cell phone carrier, you'll be within cell phone contact for most of the way, but especially if you don't have a cell phone, I suggest carrying even a minimal first aid kit and a whistle.


Shrine at the peak

The beauty of this mountain goes beyond its physical description. There's a certain peace to be had after visiting the small shrine and sitting on the rocks at the peak, looking out over southeastern Yakushima.


Peak Elevation: 940m
Trail Head Elevation: ~350m
Map time: 6+ hours round trip for people in top shape. 8+ hours is typical.
Bus stop: It's a long walk from the main road, but that doesn't stop people.