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Newer Page 23 of 966 Older Full Trip Report
Japan Yamagata Hiking Mount Zao

10 November 2019

Ice capades on magic mountain

Climbing Mount Zao without the cable car

There will be no crater lake photo.
There will be lots of photos of ice, lots and lots of ice.
It is hard to photograph the wind, but I think you will see that it was very windy.

Today I climbed from Zao Onsen to the summit of Mount Zao up the forest path and across the ice, before descending back down again through the ski fields which I had completely to myself.
In fact I had both the ski fields and the forest path to myself. Only once I got above the top cable car station did I see any other people. These people were in arctic expedition gear and plodding along very slowly. My tactic was to wear minimal gear and plod along at great speed, so as not to freeze.

It probably was not as cold as that time I nearly froze to death on a mountain in Hokkaido, but it was still uncomfortably cold. Too cold to mess about taking a lot of photos. Too cold to even take a drink of water once above the ice line as I shall call it.
At times it was very hard to see where I was going, especially once my eyebrows froze. I wish I could have taken a photo of that, I have enormous eyebrows, they hold a lot of ice.

The weather actually looked good most of the way up, and all of the way down, and the pictures wont really show Mount Zao at all, as its hidden behind the icy peaks you can see. When I was on the actual summit it was just a sea of white.
I also wonder if the crater lake creates fog, as it is full of hot volcanic water. That would not explain the wind though, below the peak, no wind at all, once above the ice line, hard to stand up at all. Thankfully the ice was not slippery, It actually seemed to provide grip under foot, until mud froze solid to the bottom of my shoes. I thought the base of my feet had gone numb and I couldnt feel the ground under me any more, but no, I was walking on blocks of icy mud.

Anyway, it was a fun day, thats enough about the ice and weather until I talk more about the ice and weather in the pics below.

Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - The bus leaves from platform 1 at Yamagata station. It is more of a coach than a bus. 1000 yen each way. I had no issue getting a seat as you can see.

The bus leaves from platform 1 at Yamagata station. It is more of a coach than a bus. 1000 yen each way. I had no issue getting a seat as you can see. Nearly everyone else likes to sit right at the front. This bus has the fold down aisle seats in case they have a lot of passengers.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - The drive from the city to the Onsen town is quite spectacular. Here is a big Torii gate a restaurant has built to attract tourists.

The drive from the city to the Onsen town is quite spectacular. Here is a big Torii gate a restaurant has built to attract tourists.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - I was in town too early for much to be open. The Lawson convenience store was open, I stocked up on calorie mate and pocari sweat from there.

I was in town too early for much to be open. The Lawson convenience store was open, I stocked up on calorie mate and pocari sweat from there.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - The town is quite large, this is not really the main hot springs bit, its more the main skiing bit.

The town is quite large, this is not really the main hot springs bit, its more the main skiing bit.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - My hiking course started from about here. Today I followed a map using the Japanese social hiking app thing, Yamap. It caches a jpg to your phone so t

My hiking course started from about here. Today I followed a map using the Japanese social hiking app thing, Yamap. It caches a jpg to your phone so that it still works while out of data range.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Sulphur gas was rising out of the ground in many places. Some times strange gases come out of the ground and people die.

Sulphur gas was rising out of the ground in many places. Some times strange gases come out of the ground and people die.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - I was actually a bit surprised my path was a secluded forest path. They have left a strip of forest between the ski runs. Although it has been well ma

I was actually a bit surprised my path was a secluded forest path. They have left a strip of forest between the ski runs. Although it has been well maintained, I saw no one else at all until above the top cable car station. Lazy bastards! It was only about 90 minutes and really not that steep.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - This fallen tree branch appears to have collapsed under the weight of sea shells. I pulled a heap of them off and gave them to a little girl and now s

This fallen tree branch appears to have collapsed under the weight of sea shells. I pulled a heap of them off and gave them to a little girl and now she sells sea shells as shes coming round the mountain.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - If you squint you can see an ice covered peak with a ropeway station. Thats a different mountain though.

If you squint you can see an ice covered peak with a ropeway station. Thats a different mountain though.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - My feet got wet! There were a few streams to cross. I also saw a huge Serow, much bigger than the last two I saw on previous trips. Unfortunately he r

My feet got wet! There were a few streams to cross. I also saw a huge Serow, much bigger than the last two I saw on previous trips. Unfortunately he ran off before I could take a photo.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Nice path. I clapped a few times to alert the bears I was on my way and that they should take up a strategic attack position.

Nice path. I clapped a few times to alert the bears I was on my way and that they should take up a strategic attack position.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - The forest hiking path crossed a few ski runs. They looked interesting. So interesting I ran down them later as you shall see.

The forest hiking path crossed a few ski runs. They looked interesting. So interesting I ran down them later as you shall see.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Still below the cloud here, there is the town of Zao Onsen below. At this point I was still thinking when I got up to the summit area there would be b

Still below the cloud here, there is the town of Zao Onsen below. At this point I was still thinking when I got up to the summit area there would be blue sky. Wrong.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Sometimes the path became boulders. It was just after this photo that it was fortunate there were no other people, as I somehow dislodged a boulder th

Sometimes the path became boulders. It was just after this photo that it was fortunate there were no other people, as I somehow dislodged a boulder that tumbled down the hill. That would have been really bad news for anyone behind me.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Here is the usual, required proof that I avoided the cable car. I am far too cheap for that. And actually it is not a particularly strenuous hike. Cer

Here is the usual, required proof that I avoided the cable car. I am far too cheap for that. And actually it is not a particularly strenuous hike. Certainly not compared to Mount Tanigawa.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Time to cross another ski run. Almost in the cloud.

Time to cross another ski run. Almost in the cloud.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - The path in places at this point became very developed. Probably for people to descend from the cable car and see the snow monsters. 'Snow monsters' i

The path in places at this point became very developed. Probably for people to descend from the cable car and see the snow monsters. 'Snow monsters' is what becomes of these trees when they get completely covered in snow and ice. That only happens late in the season, probably March / April.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Ice was coming.

Ice was coming.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - I realised that it was soon going to be cold, so I messed about taking silly head shots at this point rather than later when it would be too cold.

I realised that it was soon going to be cold, so I messed about taking silly head shots at this point rather than later when it would be too cold.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Getting quite icy, but you can still see the path is dirt at this point.

Getting quite icy, but you can still see the path is dirt at this point.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Further up the mountain, lots of ice. But I was still in for a surprise once I got to the summit ridge area.

Further up the mountain, lots of ice. But I was still in for a surprise once I got to the summit ridge area.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - The path became icy, but like I said earlier, it was never slippery.

The path became icy, but like I said earlier, it was never slippery.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - It was just as well it was not slippery, as this part of the path was a very narrow trail along a steep hill. I dont think I actually would have plumm

It was just as well it was not slippery, as this part of the path was a very narrow trail along a steep hill. I dont think I actually would have plummeted if I slid off, it would have been more a fun controlled slide down. Still, I did not want to find out. I suspect the real path had disappeared in a recent season in an avalanche.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Then I popped out onto the ridge to the summit. It was amazingly windy. This little person froze to death.

Then I popped out onto the ridge to the summit. It was amazingly windy. This little person froze to death.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - That is just a pole, with ice hanging off it. Very interesting. Such wind!

That is just a pole, with ice hanging off it. Very interesting. Such wind!


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - The poles were very useful in near white out conditions.

The poles were very useful in near white out conditions.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Very near the summit, the sun almost came out. It was too cold to hang around, and the actual lake is a few hundred metres below, and that direction w

Very near the summit, the sun almost came out. It was too cold to hang around, and the actual lake is a few hundred metres below, and that direction was just a sea of fog. I think it probably still is. I hope it is. I hope it didnt clear up minutes after I left. I could not stand up properly on the actual summit to take a photo.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Time to start retracing my steps. Quickly. To warmth.

Time to start retracing my steps. Quickly. To warmth.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - The cloud was higher than before on the way down, which afforded me a great view.

The cloud was higher than before on the way down, which afforded me a great view.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Here is one of the ski paths I crossed earlier. It was at this point I decided to run down all the ski paths rather than following the same forest tra

Here is one of the ski paths I crossed earlier. It was at this point I decided to run down all the ski paths rather than following the same forest trail I used on the way up.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - There is a whole network of connected ski trails. Lots of ropeways but these were not operating yet. There was no one else at all on the side of the m

There is a whole network of connected ski trails. Lots of ropeways but these were not operating yet. There was no one else at all on the side of the mountain. Quite surreal.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - A view across the valley.

A view across the valley.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - I was still quite high at this point, but warm again, allowing me to take too many photos while running down ski slopes.

I was still quite high at this point, but warm again, allowing me to take too many photos while running down ski slopes.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Here, have another. Its certainly a great view from here, over half way down!

Here, have another. Its certainly a great view from here, over half way down!


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Still following ski trails, without much of a plan, I just generally headed down whichever one seemed to head closer to the town.

Still following ski trails, without much of a plan, I just generally headed down whichever one seemed to head closer to the town.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Almost there. That icy peak is not Zao. Mount Zao is to the right and behind that area. I was hoping it was still fogged in!

Almost there. That icy peak is not Zao. Mount Zao is to the right and behind that area. I was hoping it was still fogged in!


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - And then I got back to the road, and this cat came over, and flopped onto my shoes and demanded I give him a good scratch.

And then I got back to the road, and this cat came over, and flopped onto my shoes and demanded I give him a good scratch.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - His friend watched on with great envy.

His friend watched on with great envy.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Soon after I was back at Zao Onsen, these people are drying daikon on their balcony. They thought it was weird I was taking a photo of their window. T

Soon after I was back at Zao Onsen, these people are drying daikon on their balcony. They thought it was weird I was taking a photo of their window. They probably went and called the police.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - It does not show up too well in the photo, but theres a lot of noxious sulphur gas coming up out of here. It was also coming out of grates in the road

It does not show up too well in the photo, but theres a lot of noxious sulphur gas coming up out of here. It was also coming out of grates in the roads. I still smell of sulphur now. More so than usual. Sorry spellchecker, I refuse to write SULFUR.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - I had 30 minutes until the bus, time to run up the steps to the shrine.

I had 30 minutes until the bus, time to run up the steps to the shrine.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Here is a view of the Onsen area. Best I could do with limited time.

Here is a view of the Onsen area. Best I could do with limited time.


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - There are lots of public spots to soak your feet. There is also apparently, A MIXED BATH!!!! Hidden in the mountains! Perverts from around the world t

There are lots of public spots to soak your feet. There is also apparently, A MIXED BATH!!!! Hidden in the mountains! Perverts from around the world travel to go there. There is talk of closing it because of this. People have been caught filming morally questionable movies in the outdoor mixed bath!


Japan-Yamagata-Hiking-Mount Zao - Last picture of the day, from the bus window. I was thrilled to find out I could open my bus window. The other people on the bus enjoying the 30+ cels

Last picture of the day, from the bus window. I was thrilled to find out I could open my bus window. The other people on the bus enjoying the 30+ celsius bus air conditioning were not thrilled.


NewerPage 23 of 966OlderFull Trip Report