by Danielle Markewicz
As part of a training run leading up to the Mount Fuji climb, a group of us FuJETs climbed Mount Hiuchigatake in Oze National Park. Oze is a beautiful nature park located in Minami-Aizu, as far southeast as you can get and still be in Fukushima prefecture.
We arrived at Miike parking area at 10:30 am, to find the place completely covered in mist. This continued throughout the day, sometimes leaving us unable to see anything more than a dozen feet away. We lost the trail at one point, and more than a few times we got separated, only to find each other by calling “Marco Polo.” As we couldn’t see the peak, it was a great surprise when we finally stumbled upon it in the end.
The trail was along a creek bed, with plenty of rocks and tree roots to scramble over. At the beginning of the climb, the creek had slowed to barely a trickle, but that changed after the rain started later in the day. We soon discovered that it was still early in the season to climb Mount Hiuchigatake, as there was still plenty of snow around. The tricky part was that the water flowing under the snow melted it from below, while the rain and hikers’ boots wore it away from the top. It was impossible to tell how thin the snow was until your boot busted through. This kept everyone on their toes.
Mount Hiuchigatake’s peak is at 2356 feet (718m). It took about four hours for us to reach the top, and a further three hours to make our way back down. There were many steep parts to the trail, but there were also two plateaus, which gave us some much needed downtime. Mizubasho is a beautiful white flower that grows in Oze, but is quite rare elsewhere in the country. There were plenty all around the trail!
All in all, while the weather made for a difficult climb, it was great practice for Mount Fuji! It was also a great excuse to see a part of the prefecture that is off the beaten track. It was well worth the trip!
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of the Lucky Island newsletter.