Last week I climbed Kita Yatsugatake Mt. Shimagare.
I left my car at the Moss Forest, took the Mugikusa trailhead and began the ascent to Mt. Chaosu (Mt. “tea grinding mill”). Once I reached the peak I descended the opposite side and climbed again all the way up Mt. Shimagare. It took around 2h30min. The climb is within anyone’s reach, but the ascent requires quite a lot of energy, so be prepared!
Mt. Chausu is around 2,384m. The ascent will likely leave you breathless, but the lovely moss growing on both side of the trail will make the climb very pleasant. The observation spot on top will reward you for all the effort. The forest gives way to a red-brownish earthen terrace which gives the mountain its name; from here the view is spectacular: Yatsugatake, Alps, Suwa Plain, Mt.Kuruma… you can see everything.
The route from the Moss Forest to Mt. Shimagare exhibits various natural environments, so many you will hardly believe you’re still on the same mountain chain: moist green moss in one place, reddish earth paths covered with rocks in another, fluffy grass…you cannot get bored.
You can get the first glimpse of Mt. Shimagare from the peak of Mt. Chausu. From the top down you’ll notice the mountain shows a sort of striped pattern, white and then green and then white again. Such a unique view!
This is called Fir Wave (“Striped phenomenon” in Japanese). Ever heard of it? It’s a rare phenomenon present in Japan and North America, the cause of which is yet to be fully understood. The white stripes you see are zones where trees have dried out and died, probably because of the strong wind.
The view you’re seeing today, though, will not be the same in the future. The scenery is continually changing. The dried trees fall down, giving way to the small saplings under them, which will then grow big and strong, replenishing the zone with green. The trees below will in turn dry and green will give way to white.
This kind of infinite generational change makes me think trees and humans are not that different. A tree drying out is sure a sad thought, but thanks to it the small sapling can grow big and strong. Natural environments are so perfect, yet so delicate!
When you finally reach Mt. Shimagare, you can actually walk through the Fir Wave. The dried trees blown in the wind acquire a queer beauty: the once-brown trunks turn grey and smooth. Passing under the half-collapsed trees will make you feel like you’re in a fantasy movie location. Such a mysterious atmosphere!