Thursday, 26 August 2010

So Yama and Mae Yama: Lake Numazawa's volcanic rim

A beautiful and (relatively) easy mountain circuit around the rim of an extinct volcano in Kaneyamamachi, oku Aizu, Fukishimaken

The anti-clockwise route climbs this ridge from right to left

The Numazawa volcano last erupted an estimated 5,000 years ago, leaving a caldera, now a lake 100m deep. There are two main mountains on the immediate rim: So Yama 816m (2,677ft) and Mae Yama 835m (2,739ft), both with tree covered cliffs dropping to the lake, with an undulating wooded ridge between. The circuit of the lake is completed via a lakeside path and road.

So Yama, from the climb up Mae Yama

This makes for a good medium distance run of around 2 hours - how much quicker or slower than that will depend on heat and fitness, with mostly runnable paths - unusual for this area!

As an adult walk it is a brisk 5 hours or a leisurely 7 and a half or so with children - at least that is how long it took my 8 year-old.

Glimpses of the deep viridian of the lake, with cliffs above

Starting at the signposted path up the hill past a small shrine at the northern end of the lakeside road the route zigzags onto the ridge towards So Yama. This is sharp in places and with a couple of spots requiring care, but rewarding and interesting. So Yama has masts on the top, but the view is lovely, and the descent onto the joining ridge through pleasant woodland. An undulating path takes you to the base of the climb up Mae Yama, with an easy escape route to the SW if needed.

It is a stiff pull up to the top of this loaf shaped mountain, with one corner on the path requiring care as it is by a drop disguised by scrub. The top proper is in trees, but there is a wonderful if a little nervy viewing point a little further on the path as it begins to descend.

Our visiting friends the Purvis's equipped for the wilds with smiles, dreams of flight, court shoes and plimpsoles - but no bones broken. On Mae Yama.

On a clear day you can see 50 miles from here, with the enamelled lake and it's toy village like a model in touching distance below. It's best to keep concentration though, as this is on top of a cliff, and the edge of the friable rock platform is breaking away. The descent zigzags down a rough path through shaded deciduous forest, with some venerable old beech trees with massive moss covered boles. Following the stream at the bottom gets you to the lake glimmering through dark pines and a lovely lakeside path to finish with.

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