Ascent of Miyanoura-dake on 2016-07-28

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Others in Party:Sean "Run Bum" Blanton
Date:Thursday, July 28, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:6352 ft / 1936 m

Ascent Trip Report

Yakushima Mountain Ultra - a ~55km South-North traverse of Yakushima in one day, involving over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. From sea level to ~6250 ft back down to sea level over some very difficult trails. To date, there is no known prior single-day attempt of this traverse. This is normally completed in a 3-day, 2-night trip, staying at mountain huts along the way.

7-26-2016: Arrival in Yakushima.
Sean and I arrived at Yakushima at around 11am after taking the 8,800 Yen Hydrofoil from Kagoshima. Checked in at Miyanoura Youth Hostel at 3,400 Yen per night. Acquiring trail maps, it soon became clear we needed to complete the traverse of the island, in one day, no less. Many of the locals we spoke with laughed and called us crazy. Asking if we were going to enjoy the scenery. Our response was, of course, that's what we're here for. To do crazy stuff and enjoy the scenery :)
We visited Isso beach on our bus passes with a friendly local girl working at the hostel, Marie. Sean and I explored a bit and ran out to a shrine at the end of the rocky cliffs we could see in the distance. Really cool and kind of weird - looked like a movie set.

7-27-2016: Preparation for island traverse.
We made reservations at the youth hostel in South Village. To get there, we had recruited Marie, who was eager to help out. Sean and I couldn't rent a car or scooter because we didn't have international drivers licenses, so Marie offered to drive us. She needed to be at work by 9am the next morning. The south side of the island is more wild and undeveloped. We visited the Hirauchi Kaichu Onsen - a tidal wild hot springs, which is only accessible during low tide. Our window was between 5:40-7:40pm. Sean, myself, and many naked Japanese people enjoyed a nice soak in the hot springs. A visit to Oh-ko no Taki - largest waterfalls on Yakushima, and then drive back to the hostel. We stopped and had a weird dinner at a local Izakaya place - not good food... they served us raw chicken (sashimi)! I was not feeling well afterwards. I had an upset stomach most of the day already, eating raw kimchi to get my stomach to settle. Not ideal before a mega trail day.

7-28-2016: Island traverse
Alarms went off at 2am. I was excited, but not too rested. Ready for the challenge. We all got up and had our packs assembled and ready to go by 2:45am. Marie dropped us off at the trailhead. Having visited the night before, we got started immediately, right around 3:09am. Headlamps on, we waved goodbye to Marie, who would meet us at the top of the first climb in 3.5 hours. This section was 7 miles. This trail is most commonly taken just the first 3 miles to the Janokuchi Waterfall, after that, it becomes very overgrown and unmaintained. This is traditionally a heavy rainfall area and we were pretty lucky for it not to be raining at all. The dense "jungle" was wet enough, as we crossed several streams before reaching the split, which we reached in an hour and a half. Right on pace for our 6:30 goal for the top. This next section was steep, and very difficult to maintain a swift pace, as we were constantly on the lookout for the little pieces of pink tape marking the route. Often times, we were bewildered that this was a "trail" due to the overgrowth - felt like a bushwhack. In general easy to follow, even in the dark, but really slow going.

We reached the top at 7am to Marie waiting for us and ready to prepare noodles with her camping stove. So lucky! Sean and I were both pretty worked - after all we had climbed a 7-mile 4000ft bushwhack in just under 4 hours. We replenished our water (just 2 litres) and snacks and Marie took off to get back to Miyanoura to get back to work at the hostel and Sean and I bid her farewell until later! We were very lucky to have her help us out with this epic day.

Now, with the sun up, the humidity levels were also high. We crossed a small meadow and got our first sighting of the local deer which are unique to the island of Yakushima - the Yakushika, or as the locals say, "Shika". They are very small animals and totally docile - it is illegal to hunt them and they have no known predators. They seem to be very happy creatures. We even had one give out a high-pitched squeal for us... not the sound I expected them to make!

The trail is very obvious here and we continued on towards the summit of Miyanoura-dake which we would reach shortly, running most of the way. We took plenty of photos in the surrounding summit area - the views are incredible and you have complete 360 degree panorama of ocean and peaks! Incredible! There are also huge granite rocks which the trail weaves in and out of to add to the landscape. Such a unique place.

After passing the summit we began the lengthy descent to return to the North side of the island to Miyanoura. We passed many ancient cedar trees and a few of the huts for the overnighters. I couldn't say exactly where these are but there are maps available in Yakushima which have the detail. The cedars were very impressive. We also had a sighting of a Macaque monkey! It was very small and shy - it slowly backed away as we passed by on the trail.

There had only been a handful of people we had met on the trail that day, so needless to say when we arrived at Jomon Sugi, the throngs of people was a bit of a shock. Jomon Sugi is thought to be one of the oldest trees in the world - aged 3000-7000 years, they cannot get an exact reading on the carbon-dating due to the core being rotten. It is fenced off, so you can't go right up to it and it is viewed from a platform to protect its roots. It receives a lot of foot-traffic. I would say there were about 500 people on the trail that day. It was raining a bit now and this was actually nice after being in the sun on the summit. We continued running on the very side of the singletrack trail, running right by super-long groups of Japanese people - "sumimase!" we would say as we came through. Some folks were not happy with us blowing by them while it was raining and the rocks were slippery, as we clearly were not following trail etiquette. Oh well - we had to make progress!

It began to rain harder as we ran through the forest. We reached an old train track and it was a full-on downpour at this point. These tracks were fairly flat so we were able to average a solid pace. I think this is about where my GPS watch died. We arrived at the main parking area for the trail to Jomon Sugi. There are buses and cars and many people in this spot. We toyed with the idea of taking the bus back to Miyanoura but with it only being 2pm, and yes, we were both wrecked, but it just would not be right not completing the traverse! There is another trail which can be taken down to Miyanoura, however we were told by a group at the hostel this trail was very bad and uninteresting, so we opted to run down the road back into town. This was super fun and were both elated, riding a runner's high all the way back down. We jumped in the canal in Miyanoura - it was hot out down there and the water felt amazing! We got the hostel by 3:45pm, and we seemed to be regarded as heroes! It was kind of fun being the talk of the town for the night. It is also believed we are the first to complete this island traverse in a single day.

We had some celebratory Izakaya dinner and some sochu shots. What a day.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6888 ft / 2098 m
    Total Elevation Loss:6900 ft / 2102 m
    Round-Trip Distance:33.5 mi / 53.9 km
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Weather:Raining, Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Lucky weather conditions, not too hot, just enough rain to cool us off on the descent
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6488 ft / 1977 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 5988 ft / 1826 m; Extra: 500 ft / 152m
    Loss on way in:500 ft / 152 m
    Distance:11.5 mi / 18.5 km
    Route:Tainokawa trail
    Start Trailhead:Onoaida trailhead  364 ft / 110 m
    Time:7 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:6400 ft / 1950 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 6000 ft / 1829 m; Extra: 400 ft / 121m
    Gain on way out:400 ft / 121 m
    Distance:22 mi / 35.4 km
    Route:Jomon Sugi trail
    End Trailhead:Miyanoura  352 ft / 107 m
    Time:6 Hours 0 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Marcus Lostracco
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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