Conditions were good this weekend for a traverse of Mt. Unzen, a trip we have been thinking about for some time. Sunday night it was not too hot, and there was a north-east breeze which generally means a break from the normally hazy conditions that prevail here most of the summer. The breeze would also prevent dangerous accumulations of volcanic gases that still vent in the summit area. Also, a last quarter moon would provide light for the nighttime clandestine ascent we would be making without the aid of headlamps. Next month it will be the 15th birthday of Heisei Shinzan, the new 1486m tall summit of Unzen formed by a massive eruption that killed a number of people in the nearby city of Shimabara. We have never before climbed a mountain so young.
This 3D view shows our route. We took the last ferry from Amakusa over the Hayasaki Strait and drove to the usual trailhead to stash our bikes in the forest. There is a well-used trail up to Fugendake, the old summit, which we planned descend. After soaking in the hot spring at Obama for a while, we grabbed a few hours’ sleep and at 2:30 a.m. we began scrambling up the east slopes of Unzen from the Unzen-Mayuyama col.