These two steep climbs require reasonable fitness and some upper body strength as there are some ropes to negociate. Be careful on both mountains on windy days and be careful on Aiko Dake in heavy rain. These two mountains are pilgrimage sites and so please be respectful and treat them as sacred places.
The large mountain that dominates the skyline of Onoaida in the south of the island is called Mocchomu (944 metres). The trail-head begins near the car park at the Senpiro Waterfall (千尋の滝). This mountain is low in comparison to the inland range, but it is not for the faint-hearted. It is a non-stop, and at times grueling, ascent to the top. This is the reason why we have rated Mocchomu as one of the difficult mountains. The ascent takes around 3-4 hours to the top and is almost entirely traversed under the canopy of the trees (a great benefit in the summer). A great deal of the climb is upon tree roots.
Halfway up this mountain is Bandai sugi – a 3,000 year old tree that sits precariously on the edge of a ridge. The tree is very hollow inside and with its wind-twisted branches it seems to defy the harsh location it pre-occupies. Further on is a second large sugi called Mocchomu Taro.
The trail can be tricky at times, especially the rope climbs near the top. However, once on the top then the struggle up there is soon forgotten as the views on a clear day are worth the sweat. The view down to Onoaida is spectacular. Like many of the coastal mountains, Mocchomu is a pilgrimage destination for Onoaida residents. There are some small shrines (hokora) at the top facing the village below.
Due to its exposed summit then Mocchomu is better avoided in windy conditions. However, it is one of the last mountains to be covered with cloud due to it's southern location. If other mountains are under cloud, then find out if Mocchomu is clear. As it's also a relatively low mountain then it makes for a good hike during the winter months when the high altitude peaks can be knee-deep in snow.
For beginners seeking a challenge or for those in reasonable fitness then the Mocchomu hike is a very rewarding experience. The ascent at the top is thrilling and views are amazing. If ascending / descending ropes are not your strong point then the assistance of a guide to get you to the top of this mountain will be well worth it. The YES guide can get you up and down this mountain safely, as well as providing a great deal of information about this sacred mountain.
Aiko Dake (愛子岳)
Like Mocchomu Dake, Aiko Dake is not one of the highest mountains on the island, but it has to be one of the steepest. Aiko Dake is 1,235 metres and dominates the skyline around the airport area. From the airport it is a 10 min drive to the trailhead near the Koseda Junior High School (小瀬田中学校). If you are looking for peace and solitude then this is the trek for you as you will likely have this mountain to yourself. The return trek takes around 8 hours, but if the weather is good then you may decide to spend longer on the summit as the views are fantastic. From the top you have a 360 panorama from the coastline to the highest peaks on the island (Miyanoura Dake). For 2 – 3 hours the climb is a steady ascent and the final hour is spent on the rock face of the summit, using ropes on a few occasions. The pink ribbons tied to the trees marking the route to the top are sometimes difficult to keep in eyesight. There are very few trekkers on this mountain and the climb is spent mostly on a ridge so caution and good preparation are necessary. And don't not forget to take plenty of liquid on this hike as there are no water sources on this mountain.
This alpine-looking mountain is the pilgrimage destination for the village of Koseda. There is a small hokora at the summit. There is also a tale as to why this mountain is named after a girl as previously it went under the name of Arai San (荒井山).
This trail is not often walked and the trailhead is difficult to find. It may take you an hour or so to find the trailhead if you take a wrong turning. A YES guide would ensure a successful hike.