Mt. Kai-Komagatake (甲斐駒ヶ岳）
Mt. Kai-komagatake is a glorious ‘horse shaped’ peak located across the valley from Japan’s 2nd highest peak, Kitadake. The views are wonderful when the weather is good and the sandstone rock formations are intriguing.
The hike: From the bus stop, take the trail that starts to the right of the mountain hut Choueisou (長衛荘). The path zig-zags through a forest for the first hour or so, flattening out a little once you hit the ridge line. You’ll see the rocky peak stretching out in front of you. It looks so far away but just take it one step at a time. In another hour, you’ll reach Komatsumine (駒津峰). The trail splits, but take the left fork (it should be obvious because the right fork goes down off the mountain). Slog on for another 20 to 30 minutes and you’ll see yet another junction. You have 2 options – the ‘expert’ course lying straight ahead or the ‘beginner’ course branching off to the right. Both trails lead to the top. I decided to climb the ‘expert’ and descend via the ‘beginner’. The ‘expert’ course is rocky and kind of steep, but not as bad as I thought it was going to be. In any case, it’s a much shorter course, but takes about the same time as the ‘beginner’ because of all the climbing involved. The top of the peak is rocky and exposed: not a place you want to be in a thunderstorm. If the weather is good you’ll have a breathtaking view of the rest of the Minami Alps, and Mt. Fuji rising to the left of Kitadake. Yatsu-ga-dake will be behind you, and the Chuo & Kita Alps to the north. Head down the beginner path and soon you’ll be back at Komatsumine. From here you have 2 options. You can either go back the way you came, or take the left fork to Sensui-toge (仙水峠). From this mountain pass, turn right and you’ll soon come across a mountain hut and campground. Another 20 minutes down the path and you’ll find yet another hut and the road back to Kitazawa-toge.
When to go: This hike can be done anytime the road to Kitazawa-toge is open. I’m not sure of the exact dates, but probably from Golden Week to early November. If you want to try an alternative approach, you can try a winter ascent via Kuroto ridge just like these people did on New Year’s Day! You’ll need winter climbing experience and the right equipment though.
Access: From Kofu station (甲府駅), take a bus bound for Hirogawara (広河原). From there, change to a bus bound for Kitazawa-toge (北沢峠) and get off at the last stop. Click here for the bus schedule (in Japanese).
Live web cam: Click here
Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 987m)