Posted tagged ‘Chuo Alps hikes (中央アルプス)’

Mt. Utsugi (空木岳)

May 20, 2008

This blog post was written back in 2008. For the latest information about this hike (including color photos and maps), please consider purchasing my guidebook to the Japan Alps. 

Mt. Utsugi is the highest peak in the southern half of the Central Alps. The exposed crags offer outstanding panoramic views of both the Kita and Minami Alps.

The hike: From the top of the gondola, take the trail to the left towards Gokuraku-daira (極楽平). It should take about 20 minutes to reach the ridge line, where you’ll be all day. Turn left once you reach this point, and make your way to the top of Mt. Hinokio (檜尾岳). The path is well-worn and easy to follow and you should be sitting on the rocky summit in about 2 hours. If the weather is clear then you should see the top of Mt. Fuji peeking out over the Minami Alps, as well as a stellar view of Ondake. Your next target is Mt. Kumasawa (熊沢岳), reachable in about an hour. Another hour after that, and you’ll be on top of Mt. Higashi-kawa (東川岳), which has a great view of Mt. Utsugi right in front of you. Unfortunately you’ve got a big drop and climb between here and there. Drop down to the saddle, where you’ll find Kisodono hut (木曽殿山荘), which is a pretty nice place to stay. Unfortunately there’s no room to camp here, and the water source is a 15-minute walk down a spur trail. The hut is only open from July 1st to October 10th, so if you’re going outside of these dates it’s better to push on and stay at the emergency hut on the other side of the summit. Click here for the hut website. From the hut, it’s a 90 minute climb with a 450m elevation gain to the top. The hard work is worth it when the weather is cooperative. Otherwise, it’ll be another rocky peak in a blanket of cloud. From the top you’ve got several options. You can either retrace your steps back to Kisodono hut, and take the trail to the left for a 7 hour descent to Kuramoto (倉本) station, on the JR Chuo line that runs between Nagano and Nagoya. Another option would be to continue on the ridge line towards Minami Koma-ga-take (南駒ヶ岳) and then descent about 3-1/2 hours to a forest road in the middle of nowhere. The final (and probably most feasible) option would be to turn left once you hit the top of Mt. Utsugi and descend to the Mt. Utsugi emergency hut (空木避難小屋). From the hut, it’s a grueling 4 hour descent, where you lose close to 2000 vertical meters of altitude! You could also do this hike in reverse, but you’re faced with a daunting climb if you do. Eventually the trail will spit you out in Komagane Kogen (駒ヶ根高原), where you can take a bus back to Komagane station.

When to go: This hike can be done from early June to mid October without too much trouble. The gondola is operational year-round, so you could attempt this in the winter if you’ve got the proper equipment and training, but be warned that the ridge line is very rugged. Click here to see some brave climbers during Golden Week!

Access: From Okaya station (岡谷駅) in Nagano Pref. take the JR Iida line (JR飯田線) and get off at Komagane Station (駒ヶ根駅). The local train takes about an hour. From there, take a bus bound for Shirabi-daira (しらび平) and get off at the last stop. If you don’t want to take the gondola, then you can bypass this area by taking a trail from Hinokiobashi (檜尾橋) bus stop. From there, it’s a grueling 6-hour climb to the ridge line just below the top of Mt. Hinokio (檜尾岳). There’s a free emergency hut you can stay in just below the summit. Click here for the bus schedule.

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 if using the Gondola (elevation change ~200m).

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Mt. Kiso-komagatake (木曽駒ヶ岳)

March 29, 2008

This blog post was written back in 2008. For the latest information about this hike (including color photos and maps), please consider purchasing my guidebook to the Japan Alps. 

Clocking in just a few meters under 3000, Mt. Kiso-komagatake is the highest peak in the Central Alps mountain range. The panoramic views are outstanding, and there’s no shortage of accommodation on top.

Mt. Kiso-komagatake

The hike: From the top of the gondola, follow the trail leading off toward the right. You’ll already be above the tree line, so just follow the paint marks up through the rock formations. After about a half an hour of climbing, you’ll reach the ridgeline and a 3-way junction with a mountain hut in front. This is the Hoken-sanso (宝剣山荘), a great place to get a coffee if the cloud is in. Climb up past another hut to the top of Naka-dake (中岳) and then down the other side to a saddle and a blue-roof hut. From there, it’s a short climb to the summit of Komagatake, where the views are incredible. If you’ve got time, then consider staying in one of the huts to catch the sunrise/sunset. Anyway, retrace your steps to Hokensanso, and either take the trail back down to the gondola, or traverse up and over Mt. Hoken (宝剣岳). This trail is marked as an “expert” course, but it’s no more difficult than some of the climbs around Kamikochi. There are plenty of chains, ladders, and paint marks to help you get to the top. Traverse up and over this rocky peak and down the other side, where you’ll find a trail coming in the left. This is the way back down to the gondola. Alternatively, you could keep going straight and make it to Mt. Usugi in about 5 hours or so.

When to go: This hike can be done any time of year, thanks in part to the gondola that runs all year round. Bring crampons and an ice axe in the winter and be careful of white out conditions. The gondola gets extremely crowded when the leaves have changed colors in the autumn, so be prepared for a long wait. Click here to access the gondola website in English.

Access: From Okaya station (岡谷駅) in Nagano Pref. take the JR Iida line (JR飯田線) and get off at Komagane Station (駒ヶ根駅). The local train takes about an hour. From there, take a bus bound for Shirabi-daira (しらび平) and get off at the last stop. Click here for the bus schedule. If you don’t fancy waiting in line for the gondola or would like a more strenuous climb, then get off on stop before at Kitagosho-tozanguchi (北御所登山口). From there, you can climb to the summit in about 6 hours or so. Be careful if approaching this hike from Nagoya, because the JR Iida line from Toyohashi station takes over 5-1/2 hours to get to Komagane! It’s much faster to take the JR Chuo line and change at Shiojiri.

Map:

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 1 out of 5 if using the gondola (elevation change ~300m)