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October 2002, I headed for Toyama again two weeks after ascending Tateyama for another crack at Tsurugidake. According to the Loney Planet guide, while Tateyama, my prior climb, is suppose to represent Heaven with its 3015m peak reaching to the sky, Tsurugidake is suppose to represent Hell because of its jagged peaks and difficult ascent.
This was my planned course. The map is oriented with North at the top. From Murodo (1) to the Kenzanso mountain hut (3) going through (2) a 4 hour hike according to the map. The same day I would check in, leave my pack at the mountain hut, and ascend of Tsurugidake (6). Then return to kenzanso for dinner and a beer. The return to Murodo (1) would be a cake walk. However, if the weather prevented me from ascending Tsurugidake the first day, I could make an attempt the following day. This would be roughly 15 km total for the two days. I arrived at Murodo and started a little late. Since I was hiking alone, I started at a furious pace. After 10 minutes I had already reached Jigoku-dani, and after about 25 minutes I had cleared the bridge near the campground and arrive at the junction of Obashiru trail. I was now ahead of schedule. From here it was an up hill climb to Tsurugisawa mountain hut. When I reached Tsurugisawa mountain hut (2) on the map, I had my first good view of the Maetsurugi (5) on the map. It seemed the weather would be favorable for my planned ascent.
The first view of Kenzanso with its red rooftop in the bottom left of this photo. This is where I would stay the night. The hike to Kenzanso took only 2 hours total. I checked in and left most of my pack behind in my room at Kenzanso. I packed my fanny pack and Camelback and after chatting for a bit with one of my roommates I headed towards Tsurugidake the far peaks in this photo.
From Kenzanso it is a 3-stage ascent. The first ascent is to Ippuku-tsurugi at 2618 meters, (4) on the map. ippuku in Japanese means a short break. From here the climb continues to Maetsurugi which means "Before Tsurugi". Then finally the ascent to the summit of Tsurugidake itself. The terrain from Murodo to Kenzanso varies from paved walkways, elevated wooden walkways, scree, dirt trails, while pretty much all the terrain from Kenzanso to Tsurugidake is scrambling up rock face. I reached Maetsurugi at 2813 meters, (5) on the map. This was my first real view of Tsurugidake itself which still looked a bit far away.
There were very few markings once I left Kenzanso. It was over a 30 minute hike before I saw any trail markings at all. This was a huge contrast to the overly marked areas before Kenzanso. If you choose to go in July, you can follow the long lines of people in front of you. However, I was virtually alone for most of the ascent which was great!
I reached the kanitatebai or area where you "climb up like a crab". Most of the climb is class 2/3 but there are a few areas like this one that are class 4. A class 4 route can be described as a route in which you must use you hands not only for balance, but in order to be able to make the ascent. I outlined the chains in yellow since it is hard to see in the photo. Two hikers with belay gear passed me on their return trip. Besides the technical aspects of the hike, there are many areas with some serious exposure and someone had fallen 100 meters to their death two weeks prior so the pucker factor can be pretty high. I reached the summit of Tsurugidake at 2998 meters and took quite a leisurely break before starting the descent.
On the return route you pass the kaniyokobai or area where you "scuttle sideways like a crab". Besides the chains the return route has one seriously bomb-proof ladder bolted to the rock. The trails return to the class 2/3.
I returned to Kenzanso and chat with the hikers at my table during dinner. Afterwards I kicked back in the TV with a beer. I was in a tatami room with 5 others. The temperature was about 15 Deg C at Murodo when I started and about 7 Deg C at kenzanso. The temperature dropped to below 0 Deg C during the night and in the morning the ground was frozen. The next morning when I took this shot things were quiet at Kenzanso. About 1/2 the guests had left to summit Tsurugidake by 5 a.m.
I got up early to watch the sunrise. I had heard from another hiker that when the sun and the distant mountains align just right there is an awesome silhouette of the mountains. Unfortunately, the sun was not aligned right that day.
On the return trip I decided to take a couple trails that were out of the way since I had plenty of time and returned via trails (7) and (8) on the map. I came across these two raichou, the prefectural bird of Toyama. They posed for me, mocking the fact that I have no zoom on my old digital camera, before escaping into the bushes out of sight.
Elevated wooden trail. This trail reminded me of Kamikochi. I continue my return slowing every now and them to talk to the other hikers. Since Kenzanso closes there bath for the season starting October, I stopped at Raichousawa mountain hut and I soaked in the natural onsen there. This was free since Kenzanso has some sort of deal with them. I reached Murodo and had finished my hike. Now it was 1.5-hour trip return to Ogisawa via the Alpine route followed by a 3-hour solo drive back to Kofu. It was a great hike and a great way to end the hiking season.
See Tateyama Planning for planning trips to Tateyama and/or Tsurugidake.