Route Name: South ridge (Nanryou 南稜)
Mountain: Amidadake (2805m 阿弥陀岳)
Map sheet: 32 [Yama-to-kougen-chizu (山と高原地図) series]
Time: 2 days round trip
If travelling by train from Tokyo (東京) or Shinjuku (新宿), take a Chuō Line (中央線) train out to Chino (茅野) station. Ideally you want to be on the first Super Azusa limited express train in the morning. There is no bus to the trailhead for this climb, so you will need to take a taxi to Funayama crossroads (船山十字路). After climbing the route you will need to descend to Minotoguchi (美濃戸口) for a bus back to Chino.
If travelling by car, there are plenty of parking spaces at Funayama crossroads, and you will be able to re-join your car at the end by following the route described below.
* DAY ONE
Walk up the road for about 10 minutes until you reach a water source (marked 阿弥陀聖水 on the map). A short way past this water source there will be a road branching off to the right down the hill to the Tachiba River campsite. Ignore this, and continue along the road heading up on the left. After another 10 minutes you will come to a gate, and the end of the tarmac road. Go through this gate, cross the Hirogawara stream (広河原沢), and continue up an unpaved track for about another 40 minutes, until you reach the old Asahi hut (旭小屋).
Go right up to the hut, and then follow a single-track trail off to the left, cross a small stream, and then continue up the trail towards the ridgeline. The trail is quite clear and easy to spot, but there are plenty of pieces of red tape on tree branches and red paint marks on rocks as well.
Once you hit the ridgeline, turn right and follow the trail up the crest of the ridge. Amidadake is a holy Buddhist mountain, as the name ‘Amida’ would suggest, and there are relics and trail markers all along its various ridges.
Keep walking up for about another hour or more until you reach the tree-covered summit of Mt Tachiba (2370m 立場山).
Mt Tachiba summit marker:
From here onwards you should be looking out for a good flat camping spot in the snow. About half an hour beyond Mt Tachiba there is an open traverse with a landslide off to the right side, from where you will catch your first full sighting of the South ridge. We camped just before this traverse, and it was an excellent spot with room for several tents.
* DAY TWO
Cross the landslide traverse and continue up the ridge on the other side. After about half an hour of ascending you will reach the junction with the South ridge proper on your left.
There are four pinnacles along the ridge, which you will need to get over or around to reach the summit.
P1 and P2 are both straightforward, involving just steep walking and easy scrambling. The views on all sides are fantastic, from Gongendake (権現岳) to the south all the way to Tateshina (蓼科山) at the northern end of the Yatsugatake (八ヶ岳) massif.
P3 is the crux of the route and for most people will be the point where they get the rope out. A short way along from P2 you will reach the start of the P3 traverse.
Walk along a comfortable ledge of about 20m, and then continue round the corner and down to the bolt belay at the start of the P3 gully. From the rock step at the start of the gully to the top of P3 is about two rope lengths, with a solid bolt belay to anchor from in the gully.
Climb an interesting and exposed little rock step to gain access to the gully, with an in-situ ringbolt at the top of it. Now climb the gully on ice and snow, clipping whatever in-situ protection you can find. There are several ringbolts along the way. If you have a 60m rope, you will be able to get all the way to a solid bolt at a narrow ledge at the top of the gully. If not, belay at one of the ringbolts lower down.
One more easy pitch will get you to the top of P3. From here you will see P4 a short distance along the ridge.
To get round P4 you will need to traverse a very narrow ledge, with some exposure on climber’s left, but it is not difficult. After that, climb a short rock step and then climb about 40m of straight-forward mixed ground to the crest of the ridge.
To get down from the summit you could take the trail to the east, which heads in the direction of Mt Akadake (2899m 赤岳) for a long walk back to the Minotoguchi trailhead, but the round trip I’m describing takes the trail to the west off the summit. A short walk along a narrow ridge brings you to some rocks, with a ladder and chains. Climb over these rocks and down the other side to a signpost.
From here you can see your descent ridge stretching out below, and the top section has a fixed rope in place down the first 100m.
After 1h20mins of map-time you will reach a sign indicating a water point off to the left (不動清水) at about 2996m. Keep going down the ridge and after another 1h10mins of map-time you will arrive at a fork in the trail.
The right fork goes to Minotoguchi bus stop, and the left fork will take you back to Funayama crossroads. The car park at Funayama crossroads is another 1h20mins of map-time down the ridge.
The South ridge is an aesthetic and highly-enjoyable outing, never overly difficult but always interesting and involving a mix of terrains and skills. This is probably the classic outing on Amidadake, and is a ‘must’ for any Yatsugatake winter climber.