Mountain: Mt Kentoku (乾徳山 2031m)
Map sheet: 26 [Yama-to-kougen-chizu (山と高原地図) series]
Time: approx. 4 hours round trip
If travelling by train from Tokyo (東京) or Shinjuku (新宿), take a Chuō Line (中央線) train out to Enzan (塩山) station. It takes around 90 minutes by limited express. Next you’ll need to take a bus from just outside the south exit of Enzan station.
If travelling by car, head to Enzan, get onto Route 140 and then turn off onto Route 209 up to a car park near the Kentokuzan-tozanguchi (乾徳山登山口) bus stop and trailhead.
Mt Kentoku (乾徳山) is a rocky summit of 2031m in the Oku-Chichibu (奥秩父) mountains of Yamanashi prefecture (山梨県). Although popular at weekends, it is rarely very busy. The vast majority of Japanese hikers will take the bus further up the road to the Nishizawa-keikoku river gorge, leaving the trails on Mt Kentoku relatively free.
The ascent route I usually take begins with a short jog up the road from the car park at about 900m, then a right turn and a further 5-10 minutes up another road. You soon reach a metal gate across the road, used to prevent deer from passing through, and a few metres beyond this on the left lies the start of the trail up a ramp onto the forested hillside.
It’s a fairly steep power hike for a while, but the higher you get the more interesting the terrain becomes and the more runnable it is.
Eventually it opens out completely at the Ougi-daira (扇平) plateau. Stop briefly to admire the views at the Tsuki-mi rock (月見岩), and then head into the final 30-minute run up through the forest and onto the rocky summit ridgeline above.
There are chains in-situ on some of the rock steps, but if you’re confident on rock then you won’t need any of them. In many places you can experiment with the line you take up the rock.
Eventually you’ll reach a final rock pitch with a large chain hanging down a crack and slab leading up to the summit itself. This can be climbed easily without touching the chain by starting up the rock on the left, then crossing the slab at the thin ledge at half height, then continuing to the top up a well-featured groove. The same route can be down-climbed as well if you’re okay with exposure on steep but well-featured rock.
If you’re really not into rock scrambling, you can bypass this entire section on a trail to the right, which many hikers use for descent.
On a cloudless day the views from the summit will extend over to Mt Fuji (富士山) and the Minami Alps (南アルプス), as well as Mt Kobushi (甲武信ヶ岳) and Mt Kinpu (金峰山) in the other direction. There is also some very good multi-pitch rock-climbing on the face below the summit, most notably the Central arête of Hatatate-iwa (旗立岩中央稜).
The descent is where the real fun starts, as you get to experience the pure joy of scrambling down good rock to begin with, and then you can open the throttle all the way to the bottom of the mountain mostly on beautiful single-track trail.
If you’re looking for a run with decent height-gain, joyous rock scrambling, runnable single-track and not too many people, you really can’t go wrong with Mt Kentoku! Don’t forget to cool off with a dip in the river near the bus stop at the bottom.