Route Name: Kanegakubo-sawa (金ヶ窪沢)
Mountain: Mitsutōge (1785m, 三ツ峠山)
Map sheet: 31 [Yama-to-kougen-chizu (山と高原地図) series]
Time: 2-3 hours
If travelling by car from Tokyo (東京), take the Chuō Expressway to Ōtsuki (大月), and then turn left in the direction of Kawaguchiko (河口湖). From Kawaguchiko you need to cross the bridge over the lake and follow route 137 until you reach the right turn onto the Misaka-michi road just before the entrance to a 3km tunnel through the mountain. This mountain road winds up towards Mitsutōge, until you reach the Mitsutōge-tozanguchi (三ツ峠登山口) at a sharp hairpin bend. There is space for about 6 cars down there, and you can find more parking up at the toilet block a few minutes further on at the Mitsutōge trailhead and the entrance to Kanegakubo-sawa (金ヶ窪沢).
If you have parked at the hairpin bend, you need to follow the hiking signpost for Mitsutōge and walk up the road for another 5-10 minutes until you reach a car park and toilet block.
Turn right at the toilet block:
Take a right turn just after the toilet block, signposted to Mitsutōge, and walk up the road for another 20 minutes. After several zig-zags the road will straighten out for a bit, and you will see a fork in the river on your left, and a concrete dam. You need to descend to the river here and step across it, and continue into the left fork, which is Kanegakubo-sawa.
The first frozen waterfall you’ll find is on a concrete dam, and if it’s not in good condition you can walk up around it on the right.
From here you enter the sawa proper, and the next icefall is basically a walk up.
After a couple of hundred metres you’ll arrive at the main icefalls. The ice spans the full width of the sawa, with plenty of room for multiple parties to climb at the same time. The entire thing can be climbed in a single pitch of about 50m if you stick to the middle or right side. If you want to climb the left side though, there are a couple of convenient anchors available at trees, from which the ice can then be top-roped using a 50m rope.
Climbing the second pitch to the top:
At the top of the icefall:
Most groups just come for the ice itself, and after they’ve climbed it they rappel down and walk back out to the car, but make sure you have two 50m ropes if that is your plan. For a more aesthetic end to your day, however, continue up the sawa from the top of the ice, and the summit can be reached in about 1.5 hours.
At first you will be climbing short easy ice steps, and then things level out and you may find yourselves breaking trail.
After about 30 minutes you’ll pass a junction with another branch to the right, but you should stick to the main sawa in the left fork. Another 15 minutes later you can head off to the right up a forested slope, and 20 minutes of effort will bring you out on the hiking trail next to the Mitsutōge-sanso (三ツ峠山荘) hut on the shoulder of Mitsutōge.
From the hut there are great views across the left end of the famous Mitsutōge rock face. The true summit can be reached from here in about 10 minutes.
To get back to your car, simply walk down the hiking trail for about 45 minutes.
If the ice is in good condition, this is an excellent day out from Tokyo; beautiful climbing at a stress-free grade, and one of the more satisfying ways to reach the summit of Mitsutōge. The views from the summit in winter are quite simply outstanding!