Route Name: North ridge (Hokuryou 北稜)
Mountain: Amidadake (2805m 阿弥陀岳) on Yatsugatake (八ヶ岳) massif
Map sheet: 32 [Yama-to-kougen-chizu (山と高原地図) series]
Time: 1 day
Grade: III+ / Overall Grade 1 alpine route
The North ridge is the shortest of Amidadake’s alpine ridges, and with its proximity to the normal hiking trail it offers a low-commitment introduction to the skills needed for some of the area’s longer winter mixed outings. The route itself is in fact only the upper 300m of the ridge, where things steepen and become technical. It is a popular outing for local guides and for climbers looking for an early-season tune-up route.
One thing to be aware of is that there can be avalanche risk on the approach and descent for this route in winter, so despite the short and easy nature of the climbing, the route is not without danger. But in good conditions the North ridge is a fun climb and wholly recommended.
If travelling from Tokyo, take a Super Azusa Limited Express train from Shinjuku to Chino (approx. 2.5 hours). Outside the JR station at Chino take a bus to Minotoguchi (美濃戸口, approx. 45 minutes). This is the gateway to the Akadake-kōsen side of Yatsugatake. From the carpark start hiking up the trail that is signposted to Akadake (赤岳). The walk-in takes up to 3 hours by map time. It is split into 3 stages.
The first hour brings you past a series of buildings and on a little further to a hut with a water source, which makes a good resting point for 5 minutes. The trail splits here, with the right fork going up Minami-sawa (南沢) to the Gyouja-goya hut (行者小屋). You need to take the left fork up Kita-sawa (北沢). The next hour follows the rough dirt road until it finishes at a bridge across the sawa. From the other side the path narrows and meanders alongside the sawa for another hour or so until you reach the hut at Akadake-kōsen. This hut and its camp ground serve as base camp for all the routes in the area.
As you exit the Akadake-kōsen hut by the front door turn right and follow the trail to the end of the hut and then up through the forest. After about half an hour and a couple of zigzags you will arrive at a signpost on a small flat area. This is the entry point for the Nakayama ridge, but you need to continue on down the other side of this ridge, and after ten minutes you’ll arrive at the Gyouja-goya hut.
Continue on past the hut and its camp ground and begin to ascend gently. You’ll soon come to a sign-posted fork in the trail. Left leads to the Bunzaburo ridge (文三郎尾根), the normal hiking route for Akadake from this side. You need to take the right fork for Amidadake.
A further 5-10 minutes will bring you to another junction, where the main trail continues uphill but a smaller trail heads off to the right onto the forested ridgeline. This right-hand trail is the access to the North ridge of Amidadake.
At first you’ll be zigzagging up through the forest. While the main Amidadake hiking trail follows the gully to your left, you’ll be ascending the lower flank of the North ridge. There are quite a few places where you could head straight up the slope, and the only difference is the point at which you will come out onto the North ridge. Once on the ridge proper, you’ll find yourself bush-whacking for a while through dwarf pine until you get up and out of the treeline.
Once you have broken treeline the ridge begins to steepen properly, and you’ll find yourself using your ice axes. The terrain is not hard though, and progress is fast.
Eventually you’ll arrive at the ridge’s III+ crux, the first rock step. There are many ways by which you could climb this, but the standard route is just around the left side. Climb the well-featured lower half, with a bolt up on the right, until you reach the crack near the top. An interesting leg jam will bring you to a sloping ledge with another bolt above it. Continue round to the right and up the crest of the rocky ridge to reach a two-bolt anchor.
You are now at the slightly easier second rock step. Ascend this diagonally up and to the right and continue up to a flat knife-edge section with a dead tree at the start. Cross this knife-edge and you are at the end of the difficulties.
From here the summit is just 10-15 minutes away.
From the summit head down the normal hiking trail to the ridge that connects Amidadake with Akadake. It is a bit of a scramble, and is getting quite rocky in places these days, but there should be no need for a rope. Once you reach the saddle on the ridge, follow the signpost down to the left into the descent gully.
You will be back at the Gyouja-goya hut in about 45 minutes.
A straight-forward and fun winter ridge with some interesting, if short-lived, mixed climbing on the rock steps. With easy access and a great position, this ridge is a good place to practise your winter alpine skills (moving together on easy technical terrain, climbing rock in crampons etc.).
For more climbing routes on Amidadake, see: