Route name: Saganryou (Left rock arête 左岩稜)
Mountain: Tachioka-yama (太刀岡山)
Map sheet: 26 [Yama-to-kougen-chizu (山と高原地図) series]
Length: 9 pitches (230m)
Time: 4 hours to the top of the last pitch
Tachioka-yama is a minor peak of 1295m tucked in across the valley behind Kayagatake (茅ヶ岳), its higher and more famous neighbour to the north-west, known to many as the mountain on which Fukada Kyūya passed away in March 1971. The area around the mountain is very beautiful on a sunny day, with picturesque farming villages hanging on to lush green forested hillsides.
The main event is a dramatic triangular rock face on the mountain’s western aspect with, as luck would have it, a spectacular multi-pitch outing up its left arête that offers a variety of climbing styles up impeccable rock and with sensational exposure at a comfortable climbing grade. Running the whole gamut from trad cracks, friction slabs, run-out face climbing and knife-edge ridges, this route comes highly recommended.
If travelling by car from Tokyo you need to follow the Chuō Expressway out to Yamanashi prefecture and take the exit for Futaba Service Area (双葉). Find your way onto Route 6, then turn left onto Route 101. Follow this road for about 9.5km until you come to a junction on the right with the Shosenkyo Line road. Keep going straight on past this and the road changes into Route 27. A further 2km through rural villages will bring you to the Tachioka-yama trailhead car park on the left (太刀岡山登山口駐車場), with the rock face of Mt Tachioka visible up on the right across the river.
The approach to the start of the climb is short and easy. Walk up the road from the car park for about 100m and you will come to a break in the barrier on the right and a short gravel path down to the river. A makeshift bridge will get you over the river.
Now follow the trail as it zigzags up the hillside, and in about 5-10 minutes you will arrive at a rock band. There are various routes up this rock band, but for the ‘Saganryou’ route you need to skirt to the left along the foot of the rock and you’ll soon reach the bottom of the first pitch.
Pitch 1: Climb the initial corner crack up to a narrow ledge, then climb the main crack to a bolt belay. (20m 5.9)
Pitch 2: Climb the corner cracks to the big tree, then continue up beyond for another 10m to a belay. (25m 5.7)
Pitch 3: Climb the chimney cracks to gain the slabs above, and continue up on the arête. (20m 5.8)
Pitch 4: Scramble up the arête to your right. (20m 5.5)
Pitch 5: There are two ways to start this pitch. (i) You can gain the arête on the right of the belay, and climb up featured but run-out terrain to the scissor rocks. (ii) You can climb the crack on the left of the belay, followed by a knife-edge arête to gain the upper part of the first of the scissor rocks. Then cross the gap between them and continue up the arête. (20m 5.8)
(i) Up the run-out arête:
(ii) Up the crack on the left:
The scissor rocks:
Pitch 6: Up the arête. (40m 5.6)
Pitch 7: Up the arête. (45m 5.6)
Pitch 8: Up the arête and along the famous knife-edge, to finish on the large terrace at the top of the walk-off. (30m 5.6)
Pitch 9: Climb the face on your left by its weakest line, with trad pro in the first half then bolts to the top of the pinnacle. (15m 5.8)
From the top of the pinnacle abseil back down to the terrace from a solid bolt anchor.
The descent trail starts from the end of the terrace down steeply through the trees. After about 20-30m head to your left and traverse along a faint path and continue down this until you reach a proper hiking trail. Follow the trail down past the Koyama rock face and on down to the river. Go through the metal gate and cross a bridge, then walk back up the road to the car park.
This front-loaded route gets its main difficulties out of the way in the first three pitches and then rewards you with a romp up a magnificent arête on excellent friction rock. Bring a trad rack, and be prepared for high quality climbing across a range of styles. A three-star route in anybody’s book!
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