Monday, 2 April 2018

The Northwest arête of the Daidoushin pinnacle (大同心北西稜)

Route name: Daidoushin Hokusei-ryo (大同心北西)

Mountain:  Yatsugatake (八ヶ岳)

Map sheet:  32 [Yama-to-kougen-chizu (山と高原地図) series]

Time:  4-6 hours (7 pitches)

Difficulty:  Grade 5+ alpine route / IV A1 crux

(Note: All photos in this article are from an ascent on 11th March 2018.)

The Daidoushin pinnacle is the embodiment of winter mixed climbing on Yatsugatake; steep, exposed, strafed by bitterly cold winds, and with rock quality that varies from reliable to vertical mud. Even its easiest route, the South ridge, is a marked step up in difficulty compared to the adjacent routes in the Akadake-kousen area. Over on the shaded northern aspect of the pinnacle its Northwest arête, or Hokusei-ryo, is a further step up.

To overcome the challenge that it throws down, you will need fitness, endurance, confidence and a skill set that covers both free- and aid-climbing. By the time you rope up for the first pitch you will have already gained close to 1500m of elevation. You will then be faced with 7 pitches of climbing up steep terrain, with never more than 2 or 3 pieces of in-situ protection for each rope length, and occasionally less than that. On volcanic conglomerate rock that doesn’t readily accept trad gear, you should be prepared to feel like you are free-soloing for much of this route… and you will be doing it in crampons on icy and snow-covered rock, clearing the holds as you climb.

A route like this requires an investment in time and effort. You will need to prepare well for it. This is not an early-season tune-up route, this is the goal that you will have been building up to over several seasons. The kind of route that could stand as a threshold between a previous version of you and the next version of you. But like all thresholds in life, if you’re going to cross it, make sure the time is right for you. This is dangerous climbing.

Getting there:
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 campground serve as basecamp for all the routes in the area.


(Topo from Jan 2013 issue of "岳人" magazine)

From the Akadake-kōsen hut go up the steps near the door and take the path straight on towards the ice routes (Daidoushin runze, Uradoushin runze, Jougosawa) on the left-hand side of the face below the summit of Yokodake (横岳).

Follow the trail for about 15 minutes through the forest and you will come to a signpost pointing right into the bottom of the Daidoushin runze (大同心ルンゼ), or gully.

Head into the Daidoushin runze and follow the stream for about 10 minutes and you will come to a trail heading up on your left along the lower section of the Daidoushin-ryo. This ridge is the normal descent ridge from the adjacent Uradoushin runze (裏同心ルンゼ) ice route, but it can be easily ascended in about an hour to its apex at the foot of the Daidoushin rock pinnacle.

From the top, descend carefully to your left for about 100m along the west face of the Daidoushin pinnacle until you come to a small tree with a pink tape marker on it. Above this tree you will see the corner crack of the first pitch.

Approximate pitch descriptions are as follows:

Pitch 1: Climb frozen turf to gain the steep crack, then follow it to the anchor just over the top. (30m IV-)

Pitch 2: Traverse along the terrace around the back to access a wide gully behind the NW arête. Inside the gully continue up steep snow and mixed terrain to belay on a single Petzl bolt. (50m II-III)

Pitch 3: Climb mixed terrain for a full rope-length, over several tricky rock steps, to a bolted belay on the arête at the foot of the steep middle section. (50m III+)

Pitch 4: Climb the groove initially, then continue up the steep run-out wall to finish up a difficult and exposed section of frozen grass and rock to a bolted belay on a small triangular stance. With just two protection points and difficult climbing, this pitch is arguably the psychological crux of the route. (35m V)

Pitch 5: Climb the rock face above for 15m, then traverse right to gain a narrow gully. Exit at the top of this gully onto steep mixed ground until the angle begins to ease off a little as you enter a zone of dwarf pine. Belay on the thickest tree you can find at the end of a full rope length. This pitch is extremely run-out. (60m IV+)

Pitch 6: Follow the arête up easier ground for about 50m to belay at the foot of the final dome. (50m I-II)

Pitch 7: This pitch is the technical crux of the route. Climb the initial rock wall, with in-situ bolts for aid, then transition into a steep off-width crack. At the top of the off-width, climb mixed ground for another 10m to the top of the Daidoushin pinnacle. (30m V+ (IV/A1))

From the top of the pinnacle you have a couple of options:

1. Descend to the col, then climb easy mixed slopes to gain the main ridge hiking trail, and either continue left to Mt Iodake, or right over Mt Yokodake towards Mt Akadake.

2. Descend the mixed gully behind the pinnacle (in-situ rappel anchors if you need them), climb the ramp back up to the top of the Daidoushin-ryo, and descend the ridge back to the entrance of the Daidoushin-runze and on back to the hut.

Serious run-out climbing exposed to the wind on the cold shaded aspect of the Daidoushin. This sensational route is one of the great winter test pieces of the Yatsugatake range, and should only be attempted by those with the proper skills and training.

For full details and photos of some of Japan's most classic alpine climbs, get your copy of the book from Amazon.

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