Route name: Hidari-Kante (左カンテ)
Mountain: Inagodake (稲子岳)
Mountain range: Kita Yatsugatake (北八ヶ岳)
Map sheet: 33 [Yama-to-kougen-chizu (山と高原地図) series]
Time: 1 day
Length: 6 pitches
Difficulty: Grade 2 alpine route / IV+ crux
The northern half of the Yatsugatake range (北八ヶ岳) is typically much less dramatic than the southern end. Characterised by broad plateaus and rolling hills, and with far fewer visitors, the mountains north of Iodake (硫黄岳) are more popular for nature walks and winter snowshoe hikes, or for those completing a juusou (縦走, full traverse) of the Yatsugatake range.
Nestled away from the main ridgeline, off the eastern side of the Nakayama pass (中山峠), it might take a special reason to visit the 2380m summit plateau of Inagodake. But fortunately for rock-climbers such a reason exists in the form of its South face (南壁, Nanpeki), home to a 200m high cliff band that tops out almost directly at the summit.
The steep approach to the bottom of the cliff and the jaw-dropping views across to the East face of nearby Tengudake (天狗岳) provide a palpable sense of height and exposure. The rock quality is rather dubious at times, and most of the routes on the face are old aid lines that have fallen out of favour in recent years. But the left edge of the face yields a high-quality route of moderate difficulty, with solid Petzl bolt belay anchors. In brief, a perfect place for aspirants to hone their alpine-climbing sensibilities, or for more seasoned climbers to bask in the solitude and natural beauty of one of the loveliest valleys around.
A car is required for this itinerary. If travelling from Tokyo, take the Chuo Expressway as far as Sutama (須玉) IC and then exit onto Route 141 in the direction of Koumi (小海). The road will take you through Kiyosato (清里), at the southern end of Yatsugatake, and then up the eastern side of the range. Continue as far as the village of Matsubarako (松原湖), then turn left onto Route 480. Stay on this road up through the foothills all the way to a turn-off that should be signposted for Inagoyu hot springs (稲子湯旅館). Take this smaller mountain road as far as the carpark at the Inagoyu karasawa bridge trailhead (稲子湯唐沢橋登山口), a short distance before the hot springs.
From the trailhead carpark walk past the barrier, across the bridge, and then continue up the road a short way until a hiking trail splits off up the hillside on your right. This trail is essentially just a direct route to avoid a large switchback. Continue up this gently rising dirt road for around an hour of map time, always following the signposts for Midori-ike (ミドリ池).
Eventually the trail leaves the road and rears up more steeply through the forest to gain several hundred metres of height, before levelling off as you reach the picturesque Midori-ike pond, with its Shirabiso-goya hut (しらびそ小屋) and campground, and beautiful reflections of Tengudake to the southwest.
Continue past Midori-ike pond and follow the trail in the direction of the Nakayama pass for around 20 minutes. You will begin to see the cliffs high up on the South face of Inagodake through the trees.
Eventually you need to strike out on your right into the forest, and try to locate the indistinct approach trail to access the South face. You will know when you’re on the right track because there are regular pieces of orange or red tape attached to tree branches at intervals. But there is no clear entry point, so be prepared to cast around a bit until you find the first piece of tape.
This approach trail continues up the hillside, getting steeper and steeper until eventually you arrive at the rock a little below the start of the “Hidari-kante”. Continue up along the bottom of the rock to climber’s left until you reach a tree with a distinct white and yellow tape wrapped around it. This marks the start of the route.
Approximate pitch descriptions are as follows:
Pitch 1: Scramble up easy terrain for 10-15m, then climb a slabby groove with a crack to access the dihedral above. Belay on two Petzl bolts on the crest of the arête. (35m III)
Pitch 2: Continue up the steep corner above, then up loose ground to a belay on a ledge beneath an obvious chimney. (30m III)
Pitch 3: You could climb the chimney on the right side of the gully at grade III, but instead I recommend taking the steep offwidth crack in the corner on the left side. Belay on the crest of the arête directly above. (20m IV+)
Pitch 4: Scramble up the arête on broken ground, taking great care with loose rock, then traverse leftwards along the base of the wall to a bolted belay. (40m II)
Pitch 5: Climb the wall up its line of weakness, paying attention to loose rock, and belay on the arete above. (20m III+)
Pitch 6: A final short pitch up the obvious crack to reach a bolted belay on a flat rock at the top of the face. (15m III)
The top of Inagodake is a sort of plateau, and its tree-covered highpoint can be reached by hiking along the edge of the South face for around 10 minutes.
To get down, follow the hiking trail along the edge of the plateau in the direction of the main Yatsugatake ridgeline to the west, down occasional steep sections with fixed rope in place. Eventually the orange tape markers will bring you back to the hiking trail that leads up to the Nakayama pass.
From here you have options. If you are already satisfied with the day then simply hike down the trail and you will arrive back at Midori-ike in around half an hour. If you wish to extend the day to take in nearby Tengudake then continue up this trail for around 30-40 minutes to the Nakayama pass. From the pass turn south on the main ridge and you will reach Tengudake in about an hour. To get back to the car, simply reverse the hike all the way down past Midori-ike and back to the trailhead carpark.
A fine outing in relative solitude through an area of stunning natural beauty, this route has a very alpine feel to it at a modest level of commitment. I highly recommend taking in Tengudake as well to make a full day of it. Bring cams (0.5/0.75/1/2), a rack of quickdraws and slings, and double ropes.
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