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Trip Report    

Winter Scramble Mt. Akadake in Japan's Alps

A fun and easy winter scramble in great conditions

  • Road rough but passable
  • With early winter conditions, the route was good firm snow the majority of the way.  Traction devices would have been nice on the lower approach where it was mostly thin packed ice on rocks.  Crampons were necessary above the Gyoja Hut.

I had arrived in Japan for work and finished my quarantine by the end of November, so it wasn't long before I was looking to find some winter scrambles.  I wanted to start with something somewhat accessible, and Mt. Akadake, the highest peak in the Yatsugatake range, seemed to have a huge number of activities on the Japanese "alltrails" equivalent "YAMAP", so I planned to do that one first.

Mt. Akadake is a 9,512ft peak, normally climbed either from the north ridge, which forms the spine of the Yatsugatake range; or from the southwest face coming up from the Amida-Aka col.  The picture of the southwest face looked more exciting, with some definite mixed scrambling without being terribly comitting, so I decided that would be the route.  The climb is usually a half-day trip, but my compact rental car didn't have chains, 4WD, or winter tires so I started where the road started to get too dicey, adding some distance (blue line vs. trailhead icon) making it a round trip of about 11 map-miles and 5,050ft of elevation gain.

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I drove about 3 hours from my rental house to a parking lot at a small restaurant, parking was 500 Yen a day (about $5), and I paid for two days so I could sleep in my car overnight and get an early start the next day.  A couple other cars showed up throughout the night to get their own alpine start.  I think I saw them later in the morning, passing a group doing a mixed climb to my left as I was going up the Amida-Aka col.

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The approach was easy to follow, slightly unpleasant due to the rocky trail having hardpack ice and snow from previous climbers.  Nothing that could have steps kicked in it, not bad enough to warrant full crampons...and I didn't have regular hiking traction.  Above 6000ft, however, the snow got deeper and it was perfect Goldilocks snow for the rest of the approach to the last hut before the climb.  This hut is shuttered in the winter, but there were a handful of tents around it from people doing the climb as an overnight.  A full Yatsugatake ridge traverse is also a popular winter objective, shown below extending to the north from Mt. Akadake.

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I put crampons on at the hut and started up the small micro-ridge that splits the Amida-Aka col in two, which was extremely firm snow, mostly from bootpack.  I was the first to start up the mountain that morning so I was able to set a good steady pace, and I arrived at the SW face of Aka shortly after sunrise.  Winds were strong after coming out of the protected western bowl, around 25-35 mph according to the elevation-adjusted forecast with a temperature of -2F and windchill of -25ish so I climbed from here with my puffy on and warmer gloves.  Below is Mt. Amida, facing west from just below the Amida-Aka Col.  This is also a popular climbing objective.

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Above heading up past the chains is the SW face of Mt. Akadake, the route generally follows the shallow gully, where it is a good idea to get through and then down it before the sun starts to loosen up the rocks above.  From there, it was a short and fun mixed scramble to the summit.  Never terribly exposed, but with good views.  Steep, but I never felt the need to get out my second axe, good footwork with 1 axe was sufficient.  There were a couple small rock steps to gain the summit, which were a nice touch to finish the climb.  I took a few pictures from the summit, explored the ridgeline a bit, where there was another shuttered mountain hut.  After a snack, I descended the climbing route.  The bigger range, Southern Minami Alps can be seen in the distance beyond the Yatsugatake range ridge in the foreground.

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Above is the Mt. Akadake summit shrine.  Overall round trip time was 8 hours and 4 minutes, making this a great day-scramble when the snow is in good condition.  Highly recommended.