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Komagatake - September 2009

When I came to extend my stay at the Toko City Hotel I had a problem! The Japanese Government has changed the date of Respect for the Aged Day (which now seems to be called "Respect for the Elderly Day") and has moved it to the third Monday in September, and for the first time this led to 5-days of holiday. Whilst the Japanese have Golden Week in April, they now have "Silver Week" in September. Whilst this is good news for them, it meant that all the hotels were full and millions of people were travelling to enjoy the five day break! The 5-day consecutive holiday break will occur every 6 years, the next one being 2015.

The Toko City Hotel had a room for me for Friday night, but they were full for Saturday and Sunday. Hence my top prioirty was to go back to the Tourist Office at the station to try to find a room for Saturday and Sunday, and to reconfirm my flight. Having got all my travel and hotel reservations confirmed I was ready for another day in the mountains. Because of Silver Week, the fact that my rucksack was pretty heavy and the fact that my right knee was giving me some pain, I wanted a walk where I could gain height effortlessly but at the same time be at the 3,000 m level. The answer was Komagatake, 2,956 m, in the Central Alps.

It was quite a warm day as I set off at 6 a.m. on the Saturday morning…….. the temperature indicator at Matsumoto Station indicated 16 deg C already. I bought a Yen 1,110 rail ticket Matsumoto – Komagane and took the 6-32 a.m. train to Okaya, arriving at 6-59 a.m.

 

Here I changed to the Iida Line, and had to wait for the 7-28 a.m. train to Komagane.

Komagane train at "Platform 0", Okaya

The Iida line is a very nice single track railway that winds its way up the valley beneath the high mountains, and the train arrived at Komagane at 8-52 a.m. I was soon out of the station and on the bus (Yen 1,000 each way) waiting to take me to Shirabidaira, 1,662 m above sea level.

Along the Iida Line

The bus went through central Komagane before climbing up a valley via an incredible number of hairpin bends until it reached Shirabidaira, the lower station of the Komagatake Ropeway. This cable car, built in 1967 and rebuilt in 1998, takes you to 2,612 m above sea level to the upper station of Senjojiki Col. This is at the foot of a cirque directly below Hokendake, 2,931 m. The vertical lift is 950 m, which they claim to be the largest of any cable car in Japan. The ride takes just under 8 minutes, and each gondola can carry 61 people. The fare is Yen 2,200 return for an adult.

 

 


I arrived at Senjojiki at 10-05 a.m., and the temperature was already 12 deg C. It was going to be a beautiful day on the peaks.


I exited the cable car station, had the obligatory photograph taken, and headed up the trail to the left towards Gokurakudaira. The path is man-made and is not too steep, and there are ropes to keep people off the side of the track to protect the alpine flowers that grow there. I reached Gokurakudaira at 10-55 a.m.

Path to Gokurakudaira

Looking back down to the cable car station

Gokurakudaira

 

From Gokurakudaira you have majestic views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. Fuji-san could just be seen in the distance behind the Southern Alps chain, and nearer by Mt. Ontake stood proud of the surrounding plain standing isolated on its own. The ridge to Hokendake went off to the right, and after a fairly flat bit turned into an exposed ridge of broken rock.

Mt Ontake in the distance

It looked quite challenging ahead, but there are numerous chains and footholds that have been put in place to help you over the difficult bits. At one point, which is quite exposed, you have to jump from one rock to another a short distance away, relying on an overhead chain for security!

The trail leading to Hokendake along the ridge

 

A hiker in red can be seen half way down the peak

 

 

A tricky bit, where you have to jump from one rock to another with the aid of a chain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hokendake 2,931 m

 

Fuji-san can just be seen in the distance

I reached the top of Hokendake, 2,931m by 12 noon, and began the descent down the other side to the col over quite steep rock slabs. The path traverses a very narrow exposed ledge, but again you are assisted by chains for security. I reached the col and the two lodges located there, Tengu Sanso and Hoken Sanso, at 12-30 p.m.


 

 

 

Tengu Sanso and Hoken Sanso with Nakadake and Komagatake peaks ahead

Looking back to Hokendake from Nakadake


Up from the lodges is a peak named Nakadake, and the trail falls away the other side to another col with another lodge.

View of Komagatake from Nakadake



Nakadake

The trail then makes the final climb to Komagatake, 2,956 m. I reached Nakadake by 12-45 p.m., and Komagatake by 1-15 p.m. I stayed there for 10 minutes or so taking photographs and looking at the shrine, and then made my way back to the col where the two lodges are located.

Komagatake 2,956m

Komagatake Shrine

 

 

Lads in the small shop atop Komagatake

Looking back from Komagatake towards Nakadake, with Hokendake in the background


It was by now 1-45 p.m. as I started to descend down a steep twisting path down towards the cable car station. After a while the path levels out and traverses across the cirque towards the cable car station.

View back towards Nakadake



Mt. Fuji visible in the distance

I was back at the top of the ropeway at 2-25 p.m., and after a short wait took the cable car down. I was back at Shirabidaira by 2-50 p.m. The 3-10 p.m. bus took me back to Komagane Station, and I was there by 4 p.m. Ahead of schedule, I was able to take the 4-25 p.m. train instead of the 5-25 p.m. one, and reached Tatsuno Station by 5-11 p.m. Here I had to wait until 5-53 p.m. for the train to Matsumoto, and I got back by 6-31 p.m.

Monkeys on the road down from Shirabidaira


What a wonderful day out. In approximately 12 hours I had been able to visit the Central Alps and scale a peak (with assistance from the cable car!) of 2,956 m height and enjoy four and a half hours ridge walking.