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Home: Highest Mountains in Japan: Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳) and Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳)

Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳) and
Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳)
Japan's 25th & 42nd Highest Mountains


The awesome peaks of Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳), elev. 2956m, and Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳), elev. 2864m, in the Central Japan Alps (中央アルプス, also referred to as the Chuo Alps) are two of the couplet mountains I mentioned on my Mt. Suisho-dake/Mt. Washiba-dake page that you can climb in tandem.

In over two decades of hiking in the Japanese high country, this mountain climbing trip was the only time I’ve ever visited the Central Japan Alps (中央アルプス). And Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳) is the only peak among Japan’s highest 25 mountains that is in the Central Japan Alps (中央アルプス).

Although the Central Japan Alps (中央アルプス) are often overshadowed by their neighboring sister ranges, the Northern Japan Alps (北アルプス) and the Southern Japan Alps (南アルプス), these peaks are awesome in their own right and deserve a lot of respect. To tell you the truth, this expedition to climb Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-dake (木曽駒ヶ岳) and Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳) was one of the more difficult ones I’ve ever done in Japan.

Mount Kisokoma from Mount Sannosawa
Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳), as seen from
Mt. Sannosawa (三ノ沢岳)  (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia)

I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m guessing that because the trails in the Central Japan Alps (中央アルプス) do not get nearly the traffic that trails in the Northern & Southern Japan Alps do, and because the design, construction, and maintenance of these trails are relatively more primitive, negotiating them requires a lot more effort, with a lot more ups and downs and a lot more scrambling being necessary.

As a result, the ridge trail between Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-dake (木曽駒ヶ岳) and Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳) severely kicked my butt. While the Lonely Planet’s “Hiking in Japan” guide estimates the hiking time from Senjojiki (千畳敷) to the Kisodono-sanso mountain hut (木曽殿山荘) as 6 to 8 hours (including traversing the Kiso-koma summit), it took me well over 10. Of course, I may have just been out of shape. smiley  But word to the wise, I found this ridge trail above-average in difficulty.

Of course, if you’re just interested in climbing Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-dake (木曽駒ヶ岳) as a day hike, the convenient Chuo Alps Komagatake Ropeway (駒ヶ岳ロープウェイ) shaves 950m off the vertical ascent, leaving only a little over 300 more vertical meters from the top of the ropeway to the summit of Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-dake (木曽駒ヶ岳). Nice.

And if you’re rich, you might just want to stay overnight in the gorgeous Senjojiki Hotel (ホテル千畳敷) at the top of the ropeway, which we had very nice views of from up above on the ridge trail.

Senjojiki Hotel & upper terminus of Koma-ga-take ropeway
Senjojiki Hotel (ホテル千畳敷) &
upper terminus of Komagatake ropeway (駒ヶ岳ロープウェイ)

Day 1– August 12, 2002


My favorite hiking buddy, Naoki, and I left Shinjuku bright and early this Saturday morning at 7 am on a bus for the city of Komagane (駒ヶ根), where we caught another bus at 11:30 for Shirabi-daira (しらび平), the bottom terminus of the ropeway.

Because it was a busy summer weekend, coinciding with the Japanese Obon holiday season, we had to wait around a couple of hours before catching the ropeway up to Senjojiki (千畳敷) at 2:15 pm.

But it was kind of fun just milling around the many sightseeing tourists, as this beautiful area is part of the Nagano Prefectural Nature Park (長野県立自然公園).

Female Japanese climbers in the Central Japan Alps
Speaking of nature, hiking in the
Central Japan Alps has its fringe benefits.  smiley

After the short 8-min. ropeway ride, we hiked up to our sleeping spot for the night, the Chojo-sanso mountain hut  (頂上山荘, Japanese for "Summit Hut"), which is just below the summit of Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-dake (木曽駒ヶ岳), arriving there at 3:50 pm.

Day 2 – August 13, 2002


The next morning we got a nice early start, leaving our packs at the mountain hut since we would be coming back the same way, and arrived at the summit of Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-dake (木曽駒ヶ岳) at 6:35 am, only a 15 min. hike from the mountain hut. It was fortunately a nice sunny day, so we were able to take quite a few nice snapshots.

Back at the Chojo-sanso mountain hut (頂上山荘), we took a little time to do some last-minute packing and then hit the trail around 7:30, headed for Hoken-dake (宝剣岳). Hoken-dake (宝剣岳) is an interesting little outcropping of granite rock, which required the built-in chains to negotiate. And the beautiful sunny weather allowed Naoki and I to snap away with our cameras. There were truly some stunning views from up there.

Hoken-dake (宝剣岳)
Hoken-dake (宝剣岳)

Back on the trail, we headed for Gokuraku-daira, reaching there at 10 o’clock and passed Dakusawa-omine (濁沢大峰) just after 11 o’clock. We stopped for our 1-hour lunch at Hinokio-dake (檜尾岳), where Naoki fired up some nice chicken soup for us on his propane gas stove.

One of the funniest things that happened to me on this day was when I lost my zip-off, detachable day pack. As I recall, this was the first time for me to use my new JanSport backpack (Believe it or not, I still use this pack, so it's certainly not new anymore.).




One of the reasons I had bought it was that I thought the zip-off day pack feature was pretty cool. The only thing is, that day I didn’t secure it properly to my backpack, and with all the jostling back and forth on one of the more primitive sections of the ridge trail, it finally went flying.

And although Naoki & I both got a good chuckle seeing it tumble down about 30m off to the side of the trail, I can assure you it was no fun scrambling down all that loose rock debris on a very steep talus slope to retrieve it. smiley  I realized later that my wallet and other valuables were inside that little day pack. Duh, Gary! Well, let's just say it was a learning experience.

When we reached Higashikawa-dake (東川岳) shortly after 3:00, we decided that Naoki should probably go ahead & hike on ahead by himself and leave this slowpoke behind. We wanted to notify the Kisodono-sanso mountain hut (木曽殿山荘), our sleeping spot for the 2nd night, that we were running a little late, but we had no cell phone service up there. So the hare went on and hiked up ahead by himself, arriving at the mountain hut at least a half-hour before the tortoise.

The folks at the Kisodono-sanso mountain hut (木曽殿山荘) were exceptionally cordial and served up a very hearty and tasty dinner. And before retiring, we were blessed with an outstanding sunset. Wow.

Sunset from the Kisodono-sanso mountain hut
Sunset from the Kisodono-sanso mountain hut (木曽殿山荘)

Day 3 – August 14, 2002


Well, we woke up this morning and discovered that our gorgeous weather had gone south. And if the fog...borderline mist...was not enough (speaking of the ups & downs I mentioned previously), the Kisodono-sanso mountain hut (木曽殿山荘) sits at an elevation of only 2587m, which is actually lower than our starting point on Day 1, elev. 2612 m, at the top of the ropeway at Senjojiki (千畳敷).

So the very steep and rocky, nearly 300m vertical climb up to the summit of Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳) was without question the most difficult part of this entire course. LOTS of chains & LOTS of scrambling. So I was already wiped out by the time we reached the summit at 7:15 am.

Atop Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳)
Atop Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳)

Ordinarily, the 8-km hike down the beautiful Ikeyama-one ridge (池山尾根) to the Komagane Kogen (駒ヶ根高原) trailhead would’ve been very enjoyable, but I was in so much pain when I finished this hike, I officially retired from mountain climbing. No joke (but I started back again the following year).

Naoki & I had lunch at the Ikeyama-goya mountain hut (池山小屋) at 11:30, and just before the end of the trail, we had a nice visit with some fellow climbers who were collecting wild mushrooms & other mountain vegetables for their sansai soba (山菜そば).

And by far the best part of the entire trip was the Komakusa-no-yu onsen in Komagane Kogen (駒ヶ根高原) where we soaked our sore muscles before heading home. After catching a bus in Komagane (駒ヶ根) City at 4 pm, we arrived back in Shinjuku before 9:30. Yee hah!

My Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳)
and Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳) Pics


The pics in the collage below are a sampling of my Kiso-koma/Utsugi photo album hosted at Flickr. Clicking on the collage will open up the album on a separate page, or you can view the entire set sequentially in the slideshow player below. I hope you enjoy them !

Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take & Mt. Utsugi-dake photo collage



  Click above to view a slideshow of my Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳)
and Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳) pics, taken Aug. 12-14, 2002.
    (View all pics at a glance here.)



My Google Map of Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木 曽駒ヶ岳) and Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳)


In Oct. 2009 I created the customized map below, as I thought it'd be cool to see all of Japan's 25 highest mountains at a glance.

(zoom out to see all 25 highest mountains)

View 25 Highest Mountains in Japan in a larger map


Route Map & Elevation Profile
of Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳)
and Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳)



Source: Yamareco.com



Access


Depending upon which part of Japan you’re coming from, there are perhaps an uncountable number of ways to access these gorgeous peaks by train or bus from both east and west sides of the Central Japan Alps (中央アルプス) mountain range. Even from the east side, which is the way I went and includes the Chuo Alps Komagatake Ropeway, you have many options.

Naoki and I caught a Keio Dentetsu Bus from their bus terminal on the west side of JR Shinjuku Station, which took us to the Komagane (駒ヶ根) City bus terminal, denting our pocketbooks ¥6500 for the round-trip (as of April 2012, it costs ¥6900). There are 16 buses a day, making the 4-hour trip in each direction. The Shinjuku to Komagane bus timetable is here, and the Komagane to Shinjuku bus timetable is here. The Keio Dentetsu Bus Co. also now offers a round-trip ticket from Shinjuku all the way to the top of the ropeway at Senjojiki for ¥10,000.

The 50-min. bus ride from Komagane (駒ヶ根) to the Shirabi-daira (しらび平) ropeway terminus runs every 30 min. (every hour from December through March), and costs ¥1210 one-way or ¥2000 for the round-trip. The 8-min. ropeway ride runs every 20 min. and costs ¥1180 one-way or ¥2000 for the round-trip. Both the bus and ropeway are operated by the Chuo Alps Kanko Co.

More detailed fare & timetable info for the bus to Shirabi-daira (しらび平) and the ropeway to Senjojiki (千畳敷) can be found here. Please note that private cars are restricted on the road from the Suganodai Bus Center to Shirabi-daira (しらび平), so hitchhiking is out of the question.

Please stop by again soon



My Aug. 12-14, 2002 climb of Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳) and Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳) in the Central Japan Alps (中央アルプス) was an awesome hiking trip. From these hiking trails, on a clear day the views of other nearby peaks in both the Northern Japan Alps (北アルプス) & Southern Japan Alps (南アルプス) will take your breath away.

The only drawback about hiking during the busy Obon holidays in Japan, though, is you are certain to encounter crowded conditions on the trails & in the huts. But I guess that comes with the territory, because like Golden Week and the New Year's holidays, during Obon most Japanese tend to all vacation at the same time, making the trains, planes, and highways pure craziness. 

I hope you found this page informative & do please stop by again soon, as I intend to update it in the future with more details on climbing Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳) and Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳), including a record of my climbing schedule and trip expenses.

In the meantime, if you have any quick questions for me, feel free to give me a shout by posting them in the "Add your comment" section below or by clicking on the "Contact Me" link at the top right of this page.

And if you've already climbed Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳) or Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳) & you'd care to pay it forward & share your climbing story & pics with other climbers, we'd love to hear of your personal experience. You can share your story here.

If you're lucky enough to hike up either of these awesome peaks, I wish you my most heartfelt good luck. GO FOR IT !!  smiley

Additional links:
Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳) summit 6-day weather forecast
Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳) summit 6-day weather forecast
Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take (木曽駒ヶ岳) topo map (from the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan)
Mt. Utsugi-dake (空木岳) topo map (from the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan) summit 6-day weather forecast 
Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-take/Mt. Utsugi-dake route map (1:50,000 hiking map, part of the Yama-to-kogen Chizu series published by Shobunsha, available in bookstores and from Amazon Japan)
The long dream - A very gripping story with absolutely stunning pics of a failed Dec. '08 winter climb of Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-dake (木曽駒ヶ岳) by mountaineer extraordinaire Mr. Chris White
The Crucible and the Rat - Another gripping story with even more stunning pics of his follow-up successful Feb. '09 winter climb of Mt. Kiso-koma-ga-dake (木曽駒ヶ岳) by mountaineer extraordinaire Mr. Chris White (I just love reading this man's stories, and really think he deserves a Pulitzer...)



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