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біля Iwa-kubo, Yamanashi (Japan)
This was the second attempt to go to Gongendake. Due to rain forecast the previous week I had decided to cancel. This time I was about to cancel again but the weather forecast changed from rain all day to overcast with small episodes of sun (which is often overly optimistic: sun mark = some percentage of the sky is blue but it can well be under 50%, sometimes even as low as 10%)
The hike starts from the parking lot at the end of road 618, that is approximately 10 km and 25 minutes by car from Kobuchizawa station.
Access by train from West Tokyo.
The JR Chuo towards Matsumoto leaves at Takao station at 6:14 AM and gets to Kobuchizawa at 8:28 AM.
For the return train take the JR Chuo line, Holiday Rapid View Yamanashi. Well a long name for a train roughly twice cheaper than the express.
On the last 500m of the dead-end road leading to the trail head, there were hundreds of cars parked on the side of it. Most of the people probably had gone for a 2-day hike as we met a lot less hikers than the number of cars would have let to expect.
From the parking space (elevation 1580m) The hike starts with a gentle slope in the forest on soft ground. Around 9 AM it is still relatively cool. After about 1km it becomes slightly steeper and large boulders of several meters high start to appear here and there on the side of the path. Most of them are covered with bright green moss while the smaller ones on the trail are bare due to heavy traffic from hikers. The trail is quite easy to walk and leads to a first vantage point, unfortunately completely in the clouds towards the South so we couldn't enjoy it.
As the trail keeps going we reach the intersection (elevation around 2100m) before the last part of the ascent to Amitake. From there the trail on the right bypasses Amigasa (編笠) and leads to 青年小屋 in 1:10 map time. We took the trail on the left which leads to Amigasa ( 2523m) with a steeper slope in comparison with the beginning of the hike. The trail requires slightly more caution as there as more rocks and roots on the way but overall it remains quite simple with no technical parts. The ladder and chains on the way are superfluous with dry conditions.
The summit is all but flat and almost entirely covered with gray boulders of various sizes up to 1m in each dimension. From there the views open towards the Yatsugatake summits to the North which tower over the crowd of hikers wanting their turn to get a picture with the sign. Clouds to the South blocked the view towers the South Alps (which were partly visible earlier in the morning from the train)
The trail then goes down towards the hut. It is clearly the wetter part of the hike (all the rest was dry) but there was hazardous puddles (that's the drawback of going for non-waterproof trail shoes: better ventilation and comfort during hot weather but immediate sanction when stepping in 2cm of water). The second part of the descent to the hut is no longer a trail but a series of large boulders. All of them are stable and so there is no particular danger for cautious people, only you should not try to run this part.
The hut is quite big and relatively cheaper than other places I have seen so far, 4800 yen / night, 2000 yen for dinner and 1000 yen for breakfast. There is a large campsite and a convenient water source situated about 5 minutes away (a level path leads to it). Map time from the car to the hut: 3:35 + 0:10 to get water.
From the hut to Gongendake (elevation 2715m, map time 1:30) the trail starts in the forest but very soon we get to the part of the trail which was visible from the hut, that is with no trees and a more Alpine atmosphere. The trail is covered with stable scree and at first not entirely on the ridge but to the East of it. Once getting to the ridge some stretches are quite exposed on the West while the East side is less precipitous. Chains are placed on the parts exposed to the East but do not seem indispensable under favorable weather conditions. The trail quite steep up to Kiboshi then becomes level and lead to the emergency shelter which was visible for a long time already (from Amigasa). The view to the North gets better with Akadake more imposing, calling for me to get there soon (map time is just short of 6 hours round trip from Gongen so not manageable this time because of the time constraints) The summit of Gongendake is accessible a few dozens of meters further, but it is very narrow and could fit only 2 persons at most. For this reason most hikers have lunch at the intersection just after the emergency shelter. The trail offers very little protection from the wind and as the thermometer indicated 10 degrees it was getting a bit chilly, which helped the other guys get done with their lunch faster than usual.
From Gongendake to 三ッ頭 (map time 0:40) the trail is quite steep at first with friable hard rock sometimes mixed with a kind of sand. Some chains and ropes can be used and there is only 1 spot where it seems really useful (then again with unfavorable weather conditions chains and ropes would prove much more useful). After a short while the slopes becomes much less steeper and a very easy and short ascent leads to the last summit of the day: 三ッ頭. In comparison with Gongen there is much less to talk about this summit. Within 25 minutes the temperature surged 10 degrees and from there it felt gradually hotter and wetter.
The trail from there to the last intersection (map time 2:00) the trail is ideal for a fast pace downhill run, the slope is moderate enough so that speed can be controlled and most of all the ground is soft with very few rocks and roots. There is nothing much in terms of scenery so running was probably the best thing to do.
The last stretch (map time 0:45) in the forest back to the car is almost level at first and then goes down and finished with an uphill which in itself is pretty uncommon. Underestimating the length of the last uphill I suddenly started to dash and then realized I had run out of energy only midway so I was completely overheating and panting at the end of the hike.
Total map time: 8:30
Total time: 5:49
Stopped time: 2:18
Distance 10.6 km (somehow feels more like 12, the GPS might have bugged)
Accum. climb 1448m
Mean Mov. Speed: 3.0 km/h
More pictures here: