The famous steep face is reputed to be the resting place of the souls of more than 800 killed climbers. Placards at the base stand testimony to loved ones lost. I had seen them on a snowshoe trip there a few years ago, and my Japanese colleague was unnerved by his perception of the dead.

But on this sunny Sunday morning, life could not have been better. Thanks Wesu! The gravel service track under the cablecar was steep but fun, running up alongside the river of descending meltwater. Once past the cablecar, I joined a steady stream of photographers, picnickers and summit hikers, some with crampons and ice-axe, others in sneakers (really!). And they were right. Even the final snowfield up to the summit had a fixed rope handrail and cut-out steps. The summit rocks were occupied by happy groups basking in the sunshine, enjoying the spectacular 360 views, and cooking up lunch. Time to ditch the crampons. June 1. Summer has arrived.



10 thoughts on “Tanigawa

  1. You’re welcome for the gravel service road suggestion! I remember hiking swiftly up the road to the top of the gondola, and then drinking 4 liters of water from the restroom faucet in the building on top! Looks like the weather was fantastic – I’m sure you could look out over Mt. Makihata, Naeba, and Hotaka. Was the air clear enough to see Myoko and the Kita Alps as well?

    I wonder what your next peak will be….

  2. I really did appreciate your suggestion. It took 35 mins vs. 10 mins for the cablecar, and was so much nicer. There was no one else walking up and I had that part of the route to myself.

    The air was reasonably clear after the rain on Saturday, but I don’t know the mountains in this area at all, so could only recognize the shape of Norikura. It would have been nice to be able to identify yet-to-climb Myoko.

    (4 liters of water is impressive! But you’re right to drink plenty and it’s something I have never learned to do – 500ml for the round-trip is not enough.)

  3. I had no idea that many people had died on Tanigawa. That has to be some kind of record for Japan I’d imagine?

    Little and often would be my recommendation for water intake, or you risk havoc with your electrolytes – that’s why I love my CamelBak!

    Looks like you had beautiful weather..

  4. I don’t have definitive statistics and am only quoting, but Tanigawa certainly has been disproportionately in the news with accidents in the years I’ve been here – you’ve probably noticed the same.

    I know you’re right about the water issue and I have been carrying a CamelBak in the last two years, but still don’t drink. I’d like to blame slow race paces on lack of liquid, but I’d be conning myself…

    On your recommendation, I have been reading Twight. His comment about stopping to boil 7 liters of water on 24-hour mountain trips, which he didn’t think was enough, was shocking. The book is interesting even for a non-climber, with mind-boggling descriptions about what those guys put themselves through. I’ll have to stop complaining about the rain!

  5. I think the reason Tanigawa has so many fatalities is because of the Nishikuro course, which I’m told has a lot of chains. I couldn’t see too many people falling from the Tenjin course, as it’s pretty straight forward. or perhaps many are blown off the knife-edge ridge line? In any case, the weather on Tanigawa can be quite nasty most of the year, so maybe that’s the main culprit. I think places such as Tsurugi-dake or the Daikiretto are far more dangerous, but not as easily accessible. I’m sure thousands more climb Tanogawa, which would lead to such high fatality statistics.

  6. Yes, it’s hard to imagine accidents on the Tenjin course. About the only possibility is stepping into the grass at the edge of the summit path, which disguises a very long drop beneath! My understanding is that most of the fatalities have been among rockclimbers on the steep face near Nishikuroone.

    Wesu, in answer to your previous question, I’m off to Echigo/Hiragatake etc. this weekend. Looks like I might be lucky with some sunshine. You too must be heading off for these remaining peaks sometime soon?

  7. Well, Hana seems to be braving some fairly character-forming weather on Tanigawa, but that’s traditional for the area. As for the mountain’s grim reputation, most of the casualties are probably among rock-climbers/winter climbers in the Ichinokura-sawa valley. Sheer rock walls, loose rock, rusty pitons – and the dangers start before you even get there. There is every chance of falling off the approach to the climb either on your way up or down, and many people do. Grim place. As for the Twight, don’t smoke too much of that stuff…

  8. Hi there, great website. I found it through a link on Chris’s site. I live in Yuzawa these days and frequently hike up the mountains here, although my main sport is winter backcountry touring. From what I have read and heard from a local friend in Gunma, most of the fatalities on Tanigawa-dake occured after the train-line opened along Doai-station. There was a lot of competition among rock-climbers for first-ascents, especially among the university clubs. I think there are some works in Japanese that go into the history of this interesting era.

  9. Thanks for the explanation. The thought of so many wasted lives at the bottom of those Tanigawa rocks depresses me immensely whenever I see the place.

    George, I’ve just seen your website for the first time and am staggered by the photos, both the beauty and what you do up in the beautiful yukiguni. Like SDJ, it would be a waste for someone like you to live in Tokyo! And congratulations on publishing the book two months ago.

    I used to cycle-tour and so was inspired to see your snowboard strapped to the touring bike. I once met an Australian, cycling in Indonesia, with a surfboard on a trailer behind his bicycle…

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