Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Mt Onigatsura

Mt Onigatsura, a 1,465m (4,806 ft) mountain in Fukushima ken, Japan 
Aptly named 'The demon's face.'

Mt Onigatsura, along with Minamidake (1354m) and Kitadake (1465m), forms a dramatic pinnacle and cliff-strewn ridge heading SSW from Asakusadake. It is a stunningly beautiful sawtooth with three tops. The path over it skirts yawning gullies and avalanche-scoured drops falling into into the wild valley between it and Mt Asakusa. Grand sweeps of forested mountains flow towards Niigata to the west. The path looks from a distance as if it will involve some exposed scrambling. It doesn't, but it is often close to  edges. For example, you can see the path skirting the very top of the tooth in this photograph.

I 'ran' it both ways, starting at the tunnel at the head of the pass on route 252 west of Tadami, doing the full ridge and adding Asakusadake (1584m/5197ft), and heading back the same way, having done the other routes before. This took 4 hours 40 minutes in all, including a 20 minute stop, so as a walk it would be double that, or more. It is a good obvious path, but steep in places and rough underfoot, with the usual tree roots and scrub to deal with.  It requires concentration when near the edges and moving quickly. There is no water on the ridge, and not as many people go this way. With the exception of a few on the top of Asakusa-dake, I saw one person all day on the ridge, and it was a fine Sunday.

Shallow cave on the ridge, with Asaksadake in the background

It being in August, the path was beautiful with a profusion of wild flowers. Legions of dragonflies filled the air - some of them the huge green ones with bodies four inches long and bigger. When they fly close to your face it is like being scrutinised by an alien spaceship.On the more runnable section towards Asakusadake I surprised five snakes, whereas a walker at the top had seen only one on the same section. A king amongst slugs was encountered on the path too, grazing un-phased by the drama of it's lofty neighbourhood.

Any resemblance noted in speed and appearance entirely offensive, OK?

Thankfully the (literally) killing heat of the last ten weeks had eased a little, and the elevation of the ridge above 1,000 metres made the temperature pleasant by comparison, though still warm, and if I may put it thus, sluggish.

This is a classic route and the best I have done in Aizu so far. If you can arrange pick-ups it could be combined to make a long traverse accross Asaksa-dake from north to south by using the NE ridge, or done in a southern circuit including the path which directly climbs steeply to the summit of Asaksa from the small station on the Tadami line to the south. All would be long day walks needing early starts and plenty of water and gear.


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