Double trouble on Tanigawadake

Tanagiwadake is another famous 100 mountains of Japan, it’s situated in Gunma prefecture and is a mecca for climbing for people from Tokyo. There are many different routes, but the ski resort of Tenjindaira makes a super-easy simple approach, seeing many hundreds of climbers a day, especially on a weekend in spring and summer. The mountain itself stands at only 1977m tall but this downplays the seriousness of the terrain on offer as Tanigawadake is the most deadly mountain in Japan with some 805 people having died climbing it since the 1930’s. It’s proximity to Tokyo would certainly help that number as would the severe increase in difficulty some of the other routes have compared to the easy walking path along the ridge.

Nate and I set off on the long early morning drive to ski Tanagawadake because the winds up above 2500m in Hakuba were forecast to be too strong to accomplish anything large in the valley. We arrived to the modern Tenjindaira ropeway, which brings you up to the family-friendly beginner pistes of the resort which are situated at the top of the mountain.

The ropeway station matches my ski-outfit colour palette
Tenjindaira ski resort

What the resort does offer, apart from some probably pretty great powder skiing under the ropeway to the bottom of the valley in winter, is easy access to the ridge leading up to Tanigawadake.

Nate starting the walk along the ridge to Tanigawadake from Tenjindaira
Joel walking up towards the first high point


The walking track is heavily frequented in spring, skins were not required and due to the warm weather, neither were crampons. The hoards of Japanese climbers walking the track with axes and crampons made for a good track and we quickly passed at least 50 climbers on the way up to the summit. The first hike took us approximately 1.5hrs to the first high point of 1963 and then a little bit more to the true summit.

Nate and the crowds of Japanese climbers
Crowds of climbers on the first high point
Nate on the true summit of Tanagawadake

On our walk between the first high point and the true summit we spotted a steep face into a constriction that looked skiable right from the summit. After some scoping from various angles we committed and had a great run into the valley.

Does this go?
Looks like it’ll go
Summit of Tanigawadake
Nate dropping into our line on Tanigawadake with hoards of onlookers on the ridge above
Joel skiing down the last of the couloir off Tanigawadake
Nate coming onto the main face off Tanigawadake
Our descent from Tanigawadake

The exit of the valley was an easy summer road which brought us back to the ropeway station without much effort or time. But the thawing of the road in a few spots shows that spring is well in effect.

Nate negotiating one of the thawed road moments

That hike and run worked out so well that we had the majority of the day left, so what do you do when that happens? Go back up for a second lap.

Joel and Nate on the first high point (Pt 1963)

As the sun had shifted a bit to the west by our afternoon second summit, the line we had thought about skiing had become shadowed and started to ice up again, so we dropped the sunny, friendly and heavily glide-cracked south side back towards the ski area. The skiing was great spring slush and the glide cracks had created a bouncy and playful ‘mogul’ course for a large portion of the descent.

Our second line down from Tanigawadake

For après ski we went to a great outside onsen called Takaragawa Onsen, which was a mixed gender onsen, unusual for Japan.

Takaragawa Onsen in summer (not my photo)

After that we got caught in some horrendous sunday afternoon traffic bound for Tokyo on the highway and then drove for a few hours on Japanese backroad-mountain roads to avoid the traffic to make it back to Hakuba.

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