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Tue, Nov. 10, 2015 Mt. Tsurugi: Attacking the Palace of Crags
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Mt. Tsurugi in Toyama Prefecture is one of the most impressive peaks in Japan's Northern Alps range, rising to a height of 2,999 meters. Because of its jagged appearance it is often called the "Palace of Crags". Although modern alpinism was introduced in the late Meiji period (1868-1912), Tsurugi was the last of Japan's major mountains to be climbed. It is still considered the hardest.

Cveto Podlogar is a professional mountain guide who has scaled numerous peaks around the world. To reach the top of Mt. Tsurugi, he begins by following the course of the Kurobe River, first by train and then on foot. The Kurobe Gorge Railway was originally built for the construction of a hydroelectric power plant. And the Horizontal Track was cut into the precipitous cliff face. His route continues via Sennin-ike, a pond offering views of Mt. Tsurugi, across a glacier, and then along a steep, rocky ridge. Along the way, he comes across tunnels dug in the rock face, and discovers the remains of an old molybdenum mine at an altitude of almost 3,000 meters.

On this edition of Journeys in Japan, Cveto leads the way through beautiful autumnal scenery. He explores sites that bear testimony to Japan's modern industrial history. And he overcomes setbacks to finally scale the "Palace of Crags" — the summit of Mt. Tsurugi.

Kurobe Gorge Railway
Kurobe Gorge Railway
Work to build the Kurobe Gorge Railway began in 1926. Its purpose was to transport materials and workers to the site of a dam on the Kurobe River. After many requests from members of the public, regular passenger services started in 1953. Today, it offers visitors breathtaking views of the Kurobe Gorge.
Tel: +81-765-62-1011
Azohara Onsen mountain lodge
Azohara Onsen mountain lodge
This is the only mountain lodge between Keyakidaira (the final station on the Kurobe Gorge Railway) and the Kurobe Dam. It has an open-air bath filled with natural hot spring water that gushes up in a tunnel that was built as part of the Kurobe Dam. Since the area is vulnerable to avalanches, the bath is dismantled and stored inside the tunnel when the hut is closed through the winter.
Open: From mid-July until the end of October
Tel: +81-765-62-1148
This pond lies at an altitude of 2,100 meters. It is renowned as one of the best spots for viewing Mt. Tsurugi, especially the peak's reflection on the water surface. In autumn, it is popular not only with climbers but also people who come expressly to enjoy the beautiful foliage. It can only be accessed on foot. From Keyakidaira Station, the hike takes about 14 hours; from Kurobe Lake, about 10 hours; and from Murodo, about 9 hours.
North Ridge
North Ridge
The route along the North Ridge is considered one of the hardest ascents of Mt. Tsurugi. It is also longer than the standard route, up the west of the mountain.
Climbers following the North Ridge have to traverse a snowfield and scale sheer cliffs. They should be equipped with crampons, ice axes, helmets, harnesses and ropes. For those with little climbing experience, hiring a professional guide is strongly recommended.
For further information, please contact the Toyama Prefectural Police Headquarters (Regional Section, Community Safety Department).
Tel: +81-076-441-2211
Mt. Tsurugi summit
Mt. Tsurugi summit
The first recorded ascent of Mt. Tsurugi was in 1906, by officials from the Land Survey Department of the Imperial Japanese Army’s General Staff Office. They were tasked with the important job of filling the last blank in the map of Japan. It was previously thought that no one had ever reached the summit. But when the officials reached the top, they found a rusty iron sword and a priest’s copper crosier. Both are believed to date from the late-12th century and are now on display in the Tateyama Museum.
Tel: +81-76-481-1216
To reach Unazuki, where Cveto began his journey, take the new Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train to Kurobe-Unazukionsen Station. Then transfer to Toyama Chiho Railway main line.
There are also trails to the peak from Lake Kurobe and Murodo. The easiest, shortest trail starts from Murodo. It takes about six and a half hours to reach the summit.
Travel Log

Traveler: Cveto Podlogar > More Info


Occupation:UAIGM International guide

Length of residence in Japan:24 years

By Trans-Siberian railway to China; spent 6 months in Tibet; then came to Japan and made a journey all over Honshu Island by bicycle; interviewed by Yamagata NHK at the time; met Chiharu-san (partner)… and stayed!!

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Mt. Tsurugi 2999m

This peak is not so high on a global scale. Even in Japan, it is only the 22nd highest. But it is a great challenge, to climb it from any direction.

The history of Mt. Tsurugi and the surrounding land — the people, trails, railroad tunnels, and dam — is very colorful and interesting. So if you come to Japan for a mountaineering trip or just for sightseeing, you should not miss it.

On this edition of Journeys in Japan, we made the "Grand Traverse" of Mt. Tsurugi, starting in Toyama prefecture. We started on foot from Keyakidaira, the end of railroad for tourists. We went through the deep gorge of the Kurobe River. And further up, we crossed the northern ridge to the summit. It is always a big challenge — for me, as well.

I had done this route four times before, but each time there are different conditions on the four-day climb. This time a violent rainstorm destroyed the bridges for accessing the upper part of the mountain, so we had to wait. And then there was an unusually big snowfield, causing dangerous rock falls. This route is only climbable for a few weeks each year — and not many climbers are lucky enough to make it the top. Happily, we made it !

Of course for me, as the guide responsible for the safety of the whole team, I felt tremendous satisfaction at the summit, and we were rewarded by a fantastic 360-degree panoramic view. We spent a fantastic hour above the sea of clouds, surrounded by steep cliffs in all directions. And, as always at the top of Mt. Tsurugi, I was wondering how a priest got up here in ancient times... to the foot of the gods....

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