I’ve been thinking about climbing Tanzawa for a long time. It’s close to Tokyo and access is good. At the same time, depending on the route it can be exciting and long as well. The way I chose, starting from the Yabitsu pass, then going down towards Miyagase was both.

It doesn’t really show up on the altitude graph, but there were lots of ups and downs along the way. While that was fine on the way up, the way coming down, getting tired and short on time, it was getting a bit frustrating. Not to mention that I was carrying 10kg extra weight in my backpack (for training), which made the distance the biggest challenge.

The start from the Yabitsu pass bus stop wasn’t obvious. There are multiple paths starting from the bus stop, but not the one I needed. That took a while walking down the road to reach. There is also a point where the path crosses a forest maintenance road, and it’s easy to miss where the trail continues there.

For most of it though the trail is well maintained and easy to walk. It’s a popular destination in a national park, so to protect the vegetation often the path is covered with wood planks. The way to Miyagase has fences to protect rare vegetation too, though from the local wildlife (deer are considered pests) not humans.

I chose the Yabitsu trail because I read that it was the more “interesting,” which in Japanese terms usually means plenty of steep, rocky bits and scrambling over boulders. The trail delivered. While most of it was a tranquil walk in the forest, the path would suddenly drop into the deep. Of course even those bits were well equipped with chains to hold on to, the dust made them very slippery.

To make matters less fun, after I reached the Tower (塔ノ岳) it started raining, and clouds were sitting low on the ridge. It wasn’t enough to soak me, but enough to wash the bug repellent off me, which resulted in a few itchy bites before I could stop to re-apply it. The rain didn’t last long, but the clouds stayed around, so no cool summit scenery for me. (Though I’m not sure if there’s one at all because of the woods.)

The trail followed the ridge most of the way to Miyagase, meaning at least some wind to ease the summer heat. Most of it was easy to walk and obvious to follow, with stairs at the steeper bits, but then occasionally it’d melt into nothing at a wider opening or go very narrow traversing steep slopes.

Because of the extra weight, I wasn’t able to go as fast as I’d have liked to, but I still made it to Miyagase faster than the standard course time. It was relieving when I caught the first glimpse of the lake, though it’d take another hour or more even to get to the end of the trail from there.

It was a long and challenging day (almost 10 hours total for the near 25km distance), but I think it was worth it. I can feel my stamina improve gradually as these weighted hikes make me stronger.

Tanzawa is accessible and has much easier (and shorter) routes than the one I picked for myself. If Takao and Tsukuba aren’t enough of a challenge, it can be a good next step. Just be sure to have bug repellent and wear long pants in the summer (I got some nasty bites on my legs that took almost 2 weeks to recover). I might decide to go back sometime to get that summit scenery the clouds denied me this time.