I have gone to Amida North Ridge, the snow ridge variation, on solo on January 6.
■ Nature of Amida Hokuryou (Amida North Ridge)
For the people who are unfamiliar with Yatsugatake, I'll explain.
Yatsugatake mountains are known for its winter mountaineering. The name "Yatsugatake" means 8 peaks of mountains so there are several peaks; from south to north, Gongen dake, Amigasa dake, Nishi dake, Aka dake, Amida dake, Yoko dake, Iou dake, Tengu dake, Kita yoko dake.
The most difficult peak is Aka dake and Amida dake. Aka dake is known as somewhat borderline between snow hiking and mountaineering. Aka dake belongs to mountaineering since you can not fall...if you slip and fall, it could be a serious accident. To avoid that, you will need all kinds of skills of winter mountaineering... like how to use your pikkel to stop from sliding down... and of course proper walking style with crampon, so you need a training.
But at the same time, Aka dake belongs to still snow hike...since there is no need of belay. Only, climbers have to be steady with his/her walking skill.
Every year, unskilled people die in Aka dake, and it is sad but is his/her fault. It would be ridiculous to belay someone in Aka dake. Tight roping (a short roping) atmost.
My husband can not climb Aka dake since he does not like to get a training. More precisely, he is scared to get a training. Getting trained means accepting a risk. He does not like to risk his life in the mountains, since you can die in Aka dake. So proper training is a must in Aka dake. You should not go there if you don't have one.
So, this is Akadake. Now Amida dake.
Amida dake is more difficult than Aka dake. More steep and less people. Not many climb Amida in green season. Amida dake is more of a winter mountain.
Amida dake has many variation routes and ice climbing routes. My first ice climbing route was Hirogawara sawa in Amida dake. I usually ice climb Minami sawa, big fall and small fall in Amida dake.
To get to the top, there are many ways... you can use ridges, you can use creeks, you can use rock. You can even use ice.
Amida Hokuryou (Amida North ridge) is the most easy variation route in the area. When you are done with Aka dake, and when you are new to the mountain that requires rope and belay, you go to Amida North ridge.
It is best to go there with your rope partner, since climbing is easy but you need a belay.
So this is the first mountain of the difficulty that you need a belay.
Amida Hokuryou is Amida dake's north ridge, and it is 3 pitch of rope climbing. Climbing grade is 3rd and 4th, which means pretty easy.
The normal course time will be 1.5 to 2 hours of climb, 2 hours to approach, 1 hour to decent, and another 1.5 hours to go back the approach.
Yatsugatake could be as cold as -25 degree, and -17 degree is normal to this area. So you must prepare for the cold.
The wind is the major risk to any winter climbing. If you are really good at knowing the weather of this area, you will be able to catch the day without wind or mild wind, as I did this time.
Avalanche is known in this route. So you should not use creek to go down. You should not climb the day after snow fall, even a small amount of snow, it would be avalanche.
The well-known avalanche site is "Nakadake sawa", and "Akaiwa no Kashira".
Every year, there are some people dying climbing Amida dake, including north ridge.
The main cause is to climb in windy day, and gas. So no vision and route finding getting difficult.
There are very famous death accident of University students last year.
The 3 members of a local alpine club, which I had joined a few years ago, had gotten frost bite on their hands and toes.
■ This is how I climbed
I watch weather map every morning. The first thing I do in the morning is to check the weather.
I plan my week according to the weather forecast and I am getting the forecast specializing in the mountains, which I had to pay monthly.
Jan.6th was a no wind day... the line was so apart... meaning weak or no wind at all.
The next day was the same, so this meant, even if I had some accident and had to bivouac, I will only need to do that one night, no more.
2 nights forced bivouac means fatal in this mountain.
So I decided to go.
Of Course I told every people I met that I am going to Amida and this introductory level variation routes so people can notice if I am not coming back, there is some accident with me.
No one was worried for me, even though I am going alone.
I had decided to not to bring a rope since I am going without a partner and no one to belay me. A rope in this case, means nothing but weight. But I thought about rappelling use.
I did not think about I would go back and need rope to rappel. I thought I would not climb if I had any chance I had to go back. But still I brought short rope with me, just in case.
I put my rescue sheet and down pants and down jacket into my pack, so I can put up with the cold of the night if I had to stay at night, forced vivauc.
I did bring two axes but I only used one single axe.
The other equipments are same as any winter snow mountaineering, winter boots, crampons, helmet, heavy winter grove.
■ Was easy
I left home at 5 in the morning and arrived at 7 in the entrance of the mountain.
At 9, I was at Gyojya hut where I should put on my equipments there, since above the altitude there is no more forest.
At 10, I was in the root of the 1st pitch. There were 3 people climbing so I passed them.
2nd pitch was only easy snow wall, maybe 50 to 60 degree... I used my axe.
3rd pitch, there was another party, 3 men climbing, so I passed them again. The lead climber was saying "I don't know how to clove hitch" and I felt it is not a good idea to come to the route without knowing how to self arrest.... since you have to use clove hitch to self arresting.
I passed him and within 100m, I had reached to the summit of Amida dake. At 11.
It was so easy and there were plenty of time left so I climbed Aka dake too.
At 12:30, I was on the top of Aka dake, and at 13, I was back in Gyojya Hut, 15:30 I was at the car.
I was soaking in the hot spring at 16.
It was the victory I earned all by myself.
It took me 3 persistant years till I am perfectly confident that I won't fall at 3rh and 4th grade climbing, I am so proud of myself that I took the time till I get to do solo in this one.