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Climbing the "Mountain Of Death"

October 07, 2015

On the edge of Gunma and Niigata Prefecture lies an area that many in Japan refer to as "Little Alaska". While there are numerous jagged mountains scraping the heavens, the king of the area is without a doubt the majestic Mount Tanigawa (Tanigawadake). However, over the years it has become known by another name - the Mountain of Death. Tanigawadake has garnered this foreboding monicker because in the last 85 years or so it has killed over 800 climbers (that is four times as many deaths as Mount Everest and K2 combined in the same time frame)!

So when my friend Tetsuya asked me if I could help guide a group up the mountain, I was intrigued but slightly skeptical since I had never been there before. He assured me that we were taking an easy trail and he needed my help with driving more than my prowess on the trail. Not to mention the leaves were turning and we would be staying in a lodge famous for its BBQ. How could I refuse such an offer?

Rather than go on a long diatribe about the trip, I will let my photos do the talking. Before I go I will mention that the lodge we stayed in, The Tenjin Lodge is owned by a wonderful and friendly family. While we ate a delicious BBQ dinner their 4 year old daughter put on an interactive play for the dinner guests using her stuffed animals, bath toys, and a cardboard box as props. It was an evening I will not soon forget. Kieren & Bo. (the owners) both have a wealth of knowledge about the area and are happy to bend your ear with all manner of amazing stories too. So if you are in the area be sure to stop in and experience some great Japanese hospitality with an Australian/Korean twist!

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Stunning vista like this were enjoyed the whole way up (and down) the mountain

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The shoulder hut with Okinomimitanigawadake in the background

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Written by Isaac Tait who now lives in San Diego but dreams of returning, one day, to Japan. You should follow him on Twitter