Minami Alps Pass

Yamabushi

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#1
As I mentioned in another thread, "Budou-toge", I'll be out in Nagano next month from the 13th-19th. I'm researching some various routes to ride out and/or back from there. In doing so, I found a very interesting pass through the Minami Alps that if passable, would be very useful for me. Is anyone familiar with this segment, http://ridewithgps.com/routes/1709561 ?

Any information would be appreciated, thank you!
 

Samuelg

Warming-Up
Jun 22, 2009
33
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#2
Thou shalt not pass

Hi there, i actually researched this route earlier this year, i had it planned as part of a tokyo to kyoto ride, and the original plan was to do this pass on the second day from Isawa-Onsen to Kisomura, .. i was a bit unsure of the pass so i drove out there the week before for a quick recky, and found that the road up there (from the tokyo side) was quite ok, but it was gated and closed at the top, and not just a gate you could climb around, it had a gaurd box there with a full time guard. I ask if we could go thru on bikes, but he just laughed at me, and said that the only way thru was on a special parks bus for hikers, and that was only running from late june thru to August,... i am not sure of the security arrangements coming from the other side, but going from tokyo side wasn't going to work, so i had to redo the route to go around to the 152, http://connect.garmin.com/activity/176868315
mind you, the gonbee pass is only just barely passable on a road bike, with about 5km of 'used to be paved' road
 

Yamabushi

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#3
Thank you for the info! Wow... OK... a guard box at the top. Who would have thought? :confused:

I've asked Chuck, ProRaceMechanic about this pass as well. Maybe I can get him to take a look up there from the Ina side.

As for Gonbee-toge and tunnel, I know them well. My wife's parent's house is just the other side of the mountain to the north.
 

Deej

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Oct 13, 2007
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#6
Hey Pete,

I'm pretty sure that bikes are not allowed on the upper reaches of either side of that pass.

About three weeks ago, Clay, Jules and I hit part of that route for an all-single-speed adventure that included camping and trail running.

We approached the pass from the south and were stopped by a guard at a tunnel roughly 20km from where I've stopped mapping and told that only buses were alowed on the road beyond that point. Not to be defeated, we clambered down to the river paralleling the road and went around the guard. This was hard and slightly dangerous work, as it's a deep gorge. Let's just say that it involved climbing waterfalls -- with our bikes. Somehow, we made it.


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We made it to our destination (Hirogawara), but received a lot of funny looks from the bus drivers. We left our bikes there overnight to head into the hills on foot. The next day, we were planning on blasting through the tunnel and past the guard. However, the mouth of the tunnel was completely covered by metal bars -- I honestly think a trap was laid for us, which would explain the looks of barely contained glee we were getting from bus drivers as we set off for the return trip. We overhead them calling us "San piki." :) But we did the old river trick again and were able to continue on our way.

I read an online account from another cyclist approaching the pass from the north, and he said a police car picked him up as he was climbing -- 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning -- and dropped him and his bike off at the top, telling him with a smile that his jurisdiction ended there.

So as far as I can tell, the pass is technically off-limits for cyclists, but with some luck and improvisation, it can be traversed. ... Maybe.

Anyone else out there familiar with the roads Pete is looking at? I think Clay and Jules may have at one point ridden the road on the 45-55km mark on your map. I'll ask them.
 

Deej

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#8
Wow Deej! That's a pretty epic adventure! That picture climbing the waterfall is crazy! :eek:

Being Japan there obviously doesn't need to be a good logical reason for it, but I wonder why they aren't allowing cyclist through?
Epic is the word for that trip, Pete. :) I was high for a week afterward.

Yeah, we were perplexed by the seemingly random rule of forbidding cyclists from using the roads. We guessed that perhaps the bus companies want to force everyone to pay for their sefvices. And they probably use "safety" as justification for keeping people off the roads. But it beats me how they have the power to enforce such rules. Perhaps the companies own those roads?

Oh, and here's a quick map of the route we took.

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/135430157
 

Yamabushi

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#10
Deej, on the map you just posted, approximately where is the guard located? What kilometer mark?


Yeah, we were perplexed by the seemingly random rule of forbidding cyclists from using the roads. We guessed that perhaps the bus companies want to force everyone to pay for their sefvices. And they probably use "safety" as justification for keeping people off the roads. But it beats me how they have the power to enforce such rules. Perhaps the companies own those roads?
That's about the scenario that I imagined as well.
 

joewein

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Oct 25, 2011
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#16
But it beats me how they have the power to enforce such rules.
What a trip!

I heard that when express train connections to Narita Airport such as JR's Narita Express started up, they were asked to keep their prices high such as not to undercut the companies operating the existing Limousine bus connections too much and put them out of business.

To me a bicycle ban would only make sense if there were bears or other dangerous animals (excluding humans) around.
 

Ludwig

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Oct 9, 2008
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#17
Pete asked me off-line about this rindo, and now that Tom has pointed me to this thread, I feel compelled to come out and reveal my story, even though I once promised not to write about it publicly.

I've done the full valley from the south to the Kitazawa pass and then down the north side and out there. This was on my cyclocross 2.5 years ago - though my normal road bike would have done as well, as the only unpaved part (the last 4km up to the pass) were covered in snow anyhow and I had to walk.

At the time, there were no guards in front of that tunnel with the high gate. Maybe it has been added since, because they thought I climbed the gate??

Just as you guys must have done, I went back a few hundred meters where I could access the river and then walked a few hundred meters through the river bed with the bike on my back. I climbed up a steep slope of about 20m back to the road, just beyond the tunnel entrance. I figured that going any further would not make it any easier, and your report has validated that. Nonetheless, even my ascend was quite dangerous, though I think less so than yours, seeing the photo.

As I cycled up the valley, I encountered only a pair of hikers. The huts around Hirogawara were under construction/refurbishment and the construction workers didn't pay any attention to me. When I reached the Kitazawa Pass, someone came out of the house up there, but was very friendly and told me he sometimes smuggles his MTB up there to do some riding.

It was when I rolled down the north side that I passed a hut some meters above the road where someone saw me and immediately ran inside (to make a call). Soon I was approaching a patrol car (not police) with a guy next to it trying to stop me. I evaded and went on. He chased me in his car. I was faster downhill than him, but then there was a section where I had to cycle up-hill again and he got closer. I stayed in the middle of the road to make it impossible for him to pass me. After I reached the next downhill, he gave up.

I passed various hikers, but they didn't seem that interested. Only a little later, I approached the final bus stop and the driver of the bus there had come out of his bus, with arms wide open, trying to stop me, in a rather vicious way. I used my football tactics, pretending to want to pass him on his right, but last second switching to his left, which did the trick.

Eventually, one has to pass a bridge with a guard hut on the other side of the river. I didn't seriously consider trying to somehow find a different way through the river further upstream or downstream, especially as the hut was located very strategically to oversee a broad stretch of the river. It felt like I was approaching the border of the former GDR.

Not surprisingly, I was met with a guardman at the lowered beam and had to confront him - not so worried any more because I knew I had passed what I wanted to see and there was little he could do. He confirmed that he would love to fine me but there was no basis for it... So I had to promise to never blog about this...

Of course I challenged him about this nonsense of keeping bikes out of the valley. He said that was because the brakes might overheat and there may be accidents. Wow, let's then close all mountains to bikes!

I think as with other rindos where bikes are banned the real reason is that they don't want to be called when something happens. They can't ban hikers, but they can ban anyone else.

I wonder whether it is possible to pass the two non-gated but guarded entry points in the cover of the night...

BTW, as Deej mentioned, there are many tunnels and they don't have any light. The longest is 1km and I had to do it basically without light (only had one of this useless tiny blinking lights). This was scary and difficult.

http://www.mapmyride.com/route/jp/kanto/401127315623078205

The place is beautiful and worth seeing. But best by bus and on foot (there is Kita-dake to climb). Unless you are a crazy rindo adventurer...
 

Yamabushi

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#18
Of course I challenged him about this nonsense of keeping bikes out of the valley. He said that was because the brakes might overheat and there may be accidents. Wow, let's then close all mountains to bikes!

I think as with other rindos where bikes are banned the real reason is that they don't want to be called when something happens. They can't ban hikers, but they can ban anyone else.
Thank you for sharing that Ludwig! I wonder if this is a privately owned pass or is government owned, and under what authority these people "guarding" it?