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The Daisetsuzan National Park – Part 2: The Daisetsuzan Traverse in October

Attention, this post contains many images so it might be best not to view it on a mobile connection!

Read Part 1 here.

Initially, I only planned to hike to the summit of Mt. Kurodake on Oct. 5, 2014 because I was told multiple times by outdoor shop staff, tourist information staff and the people working at the Youth Hostel, that the popular Daisetsuzan Traverse was already impossible to do due to snow and bad weather. However, at the Youth Hostel I met Wu from China, who initially planned the same route as I had: to hike from Mt. Kurodake across a part of the National Park to Mt. Asahidake. So we decided that we were going to go up in the morning and see for ourselves if we could do it, in case the weather allowed. Note: we carefully weighted our options and were equipped with additional layers of clothing, flashlights and emergency utilities. Do not attempt this route unprepared! As there are also a lot of Brown Bears in the National Park, one is advised not to go alone and to carry a noisy bear bell. We did not have one, but apparently Brown Bears are in hibernation during the winter – so we were not to see one.
According to our map the trip should take us approximately 7h, but I read reports on the internet of people requiring roughly half the time. We wanted to hike from Mt. Kurodake til the Mt. Nakadake intersection and then decide whether we were going to climb Mt. Asahidake or rather walk around it. A map can be found here. The limiting factor was the last ropeway down from Mt. Asahidake which departed at 17h.

I woke up at 5am, packed my backpack and set out to meet with Kaho from Tokyo, whom I met the day before, in the Youth Hostel lobby. The weather was clear and we wanted to take the first ropeway up. However, there was a huge queue and we turned out to be the first in queue for the second ropeway. Good thing, because the second ropeway was nearly empty so we could go around in look in all directions!

Sounkyo

They morning view from the ropeway was stunning! A lot better than the day before!

Sounkyo

Sounkyo

As we were approaching the fifth station the surrounding mountains became smaller and smaller…

Sounkyo

The dew on the plants was still frozen – it was probably still around zero degrees.

Kurodake

From the fifth station we proceeded to take a ski lift up to the seventh station. You can see the summit of Mt. Kurodake in the back of the picture!

Kurodake

The ski lift was probably the lowest one I have ever gotten onto. It did not even have a restraining bar…

Kurodake

At the seventh station I met up with Wu and we wrote our hiking plan into a registration book, in case we would not return. No one else had signed out that day yet.
The way up would have been easy to walk, but there was a lot of ice beneath the snow with small puddles underneath.

Kurodake

Initially, there were many plants and trees along the way..

Kurodake

But we soon crossed the tree line and all that was left were bushes.

Kurodake

We also noticed clouds on the horizon so we decided to step the speed up a little bit, in case they were closing in.
After 1h we reached the summit of Mt. Kurodake! The wind was incredibly strong, instantly blowing my rain cape off my backpack, which I just managed to catch. The view was stunning!

1984 Meters!

Kurodake

There is a little shrine on top, which was already filled with snow.

Kurodake

We could see part of where we were going to go. The mountain in the middle at the very end is Asahidake. Looks close, but we were not able to see the huge caldera between us and Asahidake, yet.

Kurodake

The weather was good aside from the strong wind, the clouds did not seem to close in and the snow only about 10cm deep, so we decided to proceed.
Just below Mt. Kurodake is a self-catering mountain hut where you can stay if you bring your own food etc.

Kurodake

Apparently, we were not alone! We found some animal traces, maybe a fox or a deer..

Kurodake

We decided to stop by the hut to see if anybody was inside. To our surprise a few park rangers were just cooking their breakfast in the hut. They stayed the night to take pictures and were closing the hut down the next day to secure it from animals during the winter. We had a long chat with them about the conditions of the trails and they more or less said, that as long as the weather stays good we should not have any problems. We departed at 9’o clock.

Kurodake

So we decided to move on…

Kurodake

Meet Wu – he is from mainland China and trades Cameras on the internet. He also collects some himself and shot with a Contax T3!

Wu

There was not much vegetation left along the way. Apparently there are a lot of flowers in summer, though!

Daisetsuzan Traverse

We finally reached the caldera! It was wider than expected.

Daisetsuzan Traverse

Looking back to Mt. Kurodake..

Daisetsuzan Traverse

The trail is on the top of the rim of the caldera and mostly marked by yellow signs, many of which were already covered by snow.

Daisetsuzan Traverse

Sometimes we were able to see the trail quite well, however!

Daisetsuzan Traverse

The vegetation got more and more sparse along the way..

Daisetsuzan Traverse
Daisetsuzan Traverse

And the trail a lot steeper..

Daisetsuzan Traverse
Daisetsuzan Traverse

We finally reached the summit of Mt. Nakadake: 2113m! It was only 10:15 so we were well ahead of the time we would’ve thought it’d take us to get to Mt. Nakadake.

Mt Nakadake

The wind was still incredibly strong!
We were going that way..

Mt Nakadake
Mt Nakadake

From the Summit, we could see all the way down along what seems like a gentle slope.

Daisetsuzan Traverse

Due to the strong wind very funny looking ice formations formed.

Daisetsuzan Traverse
Daisetsuzan Traverse

We kept on walking. A notification popped up on my phone – to my surprise I had a perfect connection!

Daisetsuzan Traverse

Daisetsuzan Traverse

We reached the Nakadake Intersection, where the trial splits into the direction of Mt. Asahidake and Nakadake Onsen.

Daisetsuzan Traverse

As I wanted to go a little further, we split up there and Wu began to descend towards Nakadake Onsen.
But apparently I was not alone, anyway!

Daisetsuzan Traverse

The trail up to Mamiyadake was quite steep.

Mamiyadake

On the summit of Mt. Mamiyadake (2185m) I met three Japanese hikers who just came from Mt. Asahidake. I chatted with them, asking about the conditions on Asahidake. The conditions were good, but the ascending trail was facing the wind so a lot of snow gathered there. They told me the snow was probably about 30-40cm deep which was way higher than my boots. As the view was not going to be all that different from what I had already seen, they recommended me to descend down to the outstanding Nakadake onsen! So we descended together…

Daisetsuzan Traverse

Mt Mamiyadake!

Daisetsuzan Traverse

We finally arrived at the Onsen and it was special indeed!

Nakadake Onsen

Thanks for reading!

To be continued…

Read Part 1 here and follow up with Part 3 here