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!
They morning view from the ropeway was stunning! A lot better than the day before!
As we were approaching the fifth station the surrounding mountains became smaller and smaller…
The dew on the plants was still frozen – it was probably still around zero degrees.
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!
The ski lift was probably the lowest one I have ever gotten onto. It did not even have a restraining bar…
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.
Initially, there were many plants and trees along the way..
But we soon crossed the tree line and all that was left were bushes.
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!
There is a little shrine on top, which was already filled with snow.
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.
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.
Apparently, we were not alone! We found some animal traces, maybe a fox or a deer..
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.
So we decided to move on…
Meet Wu – he is from mainland China and trades Cameras on the internet. He also collects some himself and shot with a Contax T3!
There was not much vegetation left along the way. Apparently there are a lot of flowers in summer, though!
We finally reached the caldera! It was wider than expected.
Looking back to Mt. Kurodake..
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.
Sometimes we were able to see the trail quite well, however!
The vegetation got more and more sparse along the way..
And the trail a lot steeper..
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.
The wind was still incredibly strong!
We were going that way..
From the Summit, we could see all the way down along what seems like a gentle slope.
Due to the strong wind very funny looking ice formations formed.
We kept on walking. A notification popped up on my phone – to my surprise I had a perfect connection!
We reached the Nakadake Intersection, where the trial splits into the direction of Mt. Asahidake and Nakadake Onsen.
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!
The trail up to Mamiyadake was quite steep.
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…
We finally arrived at the Onsen and it was special indeed!
Thanks for reading!
To be continued…