Posted tagged ‘Mt. Asahi’

Mt. Asahi (旭岳)

June 16, 2008

Mt. Asahi is an active volcano and unofficial symbol of Daisetsuzan National Park. The stunning scenery and easy access make it popular with tourists throughout the year.

The hike: From the parking lot look for the trailhead on the right side of the road, easily recognizable with its huge yellow “Beware of Bears” sign. Most people use the gondola, which will probably make you the only one on the trail. Despite its lack of use, the trail is pretty well marked, with lots of wooden planks to keep hikers from trampling the vegetation. Be on the lookout for bears, and sing your favorite childhood songs if you’ve forgotten your bear bell. The path follows a stream most of the way before cutting toward the left for a somewhat strenuous climb to the top of the gondola. It should take about 90 minutes to reach the gondola trail junction, where you’ll meet the huge crowds of people who took the lazy way up. Turn right once you hit the junction, and you’ll find a stone emergency hut in about 20 minutes. This is here in case the volcano decides to burp while you’re climbing, and from the looks of the steam vents, the hut’s probably been used before. Continue climbing on the spine of the volcano. The maps say to allow 2-1/2 hours to reach the peak, but you can do it in half that time, as it’s only a 600m vertical ascent. The views from the summit on a clear day are fantastic, and you’ll see most of Daisetsuzan National Park rising up all around you. You can either head back down the way you came , or continue for an interesting loop hike. Descend down the other side of the mountain until you reach a small campsite. The descent is really steep, with a huge snow bank remaining most of the year. Continue up and over Mamiya-dake (間宮岳), turning left at the next junction to reach Naka-dake hot spring (中岳温泉), one of Japan’s hidden hot springs. It’s actually quite difficult to find hidden among all the boulders. Continue climbing past the hot spring to Susoai-daira (裾合平), where you’ll find a trail junction. Turn left to head back to the gondola, via the beautiful Fuufu lake (夫婦池). The entire loop should take between 6 and 8 hours, so plan accordingly.

When to go: The gondola runs all year round, so this hike can be done in the winter with an ice axe and crampons. If you don’t want to fork over the money for the gondola, then you should aim to go between Golden Week and mid September, when most of the snow is gone. The Youth Hostel near the trailhead is easily the best hostel in all of Japan, with a 24-hour outdoor bath and Canadian style log cabin. Click here for the website.

Access: From Sapporo station (札幌駅), take a JR Limited Express train bound for Asahikawa (旭川) and get off there. From the station, take a bus bound for Asahi-dake Onsen (旭岳温泉) and get off at the last stop. The bus runs throughout the year, but frequency varies based on the season. Click here to access the schedule.

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 3 out of 5 (elevation change 1110m).

Mt. Asahi (朝日岳)

February 28, 2008

Mt. Asahi, in Yamagata Prefecture, is one of the most inaccessible peaks in Japan, and one of the most breathtakingly beautiful.

Mt. Asahi- Yamagata Pref.

The hike: From the hut at Koderakousen, take the trail heading towards Mt. Kodera (小寺山). The trail wastes no time in gaining elevation, and you’ll be happy for the abundance of fresh water if hiking in the summer. After about 2 hours of climbing, a trail will come in from the right. This leads to Hananukimine (ハナヌキ峰). Ignore this trail and keep climbing on the well maintained path. After another 30 minutes you’ll reach the top of Mt. Kodera. The views will start to open up, but the best is yet to come. Continue for another half hour or so toward Mt. Ko-asahi (小朝日岳). Just before the steep climb to the top, there’s a spur trail off to the right. Take this if you’re feeling lazy, but otherwise head to the top for a sweet view of Mt. Asahi stretching out in front of you. On the peak, the trail from Asahikousen joins this trail, so the number of people should increase somewhat. From here to Mt. Asahi, there’s only one trail and it’s well maintained. Drop steeply off the top of Mt. Ko-asahi, being careful not to slip and fall. After descending to the saddle, the ‘lazy’ spur trail I mentioned earlier will come in on the right. Continue climbing up and up for another 90 minutes or so, enjoying the multitude of alpine flowers along the way. Eventually, you’ll reach Dai-asahikoya (大朝日小屋). This is your home for the rest of the day, as watching the sunrise from “Sunrise Peak” is one of the main reasons for doing this hike. You can camp outside the hut, or stay for the measly sum of 1200 yen. The hut has no food or futons, so bring your own cooking gear and sleeping bag. There’s a water source a short distance away on a side trail. Wander up to the main peak if the weather’s good to watch the sunset. The next morning, wake up early so you don’t miss the action. In the summer, you need to be out of the hut around 3:45am if you want to get a good spot for the sunrise. It’s only a 10-minute hike from the hut to the top, so pack up your gear and take it with you. The sunrise, if the weather is good, will definitely alter your sense of Japanese beauty. The sun comes up behind Mt. Zao, and illuminates the ridge lines of Mt. Iide, Gas-san, Mt. Chokai, Mt. Bandai, and hundreds of other nameless peaks. No utility poles and no concrete anywhere to spoil the view. After taking in the scenery, follow the trail heading to the left, towards Asahikousen (朝日鉱泉). The trail drops quite steeply for the first hour or so, and then enters a beautiful virgin forest, eventually flattening out to follow an amazing river with crystal clear water. Follow the river for about 2 hours or so, and you’ll end up at the Asahikousen, one of the best mountain huts in Japan. Keep your eye out for Japanese mountain goats (Kamoshika), as there are a lot in this area. The owner of the hut is really friendly and makes one of the best bowls of soba in Japan, teeming with fresh organic mushrooms. Oh, and use the hot spring bath while your noodles are being prepared.

When to go: This mountain is completely inaccessible in the winter due to its remote location and the obscene amount of snow it gets. The roads usually open up again in late April, so go between then and early November.

Access: From Yamagata station, take a local train on the JR “Fruits Line Aterazawa” line and get off at Aterazawa (左沢駅), the last stop. Trains are very infrequent, only running once an hour in the mornings and evenings. There are no trains between 1 and 4pm. From the station, take a bus to Asahikousen (朝日鉱泉). The bus only runs from July 23-August 14, leaving Aterazawa station at 1:05pm. Click here for the bus schedule. Another option would be to take a taxi to Koderakousen (小寺鉱泉), an alternative starting point for the hike. The taxi is not cheap, though. I did this hike after descending Gas-san, and hitchhiked all the way from there to Koderakousen, so that’s definitely an option for those without a car. I’ll describe the hike from Koderakousen to Asahikousen, so you can take your pick of trails.

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 1320m)