Yoichidake 余市岳

Location: Akaigawa, Yoichi-gun (Shiribeshi) / Jozankei, Sapporo
Type: Hike
Elevation: 1488m (1000m elevation gain)
Length: Full-day (17km round-trip)
Hiked on: June 8th, 2015

Another hike that begins at a ski hill! I’ve always wanted to hike Yoichi-dake, but preferably in winter when I can take the gondola halfway up and ski down. Well, I never got around to doing that this past winter but I saw a post on Yamareco by a guy who climbed it recently, which gave me enough of a push to get out there. In summer, the access is rather daunting, having to walk up a service road for an hour to the trailhead which starts about halfway into Kiroro Resort.

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There was still a good amount of snow in the surrounding mountains and the creeks were running quite high. At one of the crossings I pretty much had to jump onto a wet submerged rock praying that I won’t slip and get washed downstream. Not fun. The trail is not very well marked (probably unnecessary seeing as how in summer it’s probably quite well defined) so I had to be quite cautious on the numerous snowfields.

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Eventually, you start climbing steeply up a ridge, and soon you’ll get to the junction of the trail coming from the gondola station. The large mass of Yoichidake dominates the view as you walk down to the slight col before the final climb up to the top. The climb is steep, but eases off quite soon. You think you’ll be at the top soon, but the summit is actually on the other side of the mountain, so even when you’ve gained most of the elevation you have to walk quite a bit to get to the actual summit. On the way you hit an opening which gives you the first view of Yotei in the whole hike (!) and from there it’s another 300m walk. There’s an area at the top that seems like it’d be quite good for camping, if you don’t mind sleeping on sasa or pines (surely sasa is quite comfortable?)

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Yoichidake is the highests mountain in the immediate vicinity of Sapporo, and obviously the views are fantastic. You get the usual views of Yotei, the Niseko range, the mountains of Shakotan, Shokanbetsu across Ishikari Bay, Jozankei/Shikotsu mountains, and even out to the Yubari Range.

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On the way down I decided to take the trail to the gondola and walk down the ski runs, mainly so that I don’t have to make that creek crossing again. It actually ended up being quite fun, walking through the giant field of sasa which connects Yoichidake and the neighboring Asaridake, then checking out the top section of the gondola station, and walking through what is probably my favorite ski area in Hokkaido.

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For the most part, I think this hike is better left off until a bit later in the year when the most of snow has gone, but I’m glad I did it. The only other hikers I saw were a group of 3 older gentlemen who apparently turned back because they couldn’t find the trail in the snowfields, so I was the only one who summited today! I wonder if it’ll see more hikers when the gondola’s running in summer. Probably, but it’s fine the way it is right now.

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