Location: Furano, Sorachi-gun (Kamiwaka)
Elevation: 1726m (1400m elevation gain, ~2000m total elevation change)
Length: Full day (17km round trip)
Hiked on: June 29th, 2015
When I was researching the route for Ashibetsudake, I read several comments saying that this mountain has のぼりごたえ、”noborigotae”, which pretty much means it’s a bitch of a climb. Still so, I massively underestimated this hike. This hike was definitely… a bitch of a hike. In the best way possible.
There are two routes, the kyudo, the old route, and the shindo, the new route. The registration log had 3 entries from the Kyudo when I started (8:30, so I was probably the last one in), and over 10 entries on the Shindo side when I finished. The shindo is a ridge route, as they usually are, and the kyudo travels into a valley onto the northern ridge. The hike begins from Taiyo no Sato campground about 20 minutes south of the Furano Ski Resort. The Kyudo begins on the northside of the campground where there are some tennis courts, and the Shindo from the southside where there are some reservoir like things of water.
The hike begins on a service road as usual. There is a big metal gate that you have to open up to get into the forest (to keep deer out), and the real trailhead is about 1.5km in. The trail right away is very narrow and there are lots of ups and downs along the side of the creek that the trail runs along. After a while, you get to a bunch of waterfalls, where there is a junction going to Yu-Fure Hut to the left. To keep going up, go right at the junction and you begin the real climb. The trail is steep and quite overgrown, which makes for unpleasant climbing. When you get to Fufuiwa (or Meotoiwa, I don’t know which reading, written 夫婦岩), there is another junction where you will see ribbons going both directions. The left side is a new shorcut, but I unknowingly took the right route. Either way though you will get up to the ridgeline where you finally get a view of Ashibetsu in front of you.
Kita-one, or the North Ridge, looks short at first but from where you pop out onto the ridge it’s 2 hours or so of scrambling to the summit. Some sections are quite sketchy and there aren’t ropes or chains to help you, so be careful. Still the ridgeline is spectacular, with great views all around. Ashibetsudake is particularly striking from this angle, resembling Yarigatake in the Northern Alps.
After a while, you get to a small meadow area from where it’s just a quick scramble up to the summit. Unfortunately I couldn’t see very far from the summit due to the clouds but the story goes that views extend out to the Daisetsuzan to the north and the Hidaka range to the south. Walking to the edge of the small outcrop to the north of the summit is hair-raising but makes for a great lunch spot if you’re into that kind of thing. Otherwise, the actual summit provides more of a safe area for resting and admiring the views.
The Shindo is like driving down a freshly paved highway compared to the Kyudo. The route does go through what looks like prime bear habitat, and I found 3 different bear droppings, so definitely be bear aware. Otherwise, it’s a fairly quick descent (despite the 1400m of elevation change) that took me a little 2 hours compared to 6+ hours coming up.
While I want to say I do not recommend the Old Route due to crappy trail conditions, the unnecessarily long approach, and some areas of exposure, I almost cannot see the point in doing this hike if you’re just taking the New Route there and back. The Kyudo is definitely not for beginners or those faint of heart and legs, so climb at your own risk. I would definitely recommend a pair of gloves though, as you will be using your hands a lot.
On a side note, the last few hikes I’ve done definitely aren’t motivating me to go hiking in the Niseko area. Talk about some real mountains. Maybe I need to move up north..