Yuniishikaridake – Otofukeyama – Ishikaridake Traverse ユニ石狩岳~音更山~石狩岳縦走

Location: Kamishihoro, Kato-gun/Kamikawa, Kamikawa-gun
Elevation: 1967m (Ishikaridake, ~1700m total elevation change)
Length: Full day+ or overnight (~20km total distance)
Hiked on: June 27th~28th, 2016

This hike, done as a loop, covers the three peaks of Yuni-Ishikari (1756m), Otofuke (1932m) and Ishikari (1967m) that make up the heart of the Central Ishikari Mountains located in the eastern portion of Daisetsuzan National Park.

The trailhead is accessed from Tokachi-Mitsumata Forest Road, off Route 273 that connects Sounkyo Onsen and Lake Nukabira. I parked my car at the trailhead for the Schneider Course which serves as the main route up to Ishikaridake and backtracked 2km to the trailhead to the Tokachi-Mitsumata course which serves Yuni-Ishikari.

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The Tokachi-Mitsumata trail was quite well maintained when I did the hike, and it’s just a steady climb first through a field of sasa bamboo then a beautiful forest until you get to the main ridgeline at Jukoku Pass. From the pass around an hour roundtrip up to the first peak of the hike, Yuni-Ishikaridake.

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Once you’re back at the Pass, continue west towards Otofukeyama. The trail travels up and down a couple minor high points, in between which is Buyonuma (literally “black fly swamp”) where the designated camping spot is. It’s not the most appealing place to camp though. There are several other spots along this portion that would make for better camping spots, or you can continue on to Otofukeyama near which are another couple places you can pitch a camp.

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The final 300m climb up to Otofukeyama is steep and daunting, however you’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of the Daisetsuzan Mountains and alpine scenery reminiscent of the mountains of Honshu. I pitched my tent just below the summit of Otofuke which is probably the best spot to camp as long as the winds aren’t too strong.

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If you are doing the hike as a day trip, continue on down the other side of Otofukeyama through a boulder field. The trail can be a bit unclear here: look for the occasional markers in the rocks, or just aim for the part further down where the trail becomes clear again if visibility is good.

Once you get to the low point, it’s a quick jaunt to the junction of the Schneider Course which will take you back down to your car. But first it’s another couple hundred meter climb to the highest peak in this hike, Ishikaridake. The climb isn’t as bad as the one to Otofuke, and you’ll see the summit sign straight away at the top of the climb. The summit sign says “1966m” and the actual highest point of 1967m is another couple minute’s down the ridge.

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There is a trail that continues on past the summit along the impressive ridgeline that continues down to Numanohara, which connects Ishikaridake to the main part of the Daisetsuzan Range. For now, backtrack to the junction to the Schneider course and begin making the steep 1000m descent down the narrow ridge. I think this may have been the roughest part of the hike. Just near the trailhead there is one creek crossing where a few fallen trees have been set up as a bridge. However the water level was quite high and the crossing was quite sketchy, especially with the heavy pack and the wet surface. Most likely not a problem when the water level is low and you can just walk right across the stream from which point it’s another 10 minutes or so to the trailhead.

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For some reason, the Central Ishikari Range does not seem to be a very popular destination, and if you are wanting to get away from the crowds and want to hike something a bit different from the rest of Hokkaido, it’s definitely worth a trek out to.

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