Nipesotsuyama ニペソツ山

Location: Kamishihoro, Kato-gun/Shintoku, Kamikawa-gun
Elevation: 2013m (~1300m total elevation gain)
Length: Full day or overnight (14km roundtrip)
Hiked on: June 28th ~ 29th, 2016

The story goes that Fukada Kyuya, the author of Nihon Hyakumeizan (100 Famous Mountains of Japan), did not climb Nipesotsu until just after he published his book. It is said that he deeply regretted not having included the peak in the list, and Nipesotsu is now known by the Japanese hiking circle as the “Illusional Hyakumeizan (幻の百名山).”

There are a couple different routes up the mountain. The Horoka Onsen course, starting from the namesake hot spring village, is seldom used and more or less a defunct route. The majority of hikers use the Juurokunosawa route, served by the Tokachi-Mitsumata Forest Road that also serves the trailheads to Ishikaridake.

The hike begins with a creek crossing, after which you hop onto a ridge right away which you will follow for the next couple hours or so. The trail was well maintained at the time of posting and the old growth forest is quite beautiful.

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The trail changes direction when you reach a rocky outcrop with a “watch your step” sign. You have to scramble across a giant rock here and while it’s nothing outrageously dangerous, do be careful especially when the rocks are wet. The trail will then drop down to “Tengu no Col”, the low point before climbing up towards Mae-tengudake which rises in front of you. The designated campsite is here, however I would avoid it since there are little to no views and the place looks like prime bear territory.

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After crossing the forest, you’ll begin making your way up again through dwarf pines and into alpine territory. As you climb you’ll see the Central Ishikari Mountains rising behind you and the massive plateau of the Daisetsuzan Range to your right. Suddenly you’ll find yourself surrounded by giant piles of boulders that are home to the Northern Pika (ezo nakiusagi). They can be a bit hard to spot, but listen out for their piercing screeching that will echo across the rocks.

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Eventually you’ll reach Tengudaira, just before which there are a few spaces where you can set up camp. If you are visiting during summer and/or on a weekend, don’t count on there being a space here as it can be quite popular – best to try to get there early and have a back up plan. The shape of Nipesotsu seen from Tengudaira will make it clear where the Chinese character for mountain “山” comes from.

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From Tengudaira, it’s a slight drop then another climb before reaching Tengudake. The trail doesn’t go quite to the top of Tengudake but rather skirts around it before dropping down again before the final climb up to Nipesotsu. Unfortunately this means a big climb back up (~300m) before getting up to the summit. The last 100m or you’re in true alpine territory reminiscent of the jagged rocky peaks of the Yari-Hotaka Range, a very rare sight in Hokkaido.

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The summit itself is surprisingly spacious and with not much around it offers a fantastic panoramic view of the entire Daisetsuzan Range, and all the way out to the Hidaka Range down south and Shiretoko Peninsula to the northeast. Do be careful though, as while it may not look it it is a thousand meter drop to the bottom if you are fooling around and slip off the edge.

The hike back is easy except maybe the climb back up to Tengudake. If you have some time try hanging out in one of the boulder fields on the north side of Mae-tengu and see if you can spot a pika. I saw a couple but didn’t manage to get a photo, but they do have the goofiest faces I have ever seen on an animal, and in the best way possible.

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