Location: Kamikawa, Kamikawa-gun
Elevation: 1984m (~450m elevation gain)
Length: Half-day (~2km round trip)
Hiked on: November 12th, 2016
While relatively a small peak compared to other mountains in the Daisetsuzan, Kurodake is an impressive looking peak when viewed from the onsen town of Sounkyo where the rope way that hauls you up to 1300m. The ski area at the top is often the first place to open in all of Japan.
Once at the top of the rope way, you can either start your walk from there, or take the chairlift (if it’s running, it does not run throughout the year) to save you a little more walking. The real hike begins from at the end of the chair lift, which marks the 7th station of the hike if you were hiking from the bottom of the rope way.
The hike is steep, and when snow conditions are challenging can be a bit of a tough skin. The entire ski area is located on a broad ridge which eventually narrows. As you get higher trees will thin out and you’ll see “Maneki Iwa,” some gargoyle rock features on the opposite side of the ridge you are going up.
The final climb is steep but short, and you’ll eventually see the little shrine at the top indicating the summit. On a clear day you should have a great view of the volcanic plateau at the top and the several 2000m peaks around Kurodake. Unfortunately I got no such view when I was up there (just clouds) and you can likely expect the same unless you go sometime in spring.
Going down, it’s tempting to dive straight into the giant bowl that seems to continue on endlessly below; keep in mind that will take you to the next ridge over from the ski resort (meaning you’ll have to climb back up if you go too far down) and that avalanche risk can be extremely high even when other parts of the mountain are stable. Wisest move will just be to follow back down where you came up, then enjoy the steep trees in the lower part of the climb.
I’ve heard you can ski down from the top of the ropeway all the way to Sounkyo, however looking at the terrain I wouldn’t really recommend it, especially earlier in the season. Think super tight trees with cliffs hiding everywhere, although it’s probably some of the steepest terrain in all of Hokkaido.