Elevation: 2244m (~700m elevation gain, ~1000m total elevation change)
Length: Full day or overnight (~12km roundtrip)
Hiked on: June 6th, 2017
Though virtually unknown to most people, Mount Hokuchin is actually the second tallest peak in Hokkaido after Asahidake. Thanks to the lofty elevation and it’s location, its eastern face is one of the few spots i n Hokkaido where you can ski well into June and even into July on some years.
If on skis, the bests way to climb this peak is from the hot spring village of Sounkyo, using the the Kurodake Ropeway which allows riders to bring skis in the cable cars unlike at Asahidake. Kurodake itself will have snow well into June, and when I did the hike you could start skinning as soon as you got off the chairlift which runs from the top of the ropeway up to the 7th station of Kurodake.
The hike up to the top of Kurodake (see my previous post here) is probably the more challenging part of the hike; the climb is steep and the snow conditions likely fairly hard/slippery. Crampons (for skis or boots) are highly recommended and you’ll definitely want to take off your skis around the 9th station. Note that depending on when you go you’ll likely have to take your skis off as snow will run out near the summit.
From the top enjoy the views if you are lucky enough to get one then continue on towards the Kurodake Ishimuro (石室), a stone hut located around a kilometer away from the summit of Kurodake. The hut itself will not be accessible until July. While the campground was free of snow when I went, you should expect most places to be covered in snow at least until mid-June (hopefully we go back to normal levels of snowfall from next winter) meaning prepared to camp on snow if you’re looking to do an overnighter.
Onto Hokuchin, if there enough snow coverage, take a direct line from the hut. Hokuchin is not the one directly to your west (Ryoundake), but the one further away. If a lot of the pine is exposed you can either follow the summer hiking route (which will be covered in snow along the way) or from the campground you can drop down slightly into a gully and follow the remaining snow there all the way to Hokuchin; the latter is recommended as you can skin all the way and is the more direct route, though you lose around 50m of elevation.
Once at the base of Hokuchin, you can either go directly up (it’s not as steep as it looks) or go around to the west if conditions are too slick for skins. Either way you’ll be up at the top fairly quickly. From the summit you’ll get a great view of Asahidake, the ridge extending west continuing on west from Hokuchindake (connecting Tomadake, Aibetsu, Antaroma, etc). On a clear day, even the mountains of Sapporo are visible.
There is usually snow coverage to the east and the north side of the peak; dropping to the north means you’ll have to likely skin back out so unless you’re looking to do a couple runs or more drop back to the side you climbed up from. It’s a beautiful 300+m drop and you can ski all the way back to just a few hundred meters away from the campground. Be careful not to overshoot and miss where the gully connects to the campground.
From the hut it’s a bit of a climb back up to Kurodake and then down to the ropeway which provides another 400m drop but expect the snow conditions to be worse in this portion.