Monday, October 15, 2018

Daisetsuzan National Park: A Short Hike in Asahidake

I made Asahikawa my base for three days, and went to places within a 1.5-hour train or bus ride from there. The first day was spent at Biei for a morning bus tour and an afternoon hike along roads (because I didn't—and still don't—know how to ride a bike!). The second day was at Nakafurano for  a walk among flower fields. And the third at Asahidake for a "real" hike. Not a hardcore one, but a short and easy hike on the mountain.

The bus to and from Asahikawa Station to Asahidake Onsen runs four times a day and I took the first one out. The bus ride took 1.5 hours and cost 1430 yen/way. The last stop was at Asahidake Ropeway, where I immediately bought a roundtrip ticket for the cable car (2900 yen roundtrip, departs every 15-20 minutes). The cable car journey took only 10 minutes.

The cable car wasn't crowded...maybe summer isn't peak season for Asahidake.

At the upper ropeway station, I filled out a form at the Hiking Registration Box, got an English map, and "listened" to a short briefing—I did not understand any of it; it was in Japanese. I don't know if they thought I was Japanese or if they just did not bother with an English briefing because I was the only foreigner there.

We were at 1600masl. The door was open while the briefing was going on and I could feel the chill in the air. I was not dressed for this chill: I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt. When I stepped out of the station to start the easy 1.7-kilometer hike, it was very foggy and the ice on the small pond right outside the station made me whisper a thank you to my sister for letting me borrow her waterproof jacket, which I sensibly donned.

I followed the map and took a clockwise route. The trail didn't have any English signs but it wasn't confusing (or maybe I did not get confused because I had a map!). I walked rather slow and tried to take in my surroundings or what little of it I could see through the thick fog.

There was a meadow of white-and-yellow alpine flowers which made for a very pretty foggy scenery.

There were more ponds. Although it was the hottest summer Japan's had in years, Asahidake clearly wasn't giving in just yet—there were still thick slabs of ice clinging to dear life.

I went to check out Asahidake's fumaroles where hot sulfurous gas was coming out, a clear indication that this is an active volcano. I waited and waited for the fog to clear up so I could see the fumaroles properly, but it never did clear up....not until I was way way across from it anyway.


There were observatories along the trail which weren't any use on this day—I couldn't see more than a few meters in front of me. But it did not bother me that it wasn't a sunny day. I have had three days of walking under the scorching summer sun, thank you very much. The cool, foggy, mountain weather was a very welcome one.

It was only when I was at the fifth (and last) observatory did the fog clear up for more than a few seconds to reveal the beautiful Sugatami Pond. I took a break on one of the benches to munch on my snack and watch the fog come and go. How far from the peak was I, I wondered. The map held the answer: it was a 2.5-hour steep climb from here (the beginning of the trail to the peak was just off to the right of the pond).

Sugatami Pond. Beyond the pond and behind the thick fog hides the peak of Asahidake

Half of me wanted to continue hiking to the summit (2291masl), but the sensible half reminded myself: I wasn't wearing proper clothing for this weather nor proper footwear for the terrain. There would most likely be more ice up there. Besides, it was all so foggy. And what would I see when I get there? I was willing to bet my jacket that all I'd see would be nothing but fog. (Yes, I was trying to console myself by telling myself that this was not the time for daring.)

Fifth observatory

When the inner debate was finally settled (my sensible self won), I glanced at my watch: it was 11:40 am. I checked the bus time table realized that if I missed the 12 noon bus, I would have to wait another 2.5 hours! I hastily said goodbye to the foggy, green views and speed-walked it to the Ropeway Station, hoping there'd be a cable car going down just in time for me to make it to the bus!

Japanese Summer 2018
Otaru on Foot
Asahikawa Accommodation: Asahikawa Ride
Beautiful Nature in Biei Town
Lavender Fields in Nakafurano
Daisetsuzan National Park: A Short Hike in Asahidake (you're here!)
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Hiking Thru Hell in Noboribetsu
Six Short Hours in Hakodate
Shikotsu-Toya National Park: Walking Through Abandoned Places in Toya
Hokkaido Rail Pass
Itinerary and Expenses: 9D/9N Hokkaido and Sawara Town

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