Stories, pictures and video from the mountains of Hokkaido

Ezo Summer Hokkaido isn’t just a winter wonderland. It’s an awesome place to be in the summer too. This is the summer blog, packed full of the hiking, cycling and camping adventures we get up to when the island isn’t covered in snow.

West Coast Camping and Hiking Pinneshiri (May 2015)

With the last of the snow barely hanging on atop the highest mountains in Hokkaido, camping season is getting underway! We headed out to the small coastal town of Atsuta on the west coast a little north of Sapporo and Ishikari. The official campsite there is still closed (and pretty ugly anyway) so we walked a little further around the cliffs to get to a secluded part of the beach where we wild camped.

Mike, Beth, Hattie and Clare camping at Atsuta

BBQ as the sun set.

The sea is still wayyyy to cold to swim, but the weather was warm so we sat out and enjoyed a gorgeous west coast sunset while we barbequed.  The beach was strewn with driftwood which we gathered up and built a good size bonfire which kept us warm once the sun dipped below the horizon.

Bonfire

The next day we headed inland to Tsukigata and the trailhead for Pinneshiri. (1,100m) It’s not a particularly tall mountain, but its a scenic one, with 360 degree views on a clear day. The hike is 19km in total with a few river crossings, so it wasn’t the easiest start to the hiking season. It was worth it though once we were on the ridgeline above the trees and had some incredible views.

One of the easier river crossings

Hiking up the ridgeline

At the summit with Clare and Hattie

Looking South over the Ishikari Bay and Sapporo to Mount Yotei in the distance

Looking North East over Sunagawa to Daisetsuzan in the distance

After the hike, a quick onsen at Tsukigata and a curry at Bombay Blue in Iwamizawa. A great Hokkaido spring weekend!

Cycling to Fuji Rock 2014

Ok, so this isn’t in Hokkaido, but it was an awesome summer adventure. We loaded our bikes onto the ferry from Tomakomai down to Niigata, then cycled around Sado Island for a few days. Another ferry took us back to the mainland and we had another few days cycling in from the coast up into the mountains of Yuzawa, to Niigata for the Fuji Rock Festival. Here’s the video

Hiking Yotei for Sunrise

June 20/21 We’ve hiked Mount Yotei a couple of times before over the past few years, once in the autumn, and once in the snow. We have been wanting to do the overnight hike to catch the sunrise for a while now, and what better day to do it than the Summer Solstice on June 21st. This meant that the sunrise was at 3:55am so we started hiking at around 11:30pm Friday, after driving down to Niseko when we finished work.

Starting the hike at 11:30am

We took the Hirafu route (there are four routes up to the summit) which we’ve done before, but looked very different doing it by torchlight. A weird trance like tunnel vision set in as we focused only on the ground infront of us lit by our head torches. The hike up seemed to go quite quickly, and we made good time to the summit, around 3 hours 30 minutes. As we were hiking around the crater rim to the eastern side to get the best view of the sunset, we could see the first signs of dawn on the horizon.

Dawn

It was a cold wait at the top, watching the sky change colour and waiting for the sun. After being hot from the hike, we needed to put on all our layers, and then we resorted to jumping around, jogging on the spot, and even dancing to keep ourselves warm!

Waiting

日の出

Clare, myself, Hattie and Mike. The Ezo Pow crew at the summit.

We met up with Natu and Lauren, who had hiked as far as the mountain hut at the 9th station the previous afternoon, then continued to the top after sleeping until 3am or so. This is another option for the hike if you don’t fancy the full overnight slog. It was great to see Natu at the top, as we had hiked together the last time we did Yotei last autumn.

Clare, myself, Natu, Hattie, Mike and Lauren

The sunrise was made even more spectacular by the ‘unkai’ (雲海) or ‘sea of clouds’ that was hanging in the valleys hundreds of metres below us.

Yotei’s shadow

Niseko ski area poking up through the sea of clouds

We set a GoPro up to film the sunrise, and managed to get a nice timelapse of the clouds moving and the sun rising

After hanging around at the top for an hour or so after sunrise, we started the hike down. It was an easy hike, especially as we could see where we were walking, but our legs were tired and heads fuzzy from the lack of sleep. We made it down to the carpark in good time, fired up a coffee on the camping stove and then headed over to Niseko town to the onsen for a soak and a couple of hours sleep on the tatami. Then it was over to JoJo’s Cafe in Hirafu for brunch.

Coffee at the trailhead

A well earned reward at JoJo’s in Hirafu!

Mini Central Hokkaido bike tour

June 6/7 I finished work early on Friday June 6th, so hopped on my bike and set off for what I originally planned to be a 3 day mini tour of Central Hokkaido. Friday afternoon’s riding was mostly a race against the sunset, as I wanted to get to Furano before dark to find a spot to camp for the night. My route took my past Mikasa and Lake Katsurazawa and over two passes. It’s a major route, but still very quiet so there were long periods when I didn’t see any other traffic. I was kind of hoping to see a bear in the hills, but at the same time was quite glad not to! I was fortunate to have a tailwind most of the route, so I made it to Furano well before sunset, and found a great camping spot in a town park close to the Kitanomine ski area.

I woke early, and after bugging the 7-11 night staff by drinking my coffee while charging my phone in the store, set out heading north up the valley towards Asahikawa.

Early morning view of Daisetsuzan from Kitanomine in Furano

Kitanomine ski area in Furano

My plan was to slowly head up the valley past Biei and then cut up towards Higashikawa to meet friends for lunch. Again, thanks to a tailwind, I was flying and making quick progress, averaging around 30km/h.

The Tokachidake range dominated my view for the first part of the morning

Break for a photo near Kami Furano

Light mist hanging in the valley

By the time I got to Biei, it was clear I was going to be way early for lunch. So I found another 7-11 to sit outside and recharge both my legs, and my phone. (Top tip – combinis all have power points outside them!)

Recharging at Biei

The route from Biei to Higashikawa took me up very quiet valley and over a small pass. I was riding straight up towards the Asahidake and the views continued to be spectacular.

Clouds rolling over Mt Oputateshike

Lunch at Nomad in Higashikawa was a nice break from the saddle after a fairly mellow 65-70km, but I was soon eager to hit the road again as my target for the day was to get to Fukagawa.

Retro skis on the wall at Nomad in Higashikawa

From Higashikawa, I continued north west, skirting Asahikawa and then through the narrow gorge alongside the Ishikari River, past Kamui Ski Links towards Fukagawa. I stopped at Fukagawa Rice Land 7-11, where I had planned to find somewhere to camp for the night having covered about 130km. But I still had plenty of daylight, and energy, so I decided to push on south towards Takikawa.

Paragliders having fun over Kamui Ski Links

It was just getting dark at Takikawa when I made to an onsen where I decided I’d camp. But after a katsu curry, a soak in the onsen and a quick lie down on the tatami, I again had a change of heart. I got the headtorch on, chugged another 500ml bottle of Coke and hit the road again. I was going to sleep in my own bed that night. I was in a bit of a trance for the last 50km home in the dark, but the roads were quiet and I covered it in around 2 hours, getting in just before midnight, just as my bike computer ticked over 200km for the day. Total for the two days was 275km.

275km Central Hokkaido loop

Camping at Lake Shikotsu and Hiking Eniwa-Dake 

Lake Shikotsu

May 31/June 1 Just a week after our last skiing of the year summer really arrived in Hokkaido. Temperatures were up into the 30s and the sun was out. We headed down to Lake Shikotsu to meet up with a few of the Sapporo boys to barbeque and camp overnight. Big thanks to Toshi and Hikaru for raiding Costco for meat and beer on the way down!

Sun setting over Eniwadake

What a way to watch the sunset!

Mad clouds

Sunday morning we were up early thanks to Hokkaido’s early sunrise and headed around the lake to the base of Eniwadake. This active volcano is very distinctive, and visible from all for miles around. I’ve wanted to hike it for a long time. It’s a steep hike, over loose rocks and rough terrain, but after about 45 minutes you get above the forest and the views are incredible for the rest of the hike to the top.

Looking up the crater to the summit

Looking down over the crater and Lake Shikotsu

With Dan and Mike at the top

I say we made it to the summit, but I mean we made it as far as we could get. The hiking trail stops at a viewing point, just below the top. The summit area is now closed because volcanic activity has made the peak unstable, so we took the cautious approach and decided not to continue! A fun weekend, rounded off with pizza and ice cream in the sun at Kacha in Naganuma.

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