Ascent of Asahi-dake on 2015-08-04

Climber: Peter Stone

Others in Party:Jill Stone
Twm Stone
David Stone
Ceri Stone
Patrick Stone
Michiko Aoki
Date:Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Ski Lift
    Elevation:7516 ft / 2290 m

Ascent Trip Report

On a family holiday to Japan we were mostly engaged in sightseeing, visiting temples, shrines and gardens, sampling exotic cuisine, relaxing in onsens, maximising the use of our Japan Rail Passes on the Shinkansen (bullet trains), revelling in novel cultural experiences and getting to grips with the language. However, I did manage to sneak a few mountain ascents into our itinerary...

Asahi-dake: island high point of Hokkaido, third most prominent mountain in Japan and World Ultra. "Asahi" means "morning sun" in Japanese, and although the name is most commonly associated with the famous Asahi Super Dry beer, the name of the mountain reflects the fact that its summit is among the first bits of rock to be illuminated each day in the Land of the Rising Sun. Weather permitting of course. Typhoon season being anything but "Super Dry".

Our time in Hokkaido was a delightful contrast to the hot, humid and more crowded Honshu. Sapporo is a very liveable city and the Daisetsuzan National Park, the largest in Japan, a beautiful area to explore. Our base in the Park was the very comfortable and welcoming Lodge Nutapukaushipe in Asahi-dake Onsen. We did get a fleeting view of the whole of Asahi-dake late in the afternoon of our arrival, the sight of numerous columns of steam rising from the crater fumaroles whetting our appetite for volcano climbing.

The next day it was disappointing to see that the cloud level was down to about 1,800 metres as we made our way to the Asahi-dake Ropeway cable car station with our guide Michiko Aoki. A guide isn't strictly necessary in these mountains in summer as long as you can read Japanese maps and have standard navigational skills. However we were offered guiding as part of our accommodation package and Michiko was great fun and very informative and added enormously to the enjoyment of the day, particularly in route choice on the way back. Furthermore she got us a significant discount on the Ropeway.

We caught the 09:15 service from Sanroku Station (1,091 metres) up to Sugatami Station (1,580 metres). A 10 minute journey, standard price ¥2,900 round-trip (¥1,650 one-way), which saves an hour and a half or so of walking time. From there you enter a pretty alpine zone of greenery and profuse summer flowers and delightful small ponds. The cable car company provides a free walking leaflet in English covering this area which also marks the start of the trail to the summit, but in any case it is easy to find: head for the small open bell tower constructed as an aid to navigational return in poor visibility and as a memorial to university students who died in a winter expedition some years back. From there the correct path is essentially straight ahead and up (East), slightly to the right and up a rocky spur to the south of the blown-out crater with its active noisy and sulphurous fumaroles. As is common in Japanese mountains there are painted circles, dashes and arrows on the rocks plus the occasional cairn to mark the correct route and painted Xs for the wrong route. In many places a roped edging prevents you wandering off track as well.

We made it to the 2,291 metre summit at 11:30. Visibility was unfortunately only about 30 metres in any direction but the wind was light and the temperature surprisingly mild. There is a range of summit structures including a summit marker post with name of mountain and elevation in Japanese script, a geological marker, a broken topograph, an engraved plaque and several direction indicators. We shared the top with about 12-15 other climbers and took an early lunch break.

We had made such good progress up the mountain that Michiko decided to add extra interest by taking an alternative much longer return route in a roughly anti-clockwise direction. This involved completing a West-East traverse of Asahi-dake (with steep loose scree and snowfields on the descent), climbing the subsidiary mountain top of Mamiya-dake (2,185 metres) with its quite different low-level more arctic-type vegetation, visiting the natural hot springs with simple bathing pools on the slopes of Naka-dake, Susoai-daira and using the extensive boardwalks to cross the wetter areas. The increasing cloud eventually produced heavy rain just as we reached the Meoto Ponds.

We made it back to Sugatami Station for the 15:30 cable car back to Sanroku. So 6 hours 25 minutes total mountain time including cable car travel and all drink, food and photo stops.

We celebrated with ice creams for all and returned to our lodge for a well-deserved and extended soak in the piping hot natural onsen.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2332 ft / 710 m
    Total Elevation Loss:2332 ft / 710 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Raining, Cool, Windy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:2332 ft / 710 m
    Route:Sugatami / West
    Start Trailhead:Asahi-dake Ropeway Sugatami Station  5184 ft / 1580 m
    Time:2 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2332 ft / 710 m
    Route:Mamiya-dake, Naka-dake hot spring, Susoai-daira
    End Trailhead:Asahi-dake Ropeway Sugatami Station  5184 ft / 1580 m
    Time:3 Hours 30 Minutes

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