Mt. Rishiri (利尻山)
Mt. Rishiri is a spear-like, volcanic peak towering off the coast of Northern Hokkaido. It’s one of the few mountains in the world that offers an unobstructed panoramic view of the ocean on all sides.
The hike: From the campground, follow the paved path towards Kanrosen (甘露泉) spring, an underground spring with refreshing water. It should take about 10 minutes or so to reach the spring. Fill up your water bottles here, as it’s the last water source on the hike. Just beyond the spring there’s a sheltered rest area with a picnic table, as well as a trail junction. Turn right at the junction and follow the well-worn path through the forest. You’ll reach the 4th stage (四合目) in about 15 minutes or so. It’s a gradual climb for about an hour or so before reaching the 6th stage (六合目), where the real climb begins. There’s a toilet box here for those needing to use the facilities. Pick up a toilet bag at the trailhead to use for poop (there are no toilets on the mountain, and you’ve literally got to pack your shit out!). From here until the 8th stage (八合目), it’s a tough slog through brush pine and rocks, but eventually you’ll hit the ridge line, and your first real view of the summit. There’s still a lot of climbing to do, and the peak looks so close yet so far away. From the 8th stage, the trail flattens out before dropping down to the emergency hut, situated on a saddle. If there’s any morning dew then you’ll get completely soaked with all the overgrown vegetation, so consider bringing a pair of rain pants to help soak up the moisture. The emergency hut is in really good condition, bu t there’s no water source here, so bring a ton of water, sleeping and cooking gear if planning to stay here. From the hut, you’re faced with a 500m vertical climb through loose scree and red boulders. It gets quite steep and slippery in places, but there are ropes to help you along. At the time of writing they were in the process of building steps in some of the trickier sections, which will definitely make things easier if they don’t get washed away by erosion. Eventually you’ll reach the small summit of Mt. Rishiri, which has a colorful shrine and room for about 10 people. The panoramic views are absolutely amazing if you’re lucky enough to climb when the weather is good. From the summit, retrace your steps all the way back to the parking lot. Alternatively, you could take the seldom used Kutsugata (沓形) track to descend down to Kutsugata port. The trail junction is relatively hidden, branching off to the left shortly after descending the steep section with lots of red rocks. The trail is quite precarious in places, and not for the inexperienced or acrophobic.
When to go: This hike can be done from late June to early October, when most of the snow is gone. A spring hike is also possible with an ice axe and crampons, but keep an eye on the changeable weather.
Access: From Wakkanai (稚内) station, take a ferry bound for Oshidomari (鴛泊) on Rishiri Island. There are only 4 ferries a day, so plan your time accordingly. Click here for the schedule. From Oshidomari port, you can either hike uphill for about an hour to the trailhead, or catch a taxi for 1490 yen. There’s a nice campground at the trailhead that costs 300 yen per person.
Live web cam: Click here (from Rebun Island)
Level of difficulty: 5 out of 5 (elevation change ~1500m).