Mt. Tomuraushi (トムラウシ）
Home of the endangered Japanese pika, Mt. Tomuraushi is a wonderful rocky peak located at roughly the halfway point on the Daisetsuzan trekking route. The scenery and views will certainly make you believe you’ve left Japan.
The hike: First of all, I would like to thank Julian for this hike description, as I climbed this peak while doing the full Asahi-dake to Tokachi-dake traverse. From the bus stop, head to the end of the road and the trailhead. After about 5 minutes of hiking, you’ll cross a forest road, where you’ll find the lovely Higashi Daisetsu hut, which looks like a great place to stay. Click here for the website in Japanese. Continue hiking on the trail for about 90 minutes or so, until reaching a trail junction marked 温泉コース分岐 (Onsen kousu bunki). This is where foot traffic will increase signficantly, as the trail to the right leads down to a parking lot. Most people with cars just drive up here rather than hiking from the hot spring, so if you’ve got your own wheels you might consider doing the same (especially if doing this hike as a day trip, which I don’t recommend). Turn left at the junction for a moderate climb up a well-worn path. If it’s raining then the path will become a nasty mixture of water and mud, so bring gaiters if you’ve got them. After about 45 minutes or so, you’ll reach an unmarked junction, which is where the old path joins the new. The old path is closed, so stay towards the left and climb through an area of thick bamboo grass. This grass is trimmed during the summer hiking season, but may not be maintained out of season, so exercise caution. The next hour or so is relatively gentle until dropping steeply to a the ‘Robin’ stream (こまどり沢). Be sure to boil and filter any water from the stream, because it could be contaminated with the echinococcus parasite. Cross the stream and stay on the right bank (following the paint marks on the rocks if the weather is bad). If hiking before August then you’ll have to cross a rather large snowfield before reaching 前トム平 (Mae-tomu-dai), a great place for a break. The trail will start to become quite rocky now, passing through areas of wildflowers before reaching a small pond at トムラウシ公園 (Tomuraushi-koen). Be sure to follow the paint marks, since it’s easy to get lost if the cloud is in. The scenery is spectacular, and you’ll reach a junction in about an hour or so. To the left there is a small campsite with a water source (again, be sure to boil) but no toilet. Turn right for the steep, 20-minute climb to the summit. It should have taken anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to reach the summit, so be sure to bring plenty of supplies and consider breaking this up into a 2-day hike. You can either retrace your steps to the campsite, or consider traversing over to Hisago-numa hut (ヒサゴ沼小屋), which will take another 2 or 3 hours of ridge hiking. Alternatively, you could consider heading all the way back to Tomuraushi Onsen, but that’d be over 30km of hiking in one day! Click here for some nice photos of the route.
When to go: This hike can only been done in the summer, when the bus to the trailhead is running. If you’ve got your own transport, however, you can go a little earlier or later in the season. Alternatively, the peak is on the main Daisetsuzan trekking route, and can be approached from the north via Chuubetsu-dake. Be prepared for a lot of snow if attempting before July.
Access: From Obihiro (帯広) station, take a local train on the JR Nemuro line and get off at Shintoku (新得) station. You can also take a limited express train, but it’ll cost twice the amount. From Shintoku, take a bus bound for Tomuraushi Onsen (トムラウシ温泉) and get off at the final stop. As of 2011, the bus is by reservation only and runs between July 16th and August 14th. Click here for the schedule.
Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change 1176m)