Posted tagged ‘Niseko’

Mt. Niseko Annupuri (ニセコアンヌプリ)

August 27, 2010

Mt. Niseko Annupuri is the highest peak in the Niseko mountain range and popular with hikers throughout the year. The views across the valley towards Mt. Yotei are nothing short of magical.

The hike: Walk on the concrete road between Yama no Ie hut and the campground, where you’ll find the trailhead a short distance from the parking lot. Fill up on water at the campground, as there’s no water source on the mountain. The well-used trail crawls its way through a dense forest for the first half hour or so, before popping out of the trees onto the main ridge. About 15 minutes into your ascent, you’ll see an unmarked trail branch off towards the right. Ignore this path, as it leads to Mt. Moiwa and Niseko Annupuri ski resort. Stay towards the left and keep climbing. In clear weather it’s easy to see where you’re going, but if the cloud is in then be careful because there are no signposts or paint marks on the rocks. The views will start to open up when you hit the ridge, and you’ll see the summit peaks rising sharply across the col on your right. As you rise higher and higher above the tree line, the trail becomes much rockier. This is where the switchbacks start, making navigation a lot smoother than just shooting straight up the side of a steep mountain. After another 20 minutes of meandering towards your destination, the trail will flatten out, with the high point directly ahead. Continue straight ahead towards the summit of Niseko Annupuri, where you’ll be rewarded with a breaktaking view of Mt. Yotei across the valley. You can see whyYotei was nicknamed Ezo-fuji in the old days. There’s a concrete emergency hut here that smells of paint inside. Don’t stay here unless you have adequate water and want to have a chemical induced headache from inhaling all the harmful fumes. From the summit, you can either retrace your steps back to the hot spring, or take the trail directly in front of you that drops down into the ski resort. You’ll reach the ski lifts after about 10 minutes, where you can follow them all the way down to Hirafu. Another interesting option would be to turn left once you reach the top of Grand Hirafu Summer Gondola and follow the signs towards Kagami-ike (鏡池), which has beautiful mirror-like reflections of the surrounding peaks. From the lake, it’s another hour or so to the bus stop at Hanaen (花園), where you can take a bus back to Kucchan station.

When to go: This hike can be done year round if you approach from the top lift of the ski resort in the winter. Otherwise, aim to go when the road/bus to Goshiki Onsen is running between early July and late October. If you’ve got your own transport then you can go earlier in the season.

Access: From Niseko station (ニセコ駅), take a red-colored bus bound for Goshiki Onsen (五色温泉) and get off at the last stop. You can also take this bus from Kucchan station (倶知安).  Please note that there are only 2 buses a day, one leaving Niseko station at 10:10am, and the other departing at 2:35pm. I recommend staying at the beautiful Goshiki Onsen Ryokan, where you’ll find 2 outstanding outdoor baths. The lodge across the street (Niseko Yama no Ie) is a bit run down but has a very friendly/helpful manager and a nice bath as well. Click here for the bus schedule.

Map: You can get a decent free map at the tourist information center at Kucchan station, or from the huts at Goshiki Onsen.

Live web cam: Click here

Level of difficulty: 2 out of 5 (elevation change ~500m).

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Mt. Yotei (羊蹄山)

February 22, 2008

Mt. Yotei, otherwise known as Mt. Shiribeshi (後方羊蹄山), is a shy, Fuji-esque volcano dominating the Niseko skyline, attracting hikers from all over Japan.

The crater of Mt. Yotei

The hike: If you’ve taken the bus, then you’ve got an annoying 30 minute hike on a paved road. Definitely try to hitch to the trailhead to save some energy. At the trailhead, there’s a toilet, small campground, and water source. Fill up your bottles, as this is the only place for water on the hike. The trail starts behind the toilets, not down the forest road in the parking lot. I attempted a night hike and got lost for hours by taking this deceptive looking path. In the daytime it’s a no-brainer, but at night take care. The trail starts off rather gentle and then starts climbing, with plenty of switchbacks and amazing views across the valley to Niseko ski resort. The mountain, like most volcanoes in Japan, is divided into 10 ‘stages’. You should reach the 6th stage (rokugoume-六合目) in around 2 hours after starting. From there, the trail continues to climb until eventually reaching the 9th stage (kyuugoume-九合目). You’ll reach a 3-way junction just before the crater rim. If you go right you’ll reach an emergency hut, but instead stay on the same trail you’ve been on and continue to the rim. The high point of Mt. Yotei is about halfway around the rim, marked by a small sign. It’s easy to find in sunny weather, but you might miss it if the cloud is in. Anyway, circumnavigate the crater, enjoying the abundance of wild flowers and spectacular views. Consider descending via the Makkari trail (真狩), a never-ending, knee-knocking decent that eventually ends in a huge campground. Or go back the same way you came.

When to go: This hike can be done from late April to early November, but the earlier you go, the more snow you’ll encounter. Some hardcore skiers & boarders climb in it in the winter, searching for fresh powder and clean runs. Yotei is notorious for nasty weather, so use caution on the decent if mother nature isn’t cooperating.

Access: There are 4 trails up the mountain, but I describe the one closest to Niseko. From Sapporo station, take a local train for about 90 minutes to Kucchan (倶知安) station. From there, take a bus to Yoteizan-tozanguchi (羊蹄山登山口). Click here for the bus schedule. Alternatively, you can take a taxi for about 3000 yen that’ll get you a little closer to the trailhead.

Level of difficulty: 4 out of 5 (elevation change: ~1600m)