Posted on Sep 13, 2019
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Posted on Sep 13, 2019

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Reading time: 2 min
13km

Distance

6.5 hours

Time

928m

Ascent

1811m

Highest point

6/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jul-Sep

Best season

Hira-yama 平山 (1771m), Himana-yama 比麻奈山 (1811m) and Himara-yama 比麻良山 (1796m) are three bumps on a broad alpine ridge that sits north of Sounkyo. Although the names conjour up images of the great glaciated peaks of the real Himalaya, in nature this is broad open high country of wildflowers, solitude and vistas of the mountains of central Hokkaido. From the ridge you can fully appreciate the jagged ridges and peaks of neighbouring Nisekaushuppe-yama ニセカウシュッペ山 (1879m), only possible from this angle. Snowfields linger late into the summer covering the trail in places. It is known for its variety of alpine wildflowers so can be a popular destination in the early summer, but it is still nowhere near as busy as the main Daisetsuzan massif itself.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Hira-yama is the southern end of a ridge running north-south in the Kita-Daisetsu range of mountains in central Hokkaido, north of Sounkyo 層雲峡. This hike starts and finishes at a trailhead about 1040m elevation (here), accessed by good local and forest roads south of Shirataki 白滝on the Asahikawa-Monbetsu Expressway.

General notes

The Ainu origin of the name Himara-yama comes from him-om-nupuri, meaning craggy mountain. Himana-yama is unclear though in Japanese it sounds like time-to-spare mountain leading to various puns in climbers’ accounts (Hokkaido Natsuyama Gaido 3, 北海道夏山ガイド 3 東・北大雪、十勝連峰の山々 Hokkaido Shimbunsha, p.153).

The main season for summer hiking on Hira-yama is mid-June into October; before and after this you need to be prepared and equipped for snow on the ground and/or falling from the sky. Early in the season there will be large snowfields to cross. There are no facilities nearby, the closest towns being Kamikawa 上川 to the west and Maruseppu 丸瀬布 to the east.

Hut

None

Route markers

From the trailhead at 1040m the route up to the ridge is mostly well defined – if it is clear of snow, that is, which it won’t be early in the season. If people have been up recently there may be footprints to follow. If you lose the trail then you will have to bushwhack through scrubby undergrowth until you either rejoin it or reach the ridge proper. Once on the ridge there are no difficulties.

From the trailhead the path follows the true left bank of a creek. After a few minutes cross a tributary coming in from the right on a small metal pipe bridge. Early in the season there may only be the frame in place as the walkway is taken down over the winter. A few hundred meters further on there is a waterfall a short way up a tributary stream on the right, followed by another in the main creek after another few minutes. Eventually you reach the head of the creek at about 1425m where there will usually be the first snowfield. There may be footprints to follow later in the season. Hopefully you will find the continuation of the trail and proceed upwards, over a second smaller snowfield, to reach the ridge at 1737m some two hours from the trailhead. There is a cairn and signpost (in Japanese). From here the route is a T shape – left to go out and back to the flat top of Hira-yama 平山 in 45 minutes or so, or right to Himana-yama 比麻奈山 and Himara-yama 比麻良山 in about an hour and half return.

From Himana-yama a faint trace of a trail leads along the jagged west ridge over to Nisekaushuppe-yama; ignore this and continue north to Himara-yama. The trail continues on to Bunzo-dake 文三岳 (1755m) and eventually all the way to Shirataki if you have the time and backpacking gear. If not, return to the cairn then drop back down to the trailhead by the original trail and snowfields.

Route Timing
Up | 4hrs
Down | 2.5hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport access.

By car: 

Leave the Asahikawa-Monbetsu Express way or Route 333 at Shirataki and take a minor road past the old Kita-Daisetsu ski area to join local Route 558. At the end of the paved road is a signposted forest road to the trailhead. There is a portable toilet and a reasonably sized parking area, with a further parking area a little before the trailhead itself.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Hirayama (平山) – map no. NK-54-1-14-3

NOTE: The GSI 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

The route traverses exposed alpine terrain and can be a dangerous place in bad weather with real risks of hypothermia for poorly equipped hikers. Conditions can change quickly, it is very exposed to the wind and the upper slopes can be much colder than down at the trailhead. Carry appropriate gear. It is necessary to cross snowfields that will be larger early in the season, are steep in places and may require crampons or microspikes if icy. It is also possible to lose the way here, especially in bad visibility. Like all high mountain terrain in Hokkaido it is bear country so take the usual precautions. Water obtained en route should be boiled or filtered.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Hira-yama

Onsen nearby

There are no onsen near the trailhead. If heading west there is the rustic Kyowa Onsen 共和温泉 just north of the small town of Aibetsu 愛別町, here; to the east there are onsen past Maruseppu.

Extra Resources

In Japanese: Hokkaido Natsuyama Gaido 3, 北海道夏山ガイド 3 東・北大雪、十勝連峰の山々 (Hokkaido Shimbunsha). These guides are updated every few years.

Guide Options

If you’d like to hike this route and/or explore other areas of central Hokkaido with a local certified guide, then contact Jun Ishiguro. He’s a JMGA (Japan Mountain Guides Association) mountain guide and Director of the Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA). As a senior figure in the Hokkaido guiding scene, and with extensive experience, he can tailor trips to your needs. 

Photo Gallery

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

There were only two other cars at the trailhead so we knew it would be a quiet day. It was mid-June and there was still plenty of snow about; the summer hiking season had not really started. A glance at the log book in the usual trailhead postbox showed that a forest worker had been up a few days previously to inspect the trail as far as the first snowfield, but that was about it.

The metal pipe bridge a short way up the trail was still in its dismantled winter state; no doubt the walkway sections would soon be reassembled by local forest workers. We edged our way across and continued up the trail, past a couple of waterfalls. The yellow flowers and broad green leaves of Ezoryukinka エゾリュウキンカ were growing in profusion on the banks of small streams. As this is a tasty wild mountain vegetable we made a mental note to harvest some on the way back.

The gully was by now largely blocked with snow, and we were soon walking on it in places. Where it finally opened out we could see a lone figure coming down in the distance. He was wearing instep crampons but as he passed us he said they weren’t necessary. We put ours on anyway, but he was right; although steep at the top the snow was soft enough to keep a footing. However, as it was early in the season there was no beaten trail to show the correct route across and when we reached the top we realized there was no sign of any trail continuing on up. We carried on anyway, linking snow patches as much as possible to avoid having to bash though the thick shrubby undergrowth. Eventually, after traversing one large snowfield we managed to rejoin the path and from there were soon on the ridge itself.

We opted to do Himara-yama first, so turned right along the broad ridge, through low haimatsu ハイマツ shrub pines and over little outcrops. The mist came in for a while so there were no views while we were having lunch on top, but it cleared up on the way back. The vista across to Nisekaushuppe was spectacular. Jeff spotted some ski tracks snaking down the steep northeast face and bowl – that would be a hardcore backcountry trip, we agreed. From the top of Himana-yama the jagged ridge across to Nisekaushuppe looked truly alpine as the clouds swirled around.

Back at the cairn we dropped our packs for the short walk up the rather nondescript flat top of Hirayama. The alpine flowers were just beginning to appear and we could see that they would be in their full glory in a few weeks. We returned to our packs, and after a last wistful glance along one of Hokkaido’s finest ridges we dropped down. Descending the snowfields proved to be far quicker, and we had great fun practicing our standing glissade technique – essentially, skiing without skis. Jeff was kind enough to demonstrate the Oregon glissade for me, which as far as I could tell consisted of falling flat on one’s face then sliding down headfirst until becoming entangled in the bushes at the bottom. But we knew the runout was safe and with no damage done it was time to harvest a few wild vegetables and head back to the car. The day finished off in the small, rustic and rather retro Kyowa Onsen just outside Aibetsu, our favourite in these parts. 

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