Whenever I fancy an easy but rewarding day out in the hills near Sapporo, Ichankoppe-yama is always top of my list. The views on a fine day are fabulous, taking in the whole of the Lake Shikotsu and its surrounding mountains of Tarumae-zan, Fuppushi-dake and Eniwa-dake, and stretching beyond to the mountains of central Hokkaido in one direction and the Pacific Ocean in the other.
The climb is steep at the start but after that follows the caldera rim and mountain ridge among forest and open shoulders of sasa dwarf bamboo giving a sense of being on a proper mountain. I have climbed it in all seasons and it is one of the places I like to take visitors for a taste of the Hokkaido hills. On my most recent trip the youngest member of the party was five and managed to run rings around us all.
On snowshoes in winter a longer trek along the rim becomes possible. Jeff and I did this on a beautiful clear day one January, the roadside thermometer on the way out of town showing -11. The short climb from the road warmed us up and when we reached the ridge we emerged into the sun. A marten passed close by, bouncing around in the snow seemingly unconcerned by our presence. It was the first time I had seen one and it was bigger than I’d expected. As we walked along the caldera rim the contrast between the snowy peaks and the intense blue of the lake (it never freezes) and sky was breathtaking.