Ishikari-dake Two-day Loop

石狩岳

Posted on Aug 6, 2019
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Posted on Aug 6, 2019

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Reading time: 3 min
19km

Distance

13 hours

Time

1580m

Ascent

1967m

Highest point

7/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jun-Oct

Best season

Lying on a high ridge to the west of Hokkaido’s highest paved road at Mikuni Pass (三国峠), the three peaks of Yuni-ishikari-dake (ユニ石狩岳, 1756m), Otofuke-yama (音更山, 1932m) and Ishikari-dake (石狩岳, 1967m) make a fine overnight outing in alpine surroundings. While a fit party could do the whole loop in a very long day it makes more sense to camp up on the ridge and, weather permitting, savour the magnificent sunrise over the mountains and valleys of Hokkaido’s rugged interior.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

The Ishikari mountains are in central Hokkaido, west of Mikuni Pass on Route 273, which runs down the east side of the Daisetsusan massif from Sounkyo to the onsen town of Nukabira at the northern end of the Tokachi Plain. This hike starts and finishes here, at about 765m elevation from the Yuni-ishikari-dake trailhead (ユニ石狩岳登山口), 12 km up a forest road off route 273 south of Mikuni Pass.

  • Forestry-road access: The main summer route up these mountains used to be accessed by a forest road from Mitsumata (三股), but this was completely destroyed in the 2016 typhoons. In 2018 Kamishihoro Town opened a new access route via a different forest road that starts a few km north of Mitsumata, here. Note that this new route is not yet registered on Google Maps, so just leaving the routing to Google Maps may lead you the old closed road. For the latest information contact Kamishihoro Town (01564-2-4291, syoukyoukankouka@town.kamishihoro.hokkaido.jp).
General notes

The origins of the Ainu names for these hills are unclear and there are various theories. Yuni is possibly a corruption of an Ainu word for a route or trail. Ishikari-dake is named after the Ishikari River, Isi-kar-pet, which loosely means magnificent river. Otofuke-yama comes from the Ainu Otopke, but the meaning is uncertain.

The main season for summer hiking on Ishikari-dake 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. The nearest facilities are at Nukabira Onsen (糠平温泉), a small collection of lodgings with (extremely) hot springs and an ageing ski resort. There is a Youth Hostel (Tel: 0156 44 2004) and a campsite at the southern end of the village. Coming from the north, Sounkyo Gorge (層雲峡) is the nearest base. It is also possible to put up a tent or sleep in the car for a night at the Ishikari-dake trailhead (石狩岳登山口) at the foot of the Schneider Course (シュナイダーコース).

  • Camping: This route involves wild camping within the national park. No fires are permitted and all rubbish must be packed out. Please use portable toilets and pack out human waste. Water is available from the stream below the Buyo-numa campsite (ブヨ沼キャンプ指定地) but should be boiled or filtered. Biting insects may be a problem at the campsite, indeed a buyo (ブヨ) is a small Hokkaido blackfly that has a nasty bite that lingers for days. Cover up and bring strong insect repellent.
Hut

None

Route markers

The route is mostly well defined throughout, with signposts (in Japanese) at trail junctions.

  • Day One: From the trailhead climb gently up through mature forests on an old forestry workers’ track for a while, then more steeply up to reach the ridge at Jukoku Pass (十国峠) at 1576m after three to four hours. At around 1100m there is a spring, though water should be boiled or filtered. From the pass it is an hour or less to the summit of Yuni-ishikari-dake (ユニ石狩岳). Return back to the pass then walk west along the gently undulating ridge among haimatsu creeping pine and open ground for another hour or so to the campsite in a hollow by a pond at Buyo-numa (ブヨ沼キャンプ指定地).
  • Day Two: Climb up from the campsite via one minor peak to the summit of Otofuke-yama (音更山) in an hour and 40 mins or so. Descend south down to the trail junction with the Schneider Course (シュナイダーコース分岐) within an hour. From here it is less than an hour to the summit of Ishikari-dake (石狩岳). The true summit (a whole one meter higher) lies a few hundred meters further along the narrow ridge from the official marker post. Return to the trail junction and descend southeast via the steep and rough Schneider Course trail. After about three hours this will bring you to the car park and Schneider Course trailhead. From here it is another half an hour east along the forest road back to the car.
Route Timing

Day One | 6 hours

Day Two | 7 hours

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport access.

By car: 

Straightforward road access from Route 273 in good condition. Take the signposted forest road west off Route 273 south of Mikuni Pass, about 8 km north of Mitsumata (location) where the original access road used to start. The trailhead for Yuni-ishikari-dake (ユニ石狩岳登山口) is 12 km up the gravel road (location). There is parking for a few cars. A couple of km further on there is a larger parking area at the foot of the Schneider Course. There is a toilet booth here – check to see if waste needs to be packed out.

Physical maps

Daisetsuzan 大雪山. Yama to Kogen Map Series No 3. Published by Shobunsha. 1:50,000 (Amazon link). Includes course times and trail information (in Japanese).

Official Topo Map: Ishikari-dake (石狩岳) – map no. NK-54-1-15-4

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, is very rough on the Schneider Course section, and can be a dangerous place in bad weather with real risks of hypothermia for poorly equipped hikers. There are no escape routes (the trail marked on maps going north from Jukoku Pass is now impassable and unused). 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. 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 Ishikari-dake

Onsen nearby

If going south, Horoka Onsen (幌加温泉), a few km down Route 273, is one of the most idiosyncratic hot springs in all of Hokkaido with a retro feel of stepping back in time. It is a ramshackle place run by an almost completely deaf old lady. The baths are in a very basic hangar like structure with a few different pools and mixed bathing. There is a basic rotenburo outside above the river. Nukabira Onsen is a bit further on. If going north, then Sounkyo has the nearest onsen including Kurodake no Yu (黒岳の湯, 600yen). This place also serves delicious Italian food (pasta and pizza) in the ground floor restaurant.

Extra Resources

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

To get an early start, Jeff and I had camped near Sounkyo the previous night, and we crossed Mikuni Pass early in the morning above a sea of clouds. The forest was quiet as we made our way up from the trailhead, gradually thinning out into ever smaller trees as we neared Jukoku Pass. Jeff was suffering from the aftereffects of a brush with poison ivy while out gathering wild mountain plants the week before; with tattered gauze bandages fluttering off various parts of his hands and arms he looked just like a mummy out of a second-rate zombie movie. In other words, pretty much like usual.

Leaving our packs at the pass we nipped up Yuni-ishikari-dake and back to bag the first peak of the trip. Retrieving our bags, we then headed along the gently undulating ridge to the Buyo-numa camping spot, nestled in a wooded col next to a pond. It was empty; in fact we had seen only one other person all day. We dropped down to the stream below to refill water bottles amid a sea of yellow ezo-ryuginka (エゾリュウギンカ) flowers. Back up at the campsite the insects were out in force in the still air so after being bitten a few times we decided to head a couple of hundred meters back up the ridge. Other parties had clearly had the same idea as there were a few tent sites carefully cleared of stones. We chose one and pitched camp, careful not to disturb any vegetation. There was plenty of time to relax and enjoy the views before a hot meal and an early night.

We woke up early to a glorious sunrise. All around us peaks stood out sharply defined in the clear dawn light; to our south the valley and Tokachi Plain beyond was a sea of clouds. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast then packed up. The dew soaked our trousers as we climbed up through low haimatsu ハイマツ pines and shrub birch into the high alpine zone. The final ridge and summit of Otofuke-yama were, for me, the most beautiful part of the walk, rocky underfoot, open and airy, and dotted with wildflowers including the tiny pink horse-heads of komakusa コマクサ. After a few minutes on top to take it all in we followed the ridge down to the trail junction below Ishikari-dake. It was getting hotter by now.

We took a break for a brew at the junction, then left our packs and headed up. Unhampered by any load we floated up in about half an hour. Here and there freshly disturbed patches of earth among the flowers showed us a bear had recently been foraging. We passed the official summit marker and continued along the narrow ridge to the true summit, enjoying the spectacular views over to Nipesotsu on one side and Daisetsusan and the Tokachi range on the other. On returning to the marker post we chatted to the two other people there, one of them a sprightly chap in his seventies. Both had come up the Schneider Course. It’s really tough, they said. Umm, we thought.

The descent lived up to its reputation. At one point Jeff inexplicably launched into a nosedive over a precipice only to be saved from disaster by the tangled branches of a haimatsu ハイマツ pine. He was lucky to get away with just a strained shoulder. As for me, when we finally reached the bottom my left knee was throbbing ominously. By this time the poor Herr Schneider’s ears must have been buzzing from our rather unkind remarks – a bit unfair in retrospect, apparently he was a military advisor who taught skiing to local conscripts back in the early days. Fortunately, a kind lady who had come down just before us offered us a lift back along the forest road to our car, saving us at least another couple of kilometers of walking. Deciding to head back to Sapporo via Obihiro meant that Nukabira Onsen was the next destination in order to wash off the grime and soak our respective sore limbs. Lost salts and fluids were later replenished with a fine dinner at the ramen place in Shimizu at the foot of Nissho Pass.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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