THE TAIL-END OF SUMMER
By Rob Thomson and Markus Hauser
Date hiked: 3rd September, 2019
Markus was visiting from Switzerland, and we had a precious couple of days to do some nearby exploring. We settled on a day hike up Jozankei Tengu-dake, and to make things a little more exciting, we decided to make a ‘short-cut’ across the Shirai River to the trailhead. The official start to the route, you see, is next to a gate across a gravel road, requiring a 30 minute walk before getting to the actual trailhead.
“The trailhead is only 200m from here,” I proffered. “Why don’t we just bush-bash to the river, walk across, and then we’re there? That would save us the 30 minutes walking that long gravel road.”
“Sounds good to me,” replied Markus.
The logic was solid. Watertight. Indisputable.
With our genius plan agreed upon, we threw ourselves into the head-high sasa bamboo grass. We were feeling more than a little smugness that we were blazing a new trail rather than following the sheeple schmucks wasting their time walking 30 minutes along the gravel road.
The ice-cold Shirai River was refreshing.
But really, that was the only thing good about this ‘shortcut’.
After about 45 minutes of decent effort, we finally made it to the official trailhead.
Assuming a brisk walking pace along the gravel road from the official start point, we’d probably added at least 25 minutes to the trip time. Furthermore, because we left the car on the side of the road (here), we’d need to come back this way on the return.
A fun lesson learned!
We were now able to start climbing in earnest. It was a hot day. Humid. The gorgeous greenery gave us good shade from the heat of the sun though.
True to numerous route guides’ words, there were a few sections of the route requiring some mild scrambling up rocky bluffs. There were set ropes available for use, but there were plenty of hand-holds to grab onto too.
Once all the scrambling was done, we were more or less done. A quick traverse of the narrow summit ridge, and we were there.
Curiously, locally the mountain’s peak is called Jozankei Tengu-dake (天狗岳), but on official maps, it’s marked at Tengu-yama (天狗山).
The descent was the same trail as the ascent. Down climbing the steep sections was greatly aided by the ropes. And of course, due to our own route-finding brilliance (ahem), we still had a river crossing awaiting for us at the end of the hike.
Considering the extra effort of bush-bashing our way back to the car, I made the most of the situation and had a quick dip in the river.
All in all a very nice way to spend a summer’s day!
AN AUTUMN HIKE
By Rick Siddle
Date hiked: 19th October, 2014
It was a lovely clear autumnal morning but chilly in the shade at the trailhead. A brisk walk along the river soon warmed us up and we reached the start of the trail proper in good time. From here we followed the stream up, in places traversing above it or climbing steep sections to bypass a bluff. After leaving the stream and climbing up through the forest we arrived at the foot of the rocky gully. There were plenty of holds and the rope wasn’t really necessary. The gully deposited us on a narrow ridge in quite a dramatic position, and we followed the path up and around some outcrops to the summit. A few other people were on the small summit so we found a sheltered spot in the sun above a steep cliff and enjoyed the views over to Lake Sapporo, Muine-yama and Yotei-zan while having lunch.
Then it was time to go down, dropping back down the gully into the autumn forest brightly lit up in the afternoon sunlight. Although close to Sapporo, Jozankei has always been notorious for bears and at one point by the trail we came across a tree heavily scratched by large claws; we decided that we would rather not meet the owner. A little further down I tried jumping the stream only to slip on a slimy mossy rock and crash heavily into the water. Luckily I wasn’t hurt but it was a rookie mistake nonetheless. The final hike back along the river was a feast of blazing colour as the sun picked out the trees on the hillside above us.