Keigetsu-dake Overnight Hiking

桂月岳

Posted on Apr 30, 2020
2

Posted on Apr 30, 2020

0 2

5.8km

Distance

3.5hrs

Time

500m

Ascent

1984m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jun-Oct

Best season

Keigetsu-dake (桂月岳, 1938m) is a minor peak towering over the bustling tourist town of Sounkyo. Accessed via the more well-known Kuro-dake (黒岳, 1984m) and the Kuro-dake Hut (黒岳石室), it's not often the main attraction for visitors to Daisetsuzan National Park. However, if your plans in the area don't leave much time for the more strenuous Kuro-dake to Asahi-dake traverse, it can make for an interesting, relatively non-committing overnight hut trip high in the Daisetsuzan Range. The perfect way to get a taste for more lofty objectives. It can, of course, be easily done as a daytrip.

We visited this route on Aug 28, 2019

This post was made with support from the Ministry of the Environment.

Last updated Jul 13, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Keigetsu-dake is a high peak just to the southwest of (and high above) the Sounkyo settlement in northern central Hokkaido, at the northern end of the Daisetsuzan National Park. The start of the actual hiking is at the top of the chair lift on the Kurodake Ropeway, here. To get there, you’ll get on to the ropeway in the Sounkyo village here.

General notes

We debated even posting a dedicated route overview for Keigetsu-dake – why stay overnight just for a ‘quick’ sub-4 hour hike? The answer is that despite it’s minor status among the more lofty objectives in the Daisetsuzan Range, Keigetsu-dake is the perfect excuse for a quick, relatively non-committing overnight foray into the high alpine environment of the Daisetsuzan National Park. You’ll need the right overnight gear and be prepared for serious alpine weather, but the time commitment is manageable, if you can only afford an afternoon and morning. The effort will be rewarded with great early morning views across an expansive, inspiring, endless sea of forest to the north, and rugged, rocky, volcanic vistas to the south. The rugged Kurodake Refuge Hut is also an experience worth writing home about. Fair warning – this hike will leave you wanting to come back for more.

Route Timing
Up | 2hrs
Down | 1.5hrs

From the Sounkyo Ropeway chairlift top station, it’s about 1.5 hours steep hiking to the hut, then another 20 minutes or so to the summit. If hiking all the way from the Sounkyo Village (i.e., not using the ropeway/chairlift), add on just under 4 hours to the ascent, and 2.5hrs to the descent.

Route

Get your return-trip ropeway ticket from the Sounkyo Ropeway bottom station, and take the enclosed cable-car to the middle station. From there, it’s a short 5 minute walk to the chair lift. The chair lift is a basic two-person ski-style chair lift, allowing very pleasant views of the surrounding flora. From the chair lift top station, you’ll now start the long zig-zagging hike up to the Kuro-dake summit. While the views do get better as you climb, they really come into their own all of a sudden at the summit. Pay your respects at the small summit shrine, and carry on southwest for the 20 minute traverse to the Kurodake hut. It’s only about 20 minutes from the hut to the summit of Keigetsu-dake, so if you’re staying overnight (highly recommended), it’s probably best to check in first and secure a sleeping spot before going to the Keigetsu-dake summit. It’s also possible to camp next to the hut. From the hut, head through a few meters of overhead haimatsu dwarf pine, and then through a clearing of delicate volcanic plants. After a short but steep climb, you’ll be on top of the world. Return the way you came.

Transport

Public transport:

Take the Sounkyo-bound bus from Asahikawa JR Train station (Bus stop No. 8). Here’s the timetable: https://www.dohokubus.com/files/kamikawa_souun.pdf. The bus will take about 2 hours, and cost 2,140yen. From the Sounkyo Bus Termial (here), it’s a 10 minute walk through the very picturesque Sounkyo Village to the ropeway (here).

By car: 

There is ample parking at the Sounkyo Ropeway car park, here.

Hut(s)

Kurodake Refuge (full details here)

The Kurodake Refuge Hut (黒岳石室 | kurodake-ishimuro) is one of the most fully serviced huts in Hokkaido. Hutkeepers are present from the last weekend of June till the last weekend of September, providing bedding, basic drinks, and support to hikers. The hut can get fairly busy during the non-snow hiking season. In the winter, the hut is available for use, but becomes completely buried in snow (bank on around 3 hours to dig down to the entrance if you know where the entrance is). NOTE: For the 2021 summer season, Kurodake Hut is staffed but there’s no equipment rental or foodstuffs available. Capacity is capped to 32 people, due to coronavirus precautions.

Physical maps
GSI Topo Map: Sounkyo (層雲峡) – map no. NK-54-7-2-2

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

route safety

While we’re sharing this route as a ‘quick non-committing’ foray into the high Daisetsuzan Range, all the usual caveats regarding preparedness apply. The route involves an exposed alpine traverse, with real risks of hypothermia for ill-prepared hikers. Temperatures will be much lower up high than down at the ropeway bottom station.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Keigetsu-dake

Onsen nearby

The Kurodake-no-yu (黒岳の湯, location, 600yen) onsen in the middle of the Sounkyo Village is a lovely spot for a soak. It has semi-outdoor pools with views of the mountains, and there’s an Italian-themed restaurant upstairs.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

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 on the board of directors 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. See a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Haidee and I were still on a Ministry of the Environment monitor tour, ostensibly giving our impressions on a possible set of activities to be included in itineraries for inbound tourists to Hokkaido. So this time – as was the case for the Kogen Onsen Numameguri Trip – we had a professional guide with us.

We walked the short distance from our accommodation in Sounkyo (the trendy Hotel Kumoi) to the ropeway station and enjoyed the easy way most of the way up the mountain.

The hike up the zig-zagging trail up the huge face of Kuro-dake was relatively monotonous. Just up, up, up, with vistas only very slowly widening as we climbed. It wasn’t until we got most of the way to the top of Kuro-dake, after about 1 hour, that we really got a sense of how high up we were.

Soon we were at the rocky Kuro-dake summit. We snapped souvenir pictures, and hurried on our way.

We were now on the famed Daisetsuzan Range, roof of Hokkaido. From this point, all the way 40km or so southwest, there isn’t a great deal of altitude gain or loss. The short 20 minute stroll from Kuro-dake to the Kurodake Refuge Hut gave us a glimpse of what the 40km+ Daisetszan Grand Traverse might be like – high alpine vegetation, exposed and brutal landscapes.

Very soon, we could see Kurodake Refuge hut in the distance. Just to the right of it was Keigetsu-dake. Haidee and I had not really intended to climb up Keigetsu-dake on this trip – the trip was a traverse over to Asahidake – but at the hut we decided we may as well. It was only about 20 minutes walk away. At the hut we dropped our packs and completed the final short hop and skip to the Keigetsu-dake summit.

It was a wet and moody day, so we didn’t really get any great views. The next morning I got up early and ran up the hill to see if I could get any better views. This time, the morning sun was shining on the volcanic landscape.

On this trip, we carried on with the monitor tour plan of hiking the 6 or so hours over to Asahi-dake. It was a wet and moody day. But we could see how Keigetsu-dake, despite its minor status, could be quite a nice objective for a very quick and easy overnight hut trip.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this Keigetsu-dake route? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback or queries here. Thanks!

2 thoughts on “Keigetsu-dake Overnight Hiking”

  1. Hello again! This route looks like a lot of fun. I wanted to ask if there was a campground near Sounkyo Village? There are a few waterfalls near there and I’d like to spend more time camping in the area than just one night at Kurodake. Thanks for your time!

    1. Hi Chris, there is a campground (Sounkyo Yaeijo 層雲峡野営場) just east of the Sounkyo Village center – about 1km east: https://goo.gl/maps/XQYpCYAZ3vJhRKWc7. There’s an honesty box where campers put their 300yen nightly fee. The campground is open from early July till end of August, although if you don’t mind filtering water from nearby streams or buying your own water to take to the campground, you’d easily be able to stay there earlier than July. I hope this helps!

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Keigetsu-dake Overnight Hiking Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

D

Navigation

D

Totals

40/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.