Nipesotsu-yama Dayhike

ニペソツ山 | Nipesi-ot

Posted on Jul 30, 2019
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Posted on Jul 30, 2019

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Reading time: 3 min
23km

Distance

11 hours

Time

1562m

Ascent

2013m

Highest point

8/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jun-Oct

Best season

At 2013m, Nipesotsu-yama (ニペソツ山) is one of Hokkaido’s highest mountains. It is also one of the finest – a jagged peak rising out of the surrounding forests, isolated, rugged and difficult to access. Fukada Kyuya, the mountain essayist who compiled the Hundred Famous Mountains of Japan (日本百名山), allegedly regretted not including it in his famous list. Since the approach to the main route was destroyed in the 2016 typhoons, the old route from Horoka Onsen (幌加温泉) has been reopened to make it possible as a long day out and back for a fit party. The remote primeval forest and isolated high alpine ridges are well worth the effort.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Nipesotsu-yama is off Route 273 which runs down the east side of the Daisetsusan massif, north of the onsen town of Nukabira at the northern end of the Tokachi Plain. This hike starts and finishes at about 700m elevation from a trailhead (around here) near Horoka Onsen, just off route 273 about 20km from Nukabira Onsen.

General notes

The Ainu name is Nipeshi-otsu (Nipesi-ot) meaning ‘many shinanoki trees’. Shinanoki is the Japanese lime, and is one of the trees used by the Ainu for its bark which provided fibre for making cloth.

The main summer route up the mountain used to be accessed by a forest road from Mitsumata (三股), but this was completely destroyed in the 2016 typhoons. A few hardy souls continued to battle the 6.5km to the old trailhead through a tangle of washed out riverbed and devastated forest, but life was made considerably easier when the largely disused Horoka Onsen trail was cleared and reopened in summer 2018. This is a long route, though, with a lot of climbing and requires fitness and an early start to complete before dark.

The main season for summer hiking on Nipesotsu is 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. It is also possible to stay at the isolated Horoka Onsen (幌加温泉湯本鹿の谷, Tel: 01564-4-2163) very near the trailhead.

Hut

None

Route markers

The route is well defined throughout, newly cleared in 2018 and with new signposts (in Japanese). From the trailhead a short way up a forest road that branches off the surfaced road to Horoka Onsen, you climb gently up through mature forests for a few hours before emerging onto Shakunage Ridge (シャクナゲ尾根) at just over 1400m. Around here, if the visibility is good, you get your first spectacular view of the peak, but also realize that there is still a long way to go. The ridge narrows, and rises and falls till a final steep climb up to the main ridge at around 1800m after 1hr 30mins. The original trail joins around here from the right. From here turn left (SW) and follow the broad ridge through high alpine landscape to the plateau of Tengudaira (天狗平). There may be a toilet booth here, but you’ll still need to pack out your waste. Carry on to Tengudake (天狗岳, 1868m) in 30-40 mins. From here there is a long drop down into a col followed by another stiff pull up an increasingly narrow ridge with a steep drop on the left, to the summit at 2013m after another hour or so. The return along the same route should take 4 to 5 hours.

Route Timing
Up | 6.5hrs
Down | 4.5hrs

Transport

Public transport:

Tokachi Bus (Tel : 0155 23 5171) runs four buses a day from the Obihiro Bus Terminal to Nukabira Onsen. From there a taxi would be necessary to get to the trailhead.

  • Horoka Onsen: An express bus, the North Liner Mikuni-go (ノースライナー三国号) runs between Asahikawa and Obihiro once a day in each direction (10.30 from Asahikawa, 14.30 from Obihiro), stopping en route at the end of the road to Horoka Onsen at 12.50 and 15.52 respectively. From there it is a few minute’s walk up the road. Contact either Dohoku Bus (Asahikawa) on 0166 23 4161 or Takushoku Bus (Obihiro) on 0155 31 8811.

By car: 

Easy road access from Route 273. Take the signposted road left off Route 273 to Horoka Onsen, about 15km north of Nukabira if coming from the south. The trailhead is a couple of km or so up a signposted gravel forest road that branches off right a short way before the onsen. There is parking for a number of cars.

Physical maps

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

Official Topo Map: Nipesotsu-yama (ニペソツ山) – map no. NK-54-1-16-3

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

This is a long route requiring fitness and an early start to finish before dark. The overall height gain is over 1300m, but in reality you climb much more given the ups and downs. Take enough food and especially water. 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. Like all high mountain terrain in Hokkaido it is bear country so take the usual precautions.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Nipesotsu-yama

Onsen nearby

Horoka Onsen, just a little further up the road, 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.

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

‘You can’t call yourself a real Hokkaido climber until you’ve done Nipesotsu.’ It was early summer 2016, and the speaker was a grizzled but tough veteran of the Hokkaido hills in his seventies. Jeff and I were chatting to him on the summit of Ishikari-dake, looking over at the impressive peak of Nipesotsu across the expansive sea of forest to the south. It was already on our list, but now we knew we had to do it.

Then came the typhoons. It was an unprecedented few weeks in which the island took a real battering. The central area east of Daisetsusan was particularly hard hit. Countless forest roads were destroyed, so completely that they will never be reopened. One of them, unfortunately, led to the trailhead for Nipesotsu. Over the next couple of years we heard that people still braved the devastation and fought their way through to the old trailhead, but it meant at least a predawn start or an overnight expedition and somehow we never seemed to find the time. Then in summer 2018 we heard that the old route from Horoka Onsen, which had become overgrown and disused for many years, had now been cleared and reopened. Game on!

This route, though, is long and involves a lot of climbing. Jeff and I camped at Nukabira Onsen the previous night to ensure an early start. Up at 4.00 am, we fortified ourselves with coffee, bacon and eggs for the day ahead and were bright and early at the trailhead. It was a beautiful early autumn day. The first few hours were up through old mature forest with no real views, but eventually we reached a narrow ridge out of the trees to get our first glimpse of the mountain, looming massively before us. Still a long way to go, we realized.

The ridge went up and down, and finally steeply up to the main ridge where the old route came in from the right. Up here it was glorious alpine scenery, creeping pine (ハイマツ) bushes and open areas with patches of low shrubs with bright red foliage. Only a handful of other hikers were around. Beyond the small plateau of Tengudaira we could look across to the imposing main peak with its jagged summit ridge.

Before that, though, we had to descend into a substantial col before climbing back out and up the main peak. Our tiring legs resented losing the height but it was a still a glorious day so we plodded on and up, eventually reaching the top after noon. Nobody else was there. It was bright and clear, and we took in the panorama and sense of space all around us; not only could we see the Daisetsu and Tokachi mountains, but eastwards lay Akan, and far in the distance, Shiretoko.

After soaking in the view and having a bite to eat we reluctantly packed up and headed down. We knew it would be a long slog back so we wanted to be on our way down by 2.00 pm at the very latest. And, indeed, by the time we finally got back to the trailhead the shadows had lengthened and the forest was descending into gloom.

Horoka Onsen was only a few minutes away at the end of the road. And that’s just how it felt, a very end-of-the-road and slightly unreal vibe. We rolled up outside the ramshackle building in the dusk. Two foxes were curled up in front of the entrance; slightly above on the left a three-legged deer and her fawn were calmly grazing. Cue the banjo from Deliverance. We walked past them into the building. Nobody seemed to be around but after we hollered loudly a few times a wizened old lady appeared. We soon realized that the communication difficulties we were facing were not the result of our bad Japanese but because she was deaf as a post. All was soon resolved with the kind help of another patron, clearly a regular, and we headed into the baths. The facilities were extremely basic but we didn’t care a bit; as always it was great to relax in the steaming water while gazing out over the river gorge, and look back on another great day in the Hokkaido hills. At last we could call ourselves real Hokkaido climbers.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route up Mt. Nipesotsu-yama? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback or queries here. Thanks!

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