This was our first trip into the Kita-Daisetsu mountains and Jeff and I were both eagerly anticipating getting away from the fleshpots and crowded trails on the other side of Sounkyo. We were not to be disappointed.
It had been a simple matter to call the forestry office for the combination to the gate, and a straightforward drive to the trailhead a few days later. Here and there the gravel road showed evidence of repairs after the previous year’s typhoons. It was the first week of October and at the trailhead there was an inch or so of fresh snow, the first of the season. I didn’t have any gaiters so resigned myself to wet feet.
The ridge climbed steadily up, never very steep, and soon the views opened out. The whole of northern Daisetsuzan, topped with early season snow, was spread out across the deep gorge of Sounkyo to our right; on our left a small river valley led our gaze up to the imposing summit of Nisekaushuppe above. The leaves had gone up here but down below we could see the spectacular autumn colours. As the main ridge narrowed the views got better, with the sharp peaks of Oyari and Koyari – Big Spear and Little Spear – dominating a narrow ridge of pinnacles marching in from the right.
After negotiating a few narrow sections of trail, slippery in the new snow, we traversed around the head of the small valley on our left and through deeper snow up to the summit. At this point the weather decided to close in and a cold wind whipped up, so after a few minutes we headed back down. Having denied us a view from the top the mountain gods then brought back the sunshine. We didn’t mind too much as we enjoyed the delicate tracing of the bare birch forest on the hillside opposite. Back at the car I removed my sodden boots and dried out my feet, then it was back down the road for a soak in Kyowa Onsen near Aibetsu.