After a pre-dawn start from Sapporo and a long drive, Leon, Matt and I finally arrived at the trailhead still with plenty of time to make the hike up. We left the car by the hut, after noting approvingly that it looked very comfortable, a welcome sight since we planned to stay the night.
On the road up to the hut we had noticed bear droppings and soon after setting off along the trail we came across a very fresh offering slap bang in the middle of the path. Thankfully the perpetrator appeared to have left the scene so we carried on, senses heightened to the surroundings.
After a while we reached the end of the riverbank path and forded the stream to begin the climb in earnest (this was before the typhoon damage that destroyed the trail so it now requires crossing and recrossing six times). Up to the shoulder was long and steep but perversely I always enjoy the uphill and once I found my rhythm I pulled away steadily. The clouds came and went as I gained height. From the shoulder I negotiated my way along the final ridge through the haimatsu to the open summit and its colourful sign (since replaced) and waited for the others to join me.
The clouds lifted and the sun came out while we had lunch allowing us views across to the Tokachi coast and northwards along the spine of the mountain range. Then we headed back down the long steep descent to the river. By this time it had started to rain and as we trudged back along the riverside path we were looking forward to checking out the hut. It proved to be clean and spacious and we had it all to ourselves, a perfect way to end my first day in the Hidakas.