It was the Golden Week holidays in late April and there was still plenty of snow on the tops, but the weather looked grand for a hike. I met up with Leon early in the morning at Makomanai station where we caught the bus that eventually dropped us off at Toyotaki. It was still nearly an hour’s walk up the road to the trailhead but it was a pleasant stroll through the hamlet and past scattered houses and allotments to the trailhead on the forest road.
Patches of snow lay on the road but there was that expectant sense of spring in the morning sunshine, the countryside awakening after the long winter. Soon everything would be bursting manically into life in a frenzy of bright green, but for now we were content with the little green bomb bursts of fuki no to by the side of the track. At the end of the road we crossed over the stream but the snow now covered the trail itself so we looked for pink marker tape in the trees. Periodically we came across traces of the track but for the most part we plodded up the steep slope in the soft snow. It was tough going. At one particularly steep point I had to resort to thudding the pick of my ice axe into a fallen tree in order to haul myself up.
The views behind us opened up as we climbed and we eventually emerged onto a flatter section below the main ridge connecting Sapporo-dake and Soranuma-dake. The remains of large cornices overhung the final short steep section but we found an easy way through. Once on the ridge Leon stopped for a bit while I continued along through haimatsu dwarf pine and shrub and up a final steep climb on soft snow to the summit. I sat there in the sun enjoying the view and watching Leon making his way up to rejoin me. From there we headed across the plateau and down via the hut to the Hoheikyo trailhead. Tired by now, the trudge down the paved road to the onsen was made more bearable by the thought of a hot soak and a curry. Fully recovered, we caught the bus back to Sapporo. While it had been a long day out, there is always something particularly satisfying about completing a traverse.
More recently I climbed up from the Hoheikyo trailhead with Jeff, again out of season. It was early December and there was not yet enough snow for skis, so we used snowshoes. The course of the trail was still mostly obvious despite the snow so it was a straightforward climb up to the summit plateau with its wide-ranging views. There was a cold wind on top so we hunkered down for a bite of lunch before returning for the obligatory soak in the rotenburo at Hoheikyo.