Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse

大雪山グランドトラバース | Kamuy Mintar

Posted on Sep 17, 2021
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Posted on Sep 17, 2021

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84km

Distance

8 days

Time

5178m

Ascent

2291m

Highest point

9/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jul-Sept

Best season

The Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse 大雪山グランドトラバース is a multi-day trek along the exposed alpine spine of the Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido, Japan. Six to eight days long, this iconic Hokkaido expedition covers a mind-boggling diversity of high-latitude volcanic scenery. From the lonely southern terminus of Genshigahara 原始ヶ原 to the northern outpost of Aizankei Onsen 愛山渓温泉, here we cover the longest uninterrupted version of the traverse. Ascending from prehistoric peaty wetlands, the route covers active volcanic landscapes, rocky knife-edge ridges, vast alpine plateaus, and offers the opportunity to ascend Hokkaido's highest peak, Asahidake 旭岳 (2291m). Hovering around 2000m the entire way, this exposed traverse, infamous for deadly storms, requires a high level of planning, experience and risk management to complete.

We visited this route on Aug 15, 2021

Badge by @joekkaido. Thanks to Haidee Thomson and Rick Siddle for feedback.

Last updated Sep 21, 2021

Route Map

Overview Map

Need to know details

Location

This hike traverses the Daisetsuzan National Park from south to north, in central Hokkaido. The route starts in the wild and lonely Genshigahara Trailhead 原始ヶ原登山口 near Furano City 富良野市, and ends at the equally lonely Aizankei Trailhead 愛山渓温泉登山口 above Kamikawa village. Neither trailhead is accessible by public transport, requiring a taxi ride at the southern end, and a pre-arranged shuttle at the northern end (see Transport section below). Naturally, it’s possible to do the hike in the opposite direction, but the lure of the hopelessly gorgeous and iconic Aizankei Onsen Hostel at the end of an 8-day journey on foot begs to be the reward for one’s effort.

General notes

In this guide, we describe the longest uninterrupted traverse of the Daisetsuzan National Park – a full traverse from south to north along the spine of the range. Note that this is not the most commonly walked version of the Grand Traverse. Hikers seeking more brevity or convenience will start in the north either in Asahidake Onsen 旭岳温泉 or Sounkyo (Kurodake) 層雲峡 (黒岳), and end in the south at Tokachi-dake Onsen 十勝岳温泉 after summiting Furano-dake 富良野岳. This is because 1) there are ropeways in the north that can aid the ascent to the alpine and 2) committing to a shorter traverse will decrease the probability of being caught out in storms, increasing chances of completing the route in relative comfort and safety. If committing to the full traverse (and being determined to finish it), hikers must carry a few days of extra food in anticipation of sitting out inevitable storms (indeed, we did).

What makes a ‘Grand’ Traverse? We’ve written up a full definition here, but the most common is that ‘Grand’ Traverse must include Furano-dake in the south, and usually starts/finishes at either Asahidake or Kurodake. For aesthetic (and purist) appeal, we heartily recommend experienced hikers plan well and attempt the extended traverse (Genshigahara to Aizankei) outlined on this page.

  • When to go: The main season for summer hiking in Daisetsuzan is from July into September; before and after this, you need to be prepared and equipped for snow on the ground and/or falling from the sky. Even in summer, expect temperatures down to freezing overnight.
  • Flora and geography: This high alpine volcanic route is home to flora ranging from hardy creeping pine to extremely delicate permafrost areas and alpine vegetation. From July to early August, the plateaus are home to spectacular alpine flower meadows. Hikers are asked to keep to trails at all times.
  • Preparations and what to pack: This hike requires multiple 6-9hr hiking days. If you’re not very hiking fit, it’s worth doing some long day trips to get in hiking shape. Keep your pack as light as possible, but still carry the gear required to deal with near-freezing temperatures and rain, even in summer. See our full preparations post here (with kit-lists).
  • Permits and trail costs: Besides hut or campsite fees at Hakuundake Hut (payable at the hut), there are no other permits required for the hike and no trail access costs.
  • Weather: Close attention to weather forecasts is important (there’s good cell reception at peaks along the way). It is almost unheard of in the Daisetsuzan Range to go more than three or four days without some sort of serious weather. Indeed, we spent 48 hours in a hut waiting for a storm to subside. During the storm, with 60-90km/h winds, another hiker just 8km away from us died from exposure (see the story here). The high peaks in Hokkaido are relatively low altitude, but Hokkaido’s high latitude and positioning relative to the jetstream means that even 2000m here can be on par with 3000m peaks elsewhere in the world. Bad weather often rolls in with SE systems.
  • Huts and campsites: On this hike, you will need to spend up to seven nights in shelter huts or in campgrounds. Huts en route are very spartan with no cooking facilities, washrooms, or bedding, so you need to take all your food, bedding and cooking equipment. Most huts have toilets, but some don’t. Expect basic communal sleeping platforms and not much else. The huts may be crowded during the summer holiday season and at weekends. Camping is allowed outside all huts. Campsites are equally spartan, alpine, and windswept, with no toilet facilities. Camping is only permitted at designated campsites marked on the map, or next to huts.
  • Toilets: There are few toilets along this route. Five out of eight days, you’ll need to carry your own human waste out with you; catholes are not allowed in the alpine in Daisetsuzan. Portable toilet bags are available online. Toilet privacy booths (for using your portable toilet bags) are available at some (but not all) campgrounds. See our ‘Pooping on the Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse’ post here. For huts with toilets, used toilet paper should be packed out.
  • Water: By September it can become difficult to find water at the campsites and huts. Some water sources dry up as early as late July onwards, so be prepared to carry plenty of water in your pack. All water sourced en route needs to be filtered or boiled, to protect against the fox-borne Echinococcus parasite (see our deep-dive here).
  • Trail information: For up to date trail and hut information, contact the Asahidake Visitor Center (TEL: 0166-97-2153, www.asahidake-vc-2291.jp/eng) or the Sounkyo Visitor Center (TEL: 01658-9-4400, http://sounkyovc.net). Note, however, that these visitor centres are at the far north end of the range. They may need time to call around to find out the situation on water sources etc at the southern end of the range – be prepared to call them back or have them return your call. Alternatively, drop a question in the Facebook group Hiking, Climbing and Camping in Japan, and someone may have an answer for you.
  • Cellular reception: There is reasonable mobile phone reception (4G) throughout the range on peaks and some high, exposed ridgelines. Reception at huts and campgrounds is patchy at best.
  • Winter season traverse: Deep winter-time (Dec-Feb) attempts on the Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse are rare, but not unheard of. They require a full alpine winter expedition style approach on skis. Around two weeks is the norm for timing in deep winter due to storms and deep snow. Spring-time ski traverses are relatively more practical and allow for both multi-day traverses as well as skimo-style attacks on the range. The shortest time we know of for a spring traverse (60km from Tokachidake Onsen to Asahidake) is a shade over 13 hours by local skimo athlete Ken Fujikawa, in May 2016 – story here. This beats a previous record by a Norwegian in 2015 of 17 hours (source, p. 32).
Route Timing

Below, we outline about as leisurely a traverse as you can think of – a very leisurely 8 days. In reality, hikers up to the task of the Grand Traverse will likely combine days to make the most of good weather. For example, we combined Days 2 & 3, as well as Days 6 & 7. This made it a very demanding six-day hike – besides Day 5, we were walking for more than 9 hours per day. When the weather is good, it is often worth getting in as much distance as possible. The route is mostly well-defined but rocky and steep in places, so allow plenty of time each day for leisurely stops. The route can also be done in reverse, starting in Aizankei.

Route

Day 1 – Genshigahara to Kamihorokamettoku-hinangoya Hut 原始ヶ原~上ホロカメットク避難小屋
9h 10m 1310m 286m 10.8km Blog
Gorgeous start to the traverse, climbing up to the Daisetsuzan plateau through the peaty, marshy, old-growth forest of Genshigahara. Long first day with a heavy pack, considering the hefty altitude gain. Once you’re at the Furano-dake summit, most of the climbing for the trip is done. Kamihorokamettoku-hinangoya Hut 上ホロカメットク避難小屋 is basic but functional, has a toilet.

There’s a spring and stream about one hour from the trailhead. From there till Kamihorokametokku Hut (7hrs walking) there are no water sources (hut water dries up by end of August).

Day 2 – Kamihorokamettoku Hut to Bieifuji-hinangoya Hut上ホロカメットク避難小屋~美瑛富士避難小屋
6h 461m 570m 8km Blog
Trekking via the desolate, martian landscape of the highly active Tokachi-dake 十勝岳 (2077m) volcanic area. Biei-dake 美瑛岳 (2052m) and Biei-fuji 美瑛富士 (1889m) peaks are easily attainable as side-hikes along the way, so be sure to bag them if the weather allows it. Strong hikers may want to compress Day 2 and 3 into one long day. Bieifuji-hinangoya Hut 美瑛富士避難小屋 is basic with no toilets, but there’s a privacy booth for use with toilet bags – pack your own poop out (details here).

No water sources between the two huts. Biei-fuji Hut water can dry up as early as end of July.

Day 3 – Bieifuji Hut to Futago-ike Campsite美瑛富士避難小屋~双子池チャンプ指定地
4h 50m 312m 640m 5.1km Blog
Say goodbye to Tokachi-dake day-trekkers, and enjoy the quiet solitude of the remote mid-section of the Daisetsuzan Range. Oputateshike-yama オプタテシケ山 (2012m) and its dramatic, airy narrow ridge are the highlights of the day. Watch out for curious nakiusagi pika rodents in the rocks. Futago-ike campsite 双子池キャンプ指定地 is spartan, with no toilets – pack your poop out.

Futago-ike campsite has plenty of water available for filtering till late August. If campsite is dry, head to Futago-ike ponds 20min further north to fill up.

Day 4 – Futago-ike to Tomuraushi-yama双子池キャンプ指定地~トムラウシ山
9h 40m 886m 344m 11.8km Blog
Now deep in a seldom-walked zone of the Daisetsuzan National Park, expect broad alpine scenery. Trail deteriorates somewhat, with the first half of the day walking through thick, head-high aromatic dwarf pines. Views from the Koganegahara plateau 黄金ヶ原 are inspiring. Tomuraushi-yama トムラウシ山 (2141m) has an infamous past, but is a popular remote peak. Camp 20 minutes below the summit at the spartan Minami-numa Campsite 南沼キャンプ指定地 – no toilets, pack your poop out (there are privacy booths at the campsite).

There’s only one water source during the day – about halfway near Sansendai 三仙台. Plenty of water at the Minami-numa Campsite. Both sources have water throughout the season.

Day 5 – Tomuraushi-yama to Chubetsudake Refugeトムラウシ山~忠別岳避難小屋
5h 30m 311m 626m 10.6km Blog
Expect more hikers on the trail – Tomuraushi-yama northwards is much more well-travelled. Hike over vast boulder fields, past scenic tarns in the Japanese Garden 日本庭園, and across easy-walking boardwalks. Make the day even shorter by staying at Hisagonuma Refuge ヒサゴ沼避難小屋, a basic hut next to a large mountain tarn. Chubetsudake Refuge 忠別岳避難小屋 is also beautifully located, next to a snow patch and creek suitable for paddling in. Both huts have toilets.

One all-season water source along the way (Amanuma Tarn 天沼), water at Chubetsudake Hut till early September.

Day 6 – Chubetsudake Refuge to Hakuundake Refuge忠別岳避難小屋~白雲岳避難小屋
5h 40m 628m 292m 10.7km Blog
Enjoy views of the dramatic cliffs of Chubetsu-dake 忠別岳 (1963m), and the expansive Hiragatake Plateau 平ヶ岳. Take in views down to the Kogen-numa 高原沼 tarns below – home to a high concentration of brown bears. Hakuundake Refuge 白雲岳避難小屋 was rebuilt in 2020, has toilets and great views. We combined Days 6 & 7 into one long day.

Chubetsu-numa Tarn 忠別沼 and Hakuundake Hut have water all season.

Day 7 – Hakuundake Refuge to Uraasahi Campsite白雲岳避難小屋~裏旭キャンプ指定地
5h 30m 561m 468m 8.4km Blog
Timing and distances above include summiting Hakuun-dake 白雲岳 (2230m) and Asahidake (2291m) along the way – drop packs at junctions and they’re worth the extra side-trips. You’re now well within the Asahidake volcanic area – observe the gigantic Ohachidaira crater 御鉢平 and walk on fine white volcanic rock. Uraasahi Campsite 裏旭キャンプ指定地 is very basic, no toilets – pack out your own poop. Summit of Asahidake, Hokkaido’s highest peak, is so close you could touch it.

Plenty of water at Uraasahi Campsite all season.

Day 8 – Uraasahi Campsite to Aizankei裏旭キャンプ指定地~愛山渓温泉
7h 30m 412m 1473m 11.8km Blog
Some of Hokkaido’s highest peaks are concentrated at the north end of Daisetsuzan National Park, and today you’ll bag a number of them, with relatively little climbing involved. Descend to Aizankei via the Numano-daira 沼ノ平 marshlands for some extra variation (adds 1hr). Savour completing the longest Daisetsuzan traverse by staying a night at the Aizankei Eco Lodge onsen 愛山渓温泉エコロッジ.

Stock up well at campsite; no water for about 4hrs. Water available at tarns lower down on descent, if going via Numano-daira.

Transport

Public transport:

Neither ends of the traverse are accessible by public transport alone. At the southern end, you’ll need to take a taxi from Furano JR train station (富良野駅, location) to the Genshigahara Trailhead. This takes about 40 minutes (20km), so expect about 7000yen to 8000yen (about US$70) for the taxi fare. At the northern end of the range, the remote Aizankei Onsen currently offers a free shuttle down to Kamikawa JR train station (上川駅, location) for overnight staying guests at the eco-lodge (4500yen per night) or hut next door (2500yen per night), but this must be arranged in advance (TEL: 01658-9-4525 or Email: [email protected]). From both Furano JR Station and Kamikawa JR Station, there are regular express trains to Sapporo 札幌市 and Asahikawa City 旭川市. Note that Asahidake Onsen and Sounkyo have good public transport options to and from Asahikawa City. For this reason, many hikers opt to end their traverse trips in one of those alternative ends, but this does omit the northern-most end of the traverse.

By car: 

Both ends of the route are accessible by private car, with plenty of parking at both the Genshigahara Trailhead 原始ヶ原登山口 and the Aizankei Onsen 愛山渓温泉. With only one car, however, shuttling will be time-consuming. You’ll need to access at least one of the trailheads by train and taxi/shuttle (see public transport above). If leaving a car at the Aizankei Onsen carpark, make sure to mention to staff that you’ll be away for over a week. They were worried about us when we reappeared 9 days later, having not let them know our plans.

Hut(s)

Kamihorokamettoku Refuge Hut (full details here)

The Kamihorokamettoku Hut (上ホロカメットク避難小屋) is a two-story wooden hut inspiringly located just below an exposed ridgeline between Furano-dake 富良野岳 and Tokachi-dake 十勝岳. It’s an old hut, rather dilapidated. In 2020, the roofing was replaced, but it still leaks. That said, the hut is highly functional and a welcome reprise for hikers, especially in bad weather. Possible to camp outside hut.

Bieifuji Refuge Hut (full details here)

The unmanned Bieifuji Refuge Hut (美瑛富士避難小屋, capacity 20) is a small, very basic prefab hut near Mt. Bieifuji in the southern Daisetsuzan Range in Hokkaido. It’s also possible to camp outside the hut.

Hisagonuma Refuge Hut (full details here)

The refurbished Hisagonuma Refuge Hut (ヒサゴ沼避難小屋) is a small, basic two-story wooden hut with a camping area, located next to the Hisagonuma lake (ヒサゴ沼) to the east of the main ridge of Kaun-dake (化雲岳), in the central Daisetsuzan Range. The campground can be boggy after rain.

Chubetsu-dake Refuge Hut and Campsite (full details here)

The Chubetsu-dake Refuge Hut (忠別岳避難小屋) is a very basic A-frame shelter sitting about 40 minutes walk below (south of) Chubetsu-dake (忠別岳, 1963m) in central Daisetsuzan Range. There’s a 15-tent campsite just down from the hut also.

Hakuundake Refuge (full details here)

Hakuundake Refuge Hut (白雲岳避難小屋, 1,990m) is a large but basic two-story hut located just under an hour’s walk from Hakuun-dake (白雲岳). It is available for use year-round, but a warden is present from June till September. In winter, the ground floor entrance will be buried in snow, so the entrance is from a second-floor winter door. There’s also an official campsite nearby.

Physical maps
  • Printed map in English: Asahi-dake 1:25,000 hiking map in English by Markus Hauser, available from Amazon.co.jp. Covers the northern half of the traverse only (Asahidake to Tomuraushi).
  • Printed map in Japanese: 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). Available from Amazon.co.jp here. Covers the entire traverse.
GSI Topo Map: Honko (本幸) – map no. NK-54-7-8-4
GSI Topo Map 2: Tokachidake (十勝岳) – map no. NK-54-7-8-2
GSI Topo Map 3: Shiroganeonsen (白金温泉) – map no. NK-54-7-8-1
GSI Topo Map 4: Oputateshikeyama (オプタテシケ山) – map no. NK-54-7-4-3
GSI Topo Map 5: Tomuraushiyama (トムラウシ山) – map no. NK-54-7-3-4
GSI Topo Map 6: Goshikigahara (五色ヶ原) – map no. NK-54-7-3-2
GSI Topo Map 7: Hakuundake (白雲岳) – map no. NK-54-7-3-1
GSI Topo Map 8: Sounkyo (層雲峡) – map no. NK-54-7-2-2
GSI Topo Map 9: Aizankeionsen (愛山渓温泉) – map no. NK-54-7-2-4

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

This route takes you into the wild, high-altitude interior of the mountain range away from more popular day hike areas and on to quieter and more isolated trails. Daisetsuzan is a dangerous place in bad weather with real risks of hypothermia for poorly equipped hikers. The Tomuraushi Disaster of 2009 is a sobering case in point. 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 and enough emergency supplies to sit out bad weather in a hut if necessary. We carried an extra two days of food (for a total of 10 days rations), and were happy we did – we spent 48 hours in a hut sheltering from a 60-90km/h typhoon during our 8-day traverse. The ridges are broad and featureless and it is possible to become disoriented in mist. Escape routes are few and far between on this traverse. Any escape routes that do exist are major undertakings in their own right – at least five hours. Bears are numerous in the range. In reality, you’re unlikely to see one, but while the Hokkaido brown bear is much timider than brown bears elsewhere in the world, take care when coming across fresh droppings and tracks, and make yourself known in heavily wooded areas by clapping your hands.

  • Escape Routes – This alpine trail spanning the length of the Daisetsuzan Range is very exposed. If bad weather persists, then hikers may need to consider cutting the trip short. This can be done via sporadic trails dropping down to the west or east of the main spine of the range. In general, trailheads on the western side of the range have more services. We recommend studying the map well before heading into the alpine, and familiarize yourself with the options.
    • Southern half of traverse: Prevailing winds during summer storms are generally southeast. Therefore, any of the southwestern trailheads can be good candidates for escape, as they all head to facilities (Bieifuji Trailhead 美瑛富士登山口 near Shirogane Onsen 白金温泉, Tokachidake Observatory (Bogakudai 望岳台), Fukiage Onsen 吹上温泉 and Tokachidake Onsen 十勝岳温泉. There’s a very old trail heading east from Tokachidake summit, but the trailhead is very remote with no facilities (no cell service). From Bieifuji (Day 2) north, there’s no escape from the alpine until Tomuraushi-yama, exactly halfway through the traverse – the shortest route down ends at the popular Tomuraushi Short-course trailhead トムラウシ山短縮登山口 (toilets, cell service).
    • Northern half of traverse: From Tomuraushi-yama heading north, there’s a few more escape routes: Kaun-dake to Teninnkyo 天人峡 (6hrs), Goshiki-dake to the remote Numanohara-Kuchanbetsu Trailhead 沼ノ原クチャンベツ登山口(4.5hrs, toilets, no cell service), Hakuundake to Kogen Onsen 高原温泉 etc.
  • Weather forecasts: We find Windy.com has the best short-term forecasts for the Daisetsuzan Range (very accurate to within 48hrs).
  • Emergencies: In an emergency, call 110 (police). There is good cell reception (4G) on peaks and in exposed ridge-line areas. Be prepared to stay put for several hours – coordination of emergency response in Hokkaido can take longer than in other developed countries. Use a smartphone app (Google Maps, Alpine Quest etc) to find your exact GPS coordinates, and communicate that to emergency responders. Use our PDF maps in the free Avenza Maps app to pinpoint your location while offline (download here: https://hokw.jp/geogrdtv). On-the-ground emergency response personnel may not speak much English. We’ve included UTM grids on our maps, but UTM grids are not yet used widely within Hokkaido search and rescue operations.
  • See our general tips for keeping safe while hiking in Hokkaido here.
  • Notify the police of your backcountry plans online using Compassinstructions here.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse

Onsen nearby

The terminus of the traverse is the iconic Aizankei Onsen 愛山渓温泉 (location, 850yen). This lonely outpost of mountain culture sits at 1000m altitude and at the end of a long winding single-lane road (closes often after heavy rain). There’s an old but well-kept hut there (2,500yen per night) as well as an eco-lodge with an attached onsen (from 4,000yen per night). Both ooze with a passion for the mountains. They also both have kitchens for use by guests. They sell basic foodstuffs such as instant noodles and snacks but don’t provide meals.

Extra Resources
  • The Daisetsuzan National Park Council has some resources in English about the traverse here.
  • Check out Mapping Lanes’ write-up of the more common shorter version of the Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse here.
  • A good overview by one of Hokkaido’s most experienced foreign mountain guides (now living in New Zealand), Leon Roode a.k.a. The Hokkaido Bush Pig, here.
  • Some insights on the traverse by Best Regards From Afar, here.

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 Michiko Aoki, a.k.a. Mountain Flow. We’ve been on guided trips with her in the past, and we can’t recommend her enough. Michiko is a JMGA (Japan Mountain Guides Association) mountain guide, born and bred in Hokkaido. She has extensive overseas experience, speaks excellent English, and can tailor trips to clients’ 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

Below, I’ve outlined how we actually walked this route, with a few photos and links to the daily blog posts. We did the full hike from Genshigahara to Aizankei, but compressed a couple of days into one. We also had to sit out a storm for two days.

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Daisetsuzan Grand Traverse Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

A

40

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

D

0

Navigation

D

0

Totals

50/100

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.