After being turned back by the closure of the access road due to a typhoon forecast the previous month, Jeff and I returned on a stunningly beautiful day in early August – one of the very few we were to enjoy since it then proceeded to rain steadily for the rest of the month.
From the trailhead we climbed steadily up over and past a series of snowfields. There were a few steeper sections but it was an easy climb made even more enjoyable by a profusion of wildflowers. Particularly evident was the prized (for enthusiasts, mainly the middle-aged ladies and yama-girls) komakusa コマクサ, a small pink alpine flower shaped like a horse’s head that appears to grow straight out of the rocks.
After a short break on the summit rocks of Akadake we continued on the easy trail over the broad plateau and on to the summit of Hakuundake. While enjoying the spectacular views and a bite to eat on the summit I was lucky enough to see a pika darting about among the rocks. Jeff missed it, much to his chagrin. They are often heard, but rarely seen. Striped Siberian chipmunks, on the other hand, are more often encountered.
We then headed down to the Refuge, one of my favourite places in these hills for its wild and beautiful location, though I’ve never stayed inside, just camped next to it. A German lad was staying there on his second night of attempting the north-south traverse of the whole range. He mentioned how glad he was of a roof over his head – he had been unpleasantly surprised when camping the previous night by how cold it can get even in August!
From there we dropped down and crossed over the snowfield to head up Midoridake. This peak is also known as Matsuuradake, named for the explorer Matsuura Takeshiro who gave the island of Hokkaido its current name around 150 years ago. From the summit you can look back at the tiny red dot of the Refuge below the southern ramparts of Hakuundake.
Still enjoying glorious afternoon weather we headed back north to the main trail and dropped back down to the trailhead. An hour’s drive later we were soaking in the onsen at Sounkyo before tucking into the delicious pasta in the restaurant below. Washing it down with a glass of red (jealously watched by driver Jeff) I mused that the Green, White and Red of the peaks’ names combined with the food meant this just has to be known as the Italian Route.