A Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Daisetsuzan National Park’s The Grand Traverse – Part 1

Day 2: Asahidake Youth Campsite to Mt. Asahidake (Tent Only) Campsite.

Standing at a grand 2,290 metres Mt. Asahidake is the tallest mountain in Hokkaido and the beginning of The Grand Traverse.

The seasoned advice offered by Bushpig, a veteran of the park (who is also a blogger), is to begin The Grand Traverse by taking the gondola so as not to tire yourself out at the beginning of the hike. Being fit but a little worn from cycling around Hokkaido for three weeks, we took his advice. There is only one station, and the cold breeze frisked its way through our clothing before we even managed to step off the gondola. Be sure to find the ranger’s signature book in the main building to log your route information if you’ve not already done so. Although, again, everything is in Japanese.

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Leaving the Ropeway Station

From here, the path to the summit is listed as a three hour hike. The ascent was a scramble over a loose and light scree of volcanic rock, whilst carrying your pack at its maximum weight. The path runs along the ridge of a crevasse, etched with layers of coloured sand that swept downwards to a crystal clear pool, reflecting the clear blue sky. The pool’s edge was littered with white vents lazily pouting sulphurous gas into the air.

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Sugatami Pond at Mt. Asahidake

Despite the estimate, it took us three and a half hours to reach the summit, including breaks. Perhaps we were just warming up, or it was because our packs were at their fullest, but this felt like one of the more tiring ascents of the Traverse. The view from the top was obscured by eggy, sulphuric cloud but stopping for lunch gave us a chance to catch the view from the highest mountain in Hokkaido.

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Taking a break on Mt. Asahidake.

The descent to the campsite was much shorter than expected but at an extreme angle and on very lose ground. The going was slow, and there were many slips. A slippery snow drift covered the path halfway down and stopped at the edge of the campsite, our main water source. Crampons would have been useful but, if I went again, I wouldn’t take them due to the extra weight. I made do with my hiking poles and a few slips onto my bottom.

When we cleared the snow drift we stood at the edge of the campsite. In front of us was a small, near indistinguishable patch of rock-ringed camping spots nestled in the lowest area between the two peaks. It was surrounded by soft grass, and littered with alpine flowers.  The snow drift provided a small river of snow melt for drinking water and the placement of the camp gave us shelter from the wind on most sides, the rock rings all compensating for the unprotected side of the camp. We chose a nook, added a couple of rocks to the ring just in case that was something you were supposed to do, and set up.

It was 1:30 when we arrived and there were only two other people at the camp but by 5:30pm the grounds were full and people were pitching their tents wherever they could find space between the rock rings.

Realistically, we could have pushed onto Hakuun Hut, the next campsite, but we wanted to detour to the natural hot springs along the way, which would require a full day.

There are a few steadfast Daisetsuzan rules in place to protect and preserve the mountain. One of them is to never do any of your business outside of the designated toilets marked on the map, and although this unmanned campsite had a water source it had no available toilets. By sunset we’d seen so many figures skipping over the bright yellow rope marking the edge of the camp, their backs disappearing into the mist with toilet roll in hand, that we knew where we’d be going if we had to. Whilst watching our step.

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Kit Tip

A water filter is an absolute requirement throughout The Grand Traverse due to the pathogen released from fox faeces. Alternatively, you can boil your water if you have enough fuel.

It’s also advisable to bring along a Ziplock bag with your toilet gear in it, including a Ziplock bag for taking away used tissue. If you are breaking the toilet rule then at least don’t litter at the same time.

Bushpig Website: http://www.outdoorjapan.com/magazine/column_details/295

Water Filter: Sawyer Mini goo.gl/2j2BjO 

16 thoughts on “A Comprehensive Guide to Hiking Daisetsuzan National Park’s The Grand Traverse – Part 1

    1. Hi! Thank you so much, I’m really happy it’s useful for you. Although, I’m also a bit jealous that you’ll be doing this hike, it’s so ridiculously magical and stunning. If you have any questions, feel free to throw them at me. Also, I’ll be posting up Part 3: Food, and Part 4: Daisetsuzan Rules in the coming weeks. Hopefully that will be useful for you too. Enjoy the hike!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. freshcoffeestains

    Awesome post and so helpful! It’s hard finding enough information on the hike… one that I hope to tackle one day. I love Daisetsuzan (the little bit I’ve seen) and Hokkaido in general. Hope you don’t mind but I linked your blog on my own about why everyone should visit Hokkaido 🙂

    Tam @ http://freshcoffeestains.com/hokkaido/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Tam! I don’t mind at all, thanks very much for the link. And nice blog! Yeah, finding info on The Grand Traverse was incredibly difficult, I hope this helps out a bit. Enjoy the hike, whenver you manage to set out.

      Denica

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  2. Leigh

    Your post is extremely helpful! I’m contemplating doing the traverse in a few weeks … do you think there will be too much of a lack of water by then to do the northern portion of the hike (as you did) or is it worth an attempt? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Leigh! Thanks so much!

      Well, I did the traverse from north to south, and left one day early, so the route listed covers risky dry southern sections later on. It was after Tamaurashi Camp Grounds, in the south, that we couldn’t find much water in August. We managed to push through for the next two days but it was difficult and we had to ration and take from questionable water sources.

      The northern section should have some by my estimates but the only people who can tell you for sure are the park rangers at Mt. Asahidake base, as the park can vary a lot from year to year. Everything north of hakuun hut should
      be okay, even going down south to Chuubetsu and Tamaurashi if the rangers say it’s okay. Any further south than that will put you in a questionable situation. If you do go further south I would consult the rangers first and make provisions to carry a lot of water at once, up to four liters at all times, and be ready to exit the park should you need to.

      Also bear in mind hiking in the park past September is only recommended for very experienced hikers, because of the typhoon season and because of water shortage. But within the next few weeks should still be okay.

      I hope this helps, if not then ask away. Enjoy your hike!

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      1. Leigh

        This was extremely helpful, thank you!! We will talk with the rangers then to figure out what is possible, did they speak English (or at least some English)?
        Thanks again !

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  3. Leigh

    I have one more question in regards to exiting the traverse — is it possible to exit at any point before Shirogane onsen or would it be easiest/quickest to turn around and head back to where we started (Asahidake onsen)?

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    1. Hi Greg! Thanks very much! I hiked in August 2016 and although I can’t remember the exact dates I do know it was in the latter half of August. It was though to be honest, the lack of water in the southern half of the park was pretty difficult.

      Liked by 1 person

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  5. Arthur

    Hi Denica Shute,

    First thank you for all this previous information ! I was wondering if you have a scan of the map your are illustrating on your article. I don’t find any relevant map with all the hut on the traverse.

    Best regards,

    Arthur

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Arthur,

      I’m afraid I don’t as I gave the map to a friend who was going hiking there.

      The pictures of the map on the article are ones I took using my iPhone and are only of small sections. It’s very important you get the whole map, just incase you need to exit in a hurry. However, Montbelle releases updated maps each year, so it would be worth dropping by Montbelle for an updated copy when you land in Japan.

      Happy hiking!

      Denica

      Like

    1. Hi! So you could do this cycling course but you’d have to do a shortened Daisetsuzan route. Definitely not the whole thing as it takes a full 7 days unless you’re a very experienced hiker and very, very in shape. Some people enjoy doing the Northern end of the park only, which is a 2 day hike, but I’m afraid I don’t have any information on it as I didn’t do that course.

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