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

Day 4: Hakuun Hut to Chuubetsu Hut

The next day began with another flurry of movement at 3:30a.m from the early starters. The night had been very cold again but our sleep was improved by zipping our sleeping bags together. The Traverse would now enter the side of the park known for having unreliable water supplies, so we spent a good amount of time filling and filtering everything to the maximum.

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The remainder of the descent into the gorge was scenic and simple, delivering us onto a firm trail that ran along the edge of an endless row of undulating cliffs disappearing into the distance. To our right the edges slid down into a dark, coniferous forest. Swirling patterns of shifted sand were clearly visible from that height, spread in and amongst the collection of clear still snow melt. In the mid distance, tucked into the base of a mountain, a plume of smoke permeated the tree tops. We still can’t quite figure out where it was coming from.

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We followed the lip of the gorge right to the horizon.

The cliffs took three and a half hours to cross, 30 minutes longer than the map estimate. By the time we approached our first considerable ascent the mountain we had slept on was hazy in the distance. The path had us ascend through rough dry brush that reached above our heads, where we had to pick our way over a network of intertwining roots. Eventually, the brush gave way to a path of wooden sleepers, leading over dried out marshland. The sleepers skirted a pond surrounded by sweeping soft green grass and alpine flowers. Though it appeared to be still this pond was listed as a water source on the map, and functioned as a checkpoint although there was no signpost to be found. As we continued our hike it seemed that bodies of water would always act as checkpoints themselves.

The next ascent led us up Mt. Chuubetsu through the muddy remains of a river. As we continued towards the top the clouds began to roll in and we came across the remains of a monumental rock slide that must have occurred in years past. It tumbled down the mountain side in a swirling river through crease of the valley.

Following on from here the trail soon led us to the peak of Mt. Chuubetsu, the view from which was completely obscured by clouds. Looking back on this peak the next, sunny, day it had an incredible altitude, and probably a stunning vista.

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Tumbling down the other side on a loose stone path, we caught our first sight of the hut in the distance; a triangle tin roof with the same burgundy paint as Hakuun. Following the ridge had us circling around the campsite before finally crossing an icy snow bank that hugs the Chuubetsu hut and campsite.

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The icy snowdrift provided a reliable stream but it was the smallest we’d seen so far. We took the hint and filled up all our containers after dinner. The on-site toilets were the Asian squat toilets again but with a drop into a large plastic crate. This meant you didn’t have a frosty wind coming up at you from behind but you did have to deal with a foul stench that had nowhere to go.

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There were two campsites, both small, rocky and on a significant slope.  We decided to stay in the hut; a solid construction of huge wooden beams and a tin roof. Inside the hut each sleeping area was equipped with hooks above the head space, and string washing lines for drying out your belongings. It was immediately warmer inside, and became more so as everyone started cooking. Between the warmth and reassuring solid wooden beams, as opposed to the cold and windy tent, it was the most restful nights’ sleep I had throughout the hike. The camp had all but fallen to sleep by 6, and came to life again at 3am.

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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