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

Day 6: Futage Ike Campsite to Biei-Fuji Hut

My apologies for the extreme lack of photos for Day 6. As you’ll see, we ran into extreme weather.

Although the food was stashed well away for safety, I didn’t sleep at all. The bamboo swayed ominously throughout the night, at times becoming suddenly disturbed by small animals. We woke up and moved out of the muddy remains of the ponds quickly, proceeding to our ascent of Mt. Oputateshike. The map predicted a cool 2 hour climb but the huge bouldered path suggested something different.  About halfway up the wind picked up, and within half an hour the rain smacked into our waterproofs like tiny bullets. The wind battered our packs and made progress slow. Several times we lay down on the path, beneath the knee-high rocky outcrop, to escape the constant pushing of the wind for a few minutes before pressing on.

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Rounding the peak, to a very strong gale, we realised visibility had dropped considerably. It was here that we had to decide: turn around to a dubious water source or continue through the winds. We decided to push on, slowly.

The path followed the absolute peak of a ridge, rising and falling a few times. There were shin high bushes on either side that we grabbed onto to secure our balance but that soon fell away too. Our narrow path had a sheer drop on either side. I was later told by hikers that this path has a series of stunning views, and a very dangerous plummet. I’m sure with better weather this path would contend with the park’s most beautiful.

However, at the time we got down onto our hands and knees and crawled forward to avoid being toppled by the heavy wind on our packs. The topsy-turvy wind threw dirt into our faces at unpredictable intervals. We crawled onwards for quite some time, proceeding cautiously, standing and grabbing roots and bushes where we could and keeping low and crawling where we couldn’t.

Eventually, the path dipped, placing us on the side facing away from the rushing wind, our eyelashes heavy with dirt and collected water. Our waterproofs, good quality but not the best out there, were starting to leak through at the seams and visibility was still restricted to 10 metres at best. We decided we’d break minimally, wanting to arrive at the hut sooner rather than later.

The going from here was easier as the path remained on the less windy side of the mountain. After a while we finally dipped down away from the ridge altogether, on a very wet and rocky path. We tumbled down the path, exhausted and becoming increasingly irritable, at times struggling to find the pink tape markers that guided our way. Some were attached to rocks no larger than my fist!

Be extremely careful here, once or twice I wandered away from the path as it is completely indiscernible from the surroundings.

Checking the map, there was one more small peak to mount and the closer we came, the more the wind roared and the more we had to scramble bodily over boulders and ledges. My thighs were tight and cramped from the day before, and the wind pushed down on us as firm as hands barring the way. Luckily, the path wound around the side of the peak and so we dropped out of the wind after a while. The descent to the hut was slow as the rocks were slippery..

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As we came across a red sign, pointing out the hut was within 15 minutes walk, we rushed through the grass, eager to reach it, strip off and get warm; our minds supplying the warm, sturdy hut from Mt. Chuubetsu. The hut turned out to be more of a portacabin, the walls plastered with mold and just as cold inside as it was without. The toilet was the same setup as the previous camp, and as with the previous campsite there was a lot of human excrement around.

Perfunctorily munching away at instant ramen for lunch, the adrenaline slowly ebbed, and we had a conversation with the only only other person in the hut, a Japanese man. We peppered our mimes with English and Japanese. The storm will be back tomorrow at 12 he said. He would be holed up waiting for it to pass altogether so that he could continue to the other side of the park. He asked for our route, to which we pulled out the map and showed him. Brave he said. Bears he said. Bears were the least of our problems, we said.

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

      Like

  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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