My first spring trip into Daisetsu-zan National Park taught me a lot about spring trekking in the high mountains of Hokkaido. It also gave me a ton of respect for this amazing national park. I had planned a three-day, two-night trip in May from Sounkyo Onsen up to Mt. Kuro-dake, then over Mt. Asahi-dake, finishing in Asahi-dake Onsen Village.
After snowshoeing up Mt. Kuro-dake, I worked my way down the other side to the hut. Or where it was supposed to be. I looked around and, at first glance, all I could see was a flat area with windblown snow. I then made out a pole with a red flag sticking out of it where I knew the hatch door to the hut would be and I had to dig down two meters to reach it.
I realized that night I was lucky to find the hut even after making a few trips in summer and autumn. If it had been a whiteout, it would have been nearly impossible to locate the hut without GPS. Over the years, since that first spring trip, I’ve heard stories of people who couldn’t find the hut and had to spend an uncomfortable and scary night outside. The story here is always plan for the worst.
Daisetsu-zan and other high mountains in Hokkaido are not places for inexperienced hikers during the early spring months. If you don’t bring the right gear, the right navigational equipment and the right skills, you could spend a day or two shivering in a snow cave while the Bush Pig is a few meters below eating some hot ramen.
For me heading into Daisetsu-zan in early spring is a magical time and, on a clear day, you’re rewarded with some spectacular alpine scenery which will literally take your breath away. Just don’t take this park lightly because she can have a bad temper and bite.
BUSH PIG CHECK LIST
Besides the basics, don’t head into Hokkaido’s
high mountains this spring without:
Avalanche transceiver and probe
All-terrain (touring) skis and snowshoes
All-terrain (touring) ski boots, mountaineering boots (plastic recommended for multi-day trips)
GPS, maps and compass
Four-season sleeping bag
Winter sleeping mat or roll
Expect to encounter these conditions in Hokkaido’s
high mountains in early spring:
Daytime temperatures from –5 to –10 C and lower.
Nighttime temperatures can get down to –20 C.
Wind chill can be –20 to –30 C.
Wind speed can get over 100 km. / hour.
Deep snow and icy ridges.
Huts fully covered with snow.
No trails to follow