Last night’s last arrival was the first riser this morning, and his tent was next to mine. For two hours starting not long after 2am I heard him stomp back and forth across the flattened earth, echoing through my tent as if we were on a metal plate. He cooked, he brushed his teeth, he gurgled. All with, as far as most people would consider at 2am, far too much noise. Plus it was raining a bit.
Eventually I got going too and though it was still lightly raining I could see much more of the park than I could yesterday. I could even see back to Tokachi-dake where I started 48 hours earlier. The path went up steeply then across a wide plateau dotted with snow-filled gullies and flat-toped mountains. At Hokkai-dake I turned west, thus avoiding the long circumnavigation of the valley below. It really looked spectacular but I could see most of it from where I was, and the rest was hidden in cloud. A view worth 3 days of hiking, but from the north you could make it a day trip.
Climbing Asahi itself wasn’t technically challenging, just a lot of effort. The snow was perfect for digging poles into and soon I was at the highest point on Hokkaido, 2,290m. Along with Aso on Kyushu and Ishizuchi on Shikoku I’ve only Fuji left to complete the conquering of all four islands’ peaks.
Asahi definitely reminds me of Tongariro but the furiously steaming vents here are much more exciting than the soft vapours I’ve seen back home. The descent was gritty and I slipped a few times, mostly because I was moving too fast. I did stop to talk to one guy going up who thought this was like Mt. Everest. He was by far the youngest I’ve seen in days. As Isoda, only 31 himself, said “all the hikers are senior“.
From the top of the rope-way the plants closed in again but the water on the leaves was refreshing after the sunburn/windburn I’ve collected recently. The settlement at the bottom is just a few fancy hotels, a visitor center, camp-ground and youth hostel. Unfortunately my hiking guide is well out of date in terms of prices, and all the male dorms were full. I would have suggested that I’d be ok sharing the girls dorm, but my joke may not have been recognised like yesterday. I dropped in segments of what I’m doing, partly by asking how far to the next town, and they took pity on me. I got the overflow room, whose only window looks down on the dinning hall, and as soon as I dropped my stuff they brought up a pumpkin and onigiri meal. The outside onsen is awesome and I’ll be returning for another go soon. I’ll have to, this room is baking hot.
Word of the day: u-e ni = above
Update: a definite thumbs up to Daisetsu-zan Shirakaba-so Youth Hostel. The naturally-heated outdoor onsen was going all night and I enjoyed a solo dip in the dark. The drying room isn’t very efficient though.
Distance today: 15.5 km