Snowshoes on Mount Asahidake

Our last long drive of the trip started with icy weather and we passed someone who had unfortunately managed to flip their car. Our route took us from Lake Kussharo through acres of flat farmland, spotting old grain storehouses, some which had been renovated and others starting to crumble. No cows in the fields, all still in barns. Hokkaido is famous for its dairy produce and products full of butter and cheese are in the shops. The cheese is very mild. Ice cream is very popular here too. We were headed for the Daisetsuzan National Park, Japan’s largest mountain park and Hokkaido’s tallest mountain Mount Asahidake, 2291m. En route we stopped at Lake Daisetsu, formed by the Daisetsu dam, still covered with ice that was breaking up and again at the Ginza and Ryusei waterfalls. They stand side by side pouring torrents out of cracks in the gorge. We had hoped to do a short walk to stretch our legs, but there is no path near the falls, so it was a quick photocalll and back on the road.

Once more the weather was kind to us and bright sunshine greeted us when we rose early. We collected our snow shoes from the visitor centre, ready for another trip up an active volcano, although the last eruption was in 1739. The cable car was busy with people wanting to have a last ski on the fresh snow that fell the morning before, but it is a big one and the queue disappeared quickly and we got on the second one.

The scenery at the top was wonderful and we were very glad of the snow shoes as our walking boots would have been useless in the thick snow. It was amazing to see the steam billowing out from three vents. Children revelled in the snow making snowmen and burying patient adults! We managed two thirds of the way to the top, but the last part was very steep. We watched determined skiers clamber up as high as they could for that one run down. Far in the distance we could see the smoke rising from Mount Tokachidake, which last erupted only in 2004.

No wildlife to be seen, just the pika set in cast iron in the manhole covers, but a great day in breathtaking scenery and beautiful weather.

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