I have been in a hiking rut these last few months, mostly sticking to my old familiar climbs close to my apartment in central Sapporo (Maruyama, Moiwa, Asahiyama, Sankakuyama). So I started researching some peaks a little further afield, but still within a few hours biking distance. I came upon Hakken-zan (八剣山) via The Hokkaido Wilds repository (an excellent site with detailed outdoor route logs for much of Hokkaido). I saw the word “beginner” in the description and thought it would be a good hike since I would have to cycle about two hours to get to the trailhead and didn’t want to overdo it.

So around 5:45 AM I departed in my trusty 6 speed, taking the the bike route along the Toyohira River, through Makomonai Park and finally linking up again with the Toyohira after a minor detour. The route begins to climb and wind past strawberry farms until you reach the entrance to the Hakken-zan Tunnel, turning left onto a gravel road that leads to the parking lot at the base of the course.

Trails with mini shrines at the base are a sign of a well traveled route.

There was a log book hut which I signed, knowing the summit of Hakken-zan has caused several deaths in recent years. This so authorities can get a better trace on my body, should I not turn up later. They say that the more dangerous route has since been closed off, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I even prayed (aka, wished really hard), at the mini-shrine at the base, for a safe hike.

The trail then makes a fairly steep and quick climb towards the summit region. Maybe only 35 minutes, child’s play compared to some of the longer hikes I have recently done. As the trees gave way to bare rock, and the sky opened up in all directions I thought that my hike was done. A nice successful hike: quick, painless, with a nice view. Then I noticed the ropes…

This is the first time in quite a while where I actually needed to use the ropes. Things started to get a little white knuckle from here on.

Soon I was making my way up a rocky crag approximately 2 meters wide, with sheer cliffs on either side. My stomach sunk. Luckily I hadn’t eaten my lunch yet. This was beyond “beginner” in my estimation. But, I pressed on, as curiosity got the best of me.

What’s over the rocks? Oh, just certain death.

As I approached the summit I had trouble centering myself to take photos. Was it vertigo? Possibly. I decided to not linger too long at the top, made my way down towards some safer ground, and took my lunch.

A nice quiet lunch was had.

After woofing down some onigiri, I made my way down the last couple sets of ropes, to the treeline, and made the quick return hike to the parking lot. A relatively short hike, with a huge spike of adrenaline at the top. This bookended by the longest bike ride I have yet to take here in Hokkaido. All in all, a great day, and one highly recommended for anyone in the Sapporo area. I do suggest you go when the weather is clear.(summer/late spring) High winds, wet or icy rocks, would make the summit highly dangerous.

What do you think?