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Japan Sapporo Hiking Snow Mount Soranuma

30 October 2016

Terrible sign failure

I thought there might be a bit of snow. Turns out there was endless snow.
I thought it might be cold on top of a mountain, turns out it was absolutely freezing.
I thought my boots would struggle in ice, and I was absolutely right.

Nearby Sapporo are a series of mountains that used to be volcanoes that are now lakes on a plateu area between peaks.
Getting there was hard to work out without the help of the information desk in the main station the night before.
Once I got on the bus, which came at the time my piece of paper suggested, I was concerned that no one else on the bus seemed to be in climbing gear.
Perhaps the 2km walk to the trail head had frightened them all away apart from the 3 weeks of the year the bus goes the two extra stops.
Anyway, its not a long bus ride, and knowing the right stop to get off at is easy, the last one.
4 others got off at this stop, a group of 2 boys and 2 girls perhaps in their early 20's. They had jackets on, but other than that woolen mittens, sneakers, jeans.
One of them asks me if I intend to climb, he speaks great English, yes I intend to climb. He asks if I know the way to the trail. I said I believe its 2km up the road to the quarry and starts from the car park there.
He then asked me if my boots and gloves are ok for climbing, and if I have enough supplies. I said my boots are old but waterproof, gloves are not great, and I have pocari sweat to drink. I was looking at him in his sneakers and jeans. He said they also intend to climb.

So we headed off up the road, and they walked at a snails pace, so I waved goodbye and charged off, should not have done that!

Once at the quarry I had no idea which way to go. There were cars parked there, perhaps quarry workers? I could see a tractor working up a cliff. I settled on the only dirt road which seemed open and without big warning signs and followed that. I assumed the other roads were for quarry machinery. So wrong.
It soon became impassable for cars, with big trees fallen over the road, and then rivers that had washed away the road I needed to get across on slippery fallen logs. There was so much snow! I was enjoying myself.
However after about an hour up this road, which did not seem to be going up, just around, it became very impassable, I turned back, frustrated.

About 3/4 of the way back to the car park, there was a fork in the road, I had previously taken the road that went up rather than the one that seemed to go down, now I took the fork that went down. So very wrong.
I followed this for over an hour in very heavy snow, and saw no one, crossed rivers where the road was washed away, climbed over huge fallen trees, until this became a raging waterfall.
I thought my day was over, I ran back to the car park. 3 hours had elapsed since I got off the bus, so frustrating.
Then I decided to ignore a huge warning sign and barrier... What a stupid sign. This was the entrance to the national park and main trail. Almost immediately I saw people coming down from the mountain and lakes in arctic survival gear with bear bells dinging.
Decision time, I knew what time the last bus was, I knew going down should be faster than going up, I knew there were 2 lakes to see, one before the 'summit' with huts to stay in and one after.
I decided to race the clock and turn back if I thought I would run out of time. I literally ran up whenever I could. It was very tiring, and at times blizzard like conditions, but generally I was not cold.
My shoelaces froze solid, as did the bottom of my pants, and eventually the ends of the fingers on my gloves. Only when I got to the second lake did I realise I was absolutely freezing! Time to head back down for the bus.

Unfortunately, my boots were not up to the task, the other people I saw coming down all had spikes coming out of their boots, so I slid down a lot of the way, gloves on the ice behind me, feet in front, and lowered my now wet ass onto the ice to stop!

When I got back to the lower lake, with the huts around it, there was the group I saw on the bus earlier, they must have been in the hut earlier when I ran past.
They were surprised to see me, I explained how I had been lost, but the funny thing was, they were now all in full on arctic survival gear, huge jackets, goggles, hats, hiking poles, big rubber boots, knee pads, and they had a guide with them!
It seems they met a guide at the quarry car park and were staying in the hut over night. I assume the guide provided all the gear.

Getting down was much slower than I thought it would be due to the ice and sliding. It never stopped snowing until I got back to the road, and then I had 15 minutes to run down the road to meet my bus, I made it by 2 minutes! Had I missed it, my options were to hike back up to the hut in the dark and join the guide and the bus gang, or walk at least 2 hours down the road to where it joins the freeway and presumably there are more regular buses.
So I was very glad I made the last bus. My shoes and pants defrosted and water ran down the aisle.

Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - To get to my subway station to take me to my bus I had to go through a park. No snow here, but very grey.

To get to my subway station to take me to my bus I had to go through a park. No snow here, but very grey.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - I stayed on the subway to the last station, Makomanai. 20 minutes to wait for the bus so I had a seven eleven cookie, bought pocari sweat and calorie

I stayed on the subway to the last station, Makomanai. 20 minutes to wait for the bus so I had a seven eleven cookie, bought pocari sweat and calorie mate and then enjoyed a hot milk tea from the vending machine. It was snowing outside, I was excited.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - I guess I am going up there somewhere.

I guess I am going up there somewhere.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - The last bus stop is literally in the middle of nowhere. I dont understand why it stops here and doesnt go the 2 extra kilometres to the quarry.

The last bus stop is literally in the middle of nowhere. I dont understand why it stops here and doesnt go the 2 extra kilometres to the quarry.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Now I charged up the road as snow fell, which never shows up in photos. I think the multi frame noise reduction feature on my camera actually hides it

Now I charged up the road as snow fell, which never shows up in photos. I think the multi frame noise reduction feature on my camera actually hides it from view.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Snow plus colored leaves. If the sun would shine it would look a lot better.

Snow plus colored leaves. If the sun would shine it would look a lot better.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - The quarry car park, but which way to go?

The quarry car park, but which way to go?


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Surely not up there, they had warning signs and chains.

Surely not up there, they had warning signs and chains.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - I settled on the one road without signs.

I settled on the one road without signs.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Random snow photo.

Random snow photo.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - A brief glimpse of sunlight, but it was still snowing.

A brief glimpse of sunlight, but it was still snowing.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Selfie time, I was not yet aware I was on the completely wrong path. So so wrong.

Selfie time, I was not yet aware I was on the completely wrong path. So so wrong.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Wheres the path gone? Further up here was logs and rivers, turn back.

Wheres the path gone? Further up here was logs and rivers, turn back.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Now I thought this must surely be the right path?

Now I thought this must surely be the right path?


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - What kind of crap is this? The internet said this is a very popular route in a national park. They wouldnt expect you to wade through a river.

What kind of crap is this? The internet said this is a very popular route in a national park. They wouldnt expect you to wade through a river.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Now what? I spent 30 minutes climbing over this, and once on the other side decided to give up, I could find no path!

Now what? I spent 30 minutes climbing over this, and once on the other side decided to give up, I could find no path!


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Now back at the car park, I am thinking if this is the path, I will be furious, 3 hours wasted.

Now back at the car park, I am thinking if this is the path, I will be furious, 3 hours wasted.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Yep, this is the path. What a stupid sign! There were no other signs of any kind showing a map or national park info or anything before the sign block

Yep, this is the path. What a stupid sign! There were no other signs of any kind showing a map or national park info or anything before the sign blocking that bridge.
Presumably that blockade is to prevent quarry equipment from driving over.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Foot steps, and every 10 minutes other people would come down, including a guided group of about 20. Some of them tried to tell me things, I just had

Foot steps, and every 10 minutes other people would come down, including a guided group of about 20. Some of them tried to tell me things, I just had to say sorry only English. No one tried English.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Further proof I was on the right path.

Further proof I was on the right path.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - The path is to the right, see thats how its done. Theres a waterfall, AND a path.

The path is to the right, see thats how its done. Theres a waterfall, AND a path.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Lake number one happened suddenly. It was awesome, came up out of a canyon and there it was.

Lake number one happened suddenly. It was awesome, came up out of a canyon and there it was.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - More volcano crater lake.

More volcano crater lake.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - The lake lodge. It wasnt too cold here, I would soon learn that this is the protected side of the mountain.

The lake lodge. It wasnt too cold here, I would soon learn that this is the protected side of the mountain.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Selfie time. I had a lot more snow on me at other points, especially on the summit when it was a white out. It was so cold up there I could not take a

Selfie time. I had a lot more snow on me at other points, especially on the summit when it was a white out. It was so cold up there I could not take any photos. I could not get my gloves off!


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - Up to the summit! It was all ice now, hard going. Not sure I have photographed the ice path well though. Whenever I was sliding about on ice I was con

Up to the summit! It was all ice now, hard going. Not sure I have photographed the ice path well though. Whenever I was sliding about on ice I was concerned for my safety rather than taking another ridiculous angry selfie.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - When I was on the summit it was snowing really very hard, I could not take a photo! I descended down the other side to lake number 2. Its very very co

When I was on the summit it was snowing really very hard, I could not take a photo! I descended down the other side to lake number 2. Its very very cold here. It took a lot of mental effort to take my gloves off to take this photo. The wind was absolutely howling too.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - And one more of the second lake, now for the perilous descent, mostly on my ass.

And one more of the second lake, now for the perilous descent, mostly on my ass.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - <a href=https://falseguide.com/japan6/c-477.jpg>Link to Hi Resolution 3000x2000 version</a> After what seemed to be forever, I am finally almost back

Link to Hi Resolution 3000x2000 version
After what seemed to be forever, I am finally almost back to the road.


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - I was so happy to make my bus with only minutes to spare!

I was so happy to make my bus with only minutes to spare!


Japan-Sapporo-Hiking-Snow-Mount Soranuma - The snow is finally clearing for sunset. Once I got back to Sapporo, which is only about 20km away, there was no evidence it had snowed at all. Very g

The snow is finally clearing for sunset. Once I got back to Sapporo, which is only about 20km away, there was no evidence it had snowed at all.
Very glad I did not give up and turn around after 2 failed attempts. Obviously I wish I had chosen the right path the first time, I wouldnt have been so rushed.
I blame Japan National Parks department for such a terrible terrible sign failure. The shame, they should have shame, very shame.


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