The Hike

Mt. Memuro-dake (芽室岳, Memuro-dake) is a peak in the Hidaka Mountains (日高山脈, Hidaka-sanmyaku), usually partnered with Mt. Pankenuushi-dake (パンケヌーシ岳), which sits just to the west. In fact, Pankenuushi is in fact sometimes referred to as 'Western Summit' (西峰, Seihou).

Memuro-dake is also the headwaters of the Memuro River (芽室川, Memuro-gawa), a river named from the Ainu memu-oro-pet, meaning ‘river from the lake where clear waters spring’.

From the Tokachi side of the Hidaka Mountains (that is, the east), follow a forest road from called Maruyama Farm (円山牧場, Maruyama-bokujou) up along the Memuro River. At the end of this road, deep in the woods, you'll find the trailhead. There’s a small wooden lodge here called Memuro-dake Lodge (山小屋芽室岳, Yama-koya Memuro-dake). If you get the opportunity, it’s a lovely experience to stay at the trailhead the night before the hike, either within the lodge itself or at the adjoining campsite.

From the trailhead you’ll cross a log bridge over the headwaters of the Memuro River and enter a forest of Glehn’s spruce. You’ll start the climb among Japanese lime and bigleaf magnolia trees, weaving through a carpet of sasa bamboo, as you mount a wide spur ridge. From here it’ll be a long climb up to the Pankenuushi-dake junction at the main ridgeline above.

The climb is long, but for a ridgeline in the Hidaka Mountains it’s a fairly gentle climb. The Hidakas are generally known for being sharp, steep, and unforgiving. Along the way, you’ll come to a huge Japanese yew tree standing directly in the middle of the trail. It’s likely to stop you dead in your tracks and draw your eyes upwards into its branches.

Around the giant yew, you’ll enter a forest of shapely-branched Erman’s birch. In early summer and fall, you’ll find yourself passing through bright tunnels of leaves, green and yellow respectively. Soon the twin peaks of Memuro-dake and Pankenuushi-dake will appear above the trees.

As you approach the top of the ridge, you’ll enter a forest of dwarf stone pine; at your feet you’ll see the tidy-flowered Canadian dwarf cornel and lingonberry. In the fall the red of the leaves will match the red of the berries to wonderful effect.

You’ll climb switchbacks up a final steep slope before arriving at Pankenuushi-dake junction. You’ll have to do a little bit more climbing along the main ridgeline before you reach Memuro-dake, so you’ll head left up the slope towards the summit.

Until the beginning of July, there will be some snow remaining in the ravine to your left; the contrast with the bright green of the Matsumura whitebeam is dazzling. Along here as well you’ll likely see plenty of wild rosemary. In the early spring, they grow all over the place. You’ll also see alpine bearberry, crowberry, and Morrow’s honeysuckle as you make your way towards the exposed, rocky summit of Memuro-dake.

From the summit you can see Mt. Pipairo-dake (ピパイロ岳) and an unnamed 1967-meter Peak (1967メートル峰 1967-meetoru mine) in Northern Hidaka, further along the ridge to the north of you. The wealth of peaks visible from here will probably make you want to start planning your next excursion to the mountains immediately. But let's head down first.

You’ll head back down the mountain along the trail you came up. At the junction, there is a small path that leads to the summit of Pankenuushi-dake--if you have time, you ought to make the trip out and back.

One Point Advice

  • The trailhead is about 15 km from Mikage Station (御影駅, Mikage-eki), the closest train station. You can alternatively take a taxi to the trailhead.
  • Memuro-dake Lodge (山小屋芽室岳, Yama-koya Memuro-dake) is unstaffed but is open year-round. It accommodates 10 people. You can fill up on water there at the river nearby.
  • Along the trail, however: no water. Fill up at the trailhead and pack it up the hill.
  • You can hike the mountain in winter as well, starting at the hut and following the summer trail. If you have them, you can make it to the main ridge on skis.
  • Nearby Shimizu Onsen Furoide (しみず温泉フロイデ) is a great place for a post-hike soak and gives out onto an excellent view of the Hidaka Mountains.

Season

Until the beginning of June, there will be some snow on the mountain; the contrast with the bright green leaves is stunning. At about this time, too, the wild rosemary will be in bloom. The leaves start changing in late September. Just after the snow starts falling the view from the main ridgeline is tremendously beautiful.