The Hike

Mt. Niseikaushuppe-yama (ニセイカウシュッペ山, Niseikaushuppe-yama) is a mountain in the Northern Daisetsuzan (大雪山), on the right side of Sounkyo (層雲峡) gorge. The name of the mountain comes from the Ainu word for ‘thing that sits above the gorge’, which is a fairly appropriate name. The ridge extending south from the summit is well-known for its twin promontories Oo-yari (大槍) and Ko-yari (小槍), meaning ‘big spear’ and ‘little spear’ respectively. From the summit of Mt. Kuro-dake (黒岳, Kuro-dake), directly opposite the gorge, these twin spears give the mountain a lean, mean shape.

The old route to the mountain used to start in a small district called Kiyokawa (清川) along the Ishikari-gawa River (石狩川, Ishikari-gawa), joining the old Sounbetsu-gawa River (層雲別川, Sounbetsu-gawa) forest road; however, this road has become dilapidated. The new approach to the trailhead follows the Furukawa Forest Road (古川林道, Furukawa-rindou), which branches off of National Route 273 (国道273号線, kokudo 273 gosen) in Nakakoshi (中越) district.

In former times there was another trail climbing up Mt. Asahi-yama (朝日山, Asahi-yama) in Sounyko, following the south ridge (南陵, Nanryou) to the summit, but this trail has been abandoned.

The drive along the Furukawa Forest Road is a bit of a jaunt, but comes to an end at 1100 meters above sea level, making the climb a relatively easy one for the Daisetsuzan. The trailhead features parking for some fifteen cars, and more along the Furukawa Forest Road.

You'll start the climb along a huge sweeping ridge covered in Erman’s birch. Their leaves can seem surreally green at the start of summer, and they transition through a multitude of colours in during the fall, making them a serious attraction at all times of year.

At 1533 meters, you’ll come to an overlook (展望台, tenbou-dai), marked by a small broken wooden sign. Here you'll find one of the more unique views of the Central Hokkaido, as there are few mountains quite this high north of the Daisetsuzan. Up and to the left, you'll see the flat summit of Niseikaushuppe looming above the mouthfully-named Chikaribetsu No. 3 Branch Stream (茅刈別第三支川, Chikaribetsu Dai-san shi-gawa), flowing at the bottom of the main gully you've been circling.

From the overlook onwards the ridgeline will narrow and at 1742 meters you’ll come around to the cirque south of the summit and truly find yourself in the alpine. On the south side of the ridge, you’ll see the long gully of the Niseinoshikiomappu-gawa River (ニセイノシキオマップ川, Niseinoshikiomappu-gawa), which is so well-suited for stream-climbing that it’s often referred to as the ‘stairway to heaven’ (天国の階段, tengoku-no-kaidan).

North of Oo-yari, you’ll come over a short peak called Zen’ei-mine (前衛峰) and drop into the col behind it. In the summer time, the grassy meadows here play host to Aleutian mountainheath and Kamchatka globeflower, which make for a lovely stroll. Niseikaushuppe is a real treasure to hikers who love flowers.

From the col to the summit the easy climb continues. Once you’ve started moving west of Zen’ei-mine, you’ll pass over a broad area of scree and three-hulled rush, and arrive shortly thereafter at the summit of Mt. Niseikaushuppe-yama.

Much as the Ainu name suggests, the view from the summit is terrific, commanding views over Mt. Hira-yama (平山, Hira-yama), Mt. Muri-dake (武利岳, Muri-dake), Mt. Muka-yama (武華山, Muka-yama), and Mt. Teshio-dake (天塩岳, Teshio-dake), to the north and east. In the south, the northern mountains of the Daisetsuzan—like Mt. Kurodake, as well as Mt. Aka-dake (赤岳, Aka-dake) and Mt. Aibetsu-dake (愛別岳, Aibetsu-dake) will soar over the gorge before you. In early spring, the stripes of the snow in the valleys are a real sight to behold.

There is a bit of a path across to Mt. Hira-yama, but no officially broken trail.

The trip down follows the trail you came up.

One Point Advice

  • The forest road to the trailhead has a gate with a lock, so it’s a good idea to check with the forestry service to get the passcode. In the early season and late in fall, as well as after any heavy rain, the road will become impassable, so if you have doubts, check before heading out.
  • Generally, the approach to the trailhead is made by private or rental car. You can also take a taxi from Kamikawa Station (上川駅, Kamikawa-eki) on the JR Sekihoku Main Line (JR石北本線, JR Sekihoku-honsen). There is a fairly large parking lot at the trailhead.
  • Along the trail there are no reliable water sources.

Season

For the first half of the summer there will be some snow left on the high ridges. The alpine flowers will be lovely all season after the snow starts melting. The flowers bloom about the same time as in the main part of the Daisetsuzan. Past the Obon Festival (お盆), the alpine bearberry will start changing color; at the beginning of September the forests will start to change color and the first snows will arrive at about the same time.