The next day was a rough wake up. My lovely and oh-so-NOT-considerate hostel roommates kept me up until 2am with their partying (UGH!) and I had to get up at 4am in order to meet my friend in Shiretoko for a hike. With only two hours of sleep under my belt I headed out. I was a bit worried about the weather, but while it looked overcast it didn’t look terrible. I was more worried about the exhaustion that I felt deep in my bones. I don’t do well tired, I’m a complete bear, just ask my friends. If it hadn’t been for my eager friend waiting for me on his one day off that week, I know I would have cancelled the hike. I won’t say I didn’t enjoy the hike, but I will say that I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more had I been well-rested.
The goal of the day was to summit Mt. Rausu. It would be the first big hike I had done since injuring my knee and so I stuffed my bag with water, snacks, plenty of Advil, cold herb compresses and tiger balm in case it flared up.
Mt Rausu is the highest point of the Shiretoko peninsula. It’s a World Heritage Site and one of the top 100 mountains in Japan. I read reviews that claimed it is “renowned for its striking beauty, abundant wildlife and pristine nature. It also however, is quite famous for its brown bear encounters. Therefore, I strongly recommend wearing a bell and bringing bear spray. Good tip: I later discovered that it’s possible to buy bear spray from one of the information centres, the best part is that it’s returnable if you don’t use it. Brilliant idea!
The height of this mountain is 5,448 feet and the Rausudake trail is 12km return. The people working at the information desks, and all the locals in the area will strongly recommend you start as early as possible, they were quite insistent telling me I should be at the trailhead by 4am or early. SORRY!?! WHAT!?!?! For a 12km hike, you have got to be kidding me! There was absolutely no way I was going to need 14 hours to hike 12km….
People in Japan take hiking very seriously. In my opinion you do not “absolutely need” to start this hike at 4am, so take their advice with a small grain of salt. I talked to other people on the hike who started as “late” as 10:30am and were still able to complete this hike well before the sun set. My hiking buddy wanted to start at 4am…but, seeing as that would have involved me getting up at 2am, that was not an option. We compromised and I agreed to meet him at 6am, though if I had had my way we wouldn’t have started till 8am (we still would have been fine, for the record!).
How to get to the trail head:
From the parking lot at Iwaobetsu Hot Spring, walk on the paved road that goes next to the large hotel until you come to a mountain hut and toilet. The trailhead starts here. Be sure to sign the log book!
While I wouldn’t call this hike difficult, it was challenging, so it’s not for the faint of heart. I didn’t take many photos that day, but my friend was kind enough to send some of his my way for this post. Enjoy!
Jum was a great hiking partner, he had so much energy! We had a good time chatting about movies, hobbies and Shiretoko National Park, he’s got some great stories from working in the park for the past 3 years.
I totally forgot about taking this photo before Jum emailed it to me. I actually just about died laughing, I look ridiculous! Check out my non-existant “guns” why don’t you!
Everyone teased me that I wouldn’t see snow if I went to Hokkaido in summer. My friends know all to well it’s killing me that I haven’t made it to Hokkaido for crazy-awesome snowboarding, yet. He he he, suckers! Somehow here I am in my element, score! Muwhahahahah, yes that’s right, only the truest Canadians frolic in snow in the middle of August.
This was my favourite part of the hike, walking up this snow gully! From where I’m sitting, we had to hike up. Seriously fun stuff! My mood changed a lot after this point, it was the highlight of my day. Jum was very entertained by how much I loved the snow. Don’t worry though, I promised him not all Canadians are this snow-crazy.
Once you climb up around the corner everything flattens out a bit and you get to see the summit. We stopped here for a snack, a few pictures because you could finally see the peak and a short rest. I was really on the fence about climbing the last hour and a half up to the summit, but Jum encouraged me and next thing I knew we were off. Just as a warning the way up from here is challenging and involved a bit of scrambling over rocks. My knee was very bothered by this part, it’s very steep with lots of steps, unstable footing and rocky areas so take your time.
As we headed down the mountain Jum pointed out a place I could fill up my water bottles which were running a bit low. The water comes from an underground spring and is safe to drink.
Beautiful view as we descended the mountain.
By the time I finished I was exhausted but happy. All in all it was a great hike that I’d recommend!