Akita Snowshoeing

 

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Akita Prefectural Rt. 15

The whole reason I limited my job search to between Tokyo and Sapporo was because I wanted to be in a place that was cold and snowy for a good part of the year. So here I am, in Akita. This year however winter was so short. Too short. The first snowfall only lasted a brief amount of time. The first real accumulation wasn’t until the end of December. By the end of February the snow seemed to be all but gone. Here it is Saturday, March 18 and they are calling for snow on Monday. It’s global warming, baby.

I did have a few good snow adventures this winter, however. I climbed up Maedake, and on another day I snowshoed about 11km (6.8m) through the mountains. It doesn’t sound far, but the deep powder and steady inclines made it really challenging.   This snowshoe course is one that I have been wanting to do for a long time. It wasn’t really a road meant for recreational use–there are a bunch of old roads and logging trails that are closed to traffic all year-round and are perfect for adventurists! In a place like Boulder they’d be hot, but in Akita NOBODY uses them–wake up people! I was happy to have the whole place to myself (well, I was with a few peeps actually). I feel bad for the people who go to the dumb mall all the time instead of getting outdoors on snowy days.

The road I followed this time was Akita Prefectural Route 15. The road seems to go from Tegata, where I live, through Nibetsu and the mountains to Gojōme, and ends at Hachirōgata.   Here’s a map of my route:

At the very start we passed a post marking 0.5 km. I assumed that meant 0.5 km from the road block at Nibetsu (where we parked). I was hoping that we’d see signs like that regularly, but no. However, in some spots, rivers and little canyons were marked, which made it easier to find where we were on the map.

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The first couple kms were flat. I was surprised that not too much snow had accumulated. In some parts the snow had melted and the road was exposed. Then I realized that the small creek beside the road had some natural hot spring water running through it, so I guess the ground is warmer where those hot water vents are. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any secret hot spring spots to get in. And, a local hot spring on Mt. Taihei capped off a major flow point, monopolizing the water.

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When you start from Nibetsu, the river is actually on your right side (I’m looking back in this picture).

As you can see in the picture, the road is about wide enough for one car. Between kilometers 5~7, when the road started to climb and twist & turn it got more narrow. There were lots of side trails feeding into this main road, but it was pretty obvious which was the main road which was a side trail. I assume the side trails lead to logging areas. Maybe in the summer I’ll check it out.2016-01-23 11.48.34

The picture is above is right about where we turned back. It was really narrow. No worries about ‘falling off the side’ or anything though. Maybe from a landslide or something? This was the highest point of our hike, about 275 meters (900 ft.) It was that steep, but we were huffing and puffing. The powder was the deepest here. Lots of switchbacks, too, as the road wove through the canyon.

Can’t wait for next year! Will definitely go back to this spot. Maybe even try to hit it from the Gojōme/ Kita no Hata side. Going straight through to Gojōme would be awesome, too! I’d definitely need someone waiting with supplies on the other end though.

It would be a good winter camping spot too! Hopefully we’ll have more snow next winter.