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the Degree Confluence Project
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Japan : Hokkaidō

6.5 km (4.0 miles) SE of Chibusuke, Shari-chō, Hokkaidō, Japan
Approx. altitude: 811 m (2660 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 44°S 35°W

Accuracy: 4 m (13 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: West view from the confluence #3: South view from the confluence #4: East view from the confluence #5: Looking at Onnebetsu-dake #6: The lake which froze under its view is overlooked. #7: The confluence is very close #8: MASAO(behind) & TOMOHIRO(front) at the confluence #9: GPS at the confluence

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  44°N 145°E (visit #3)  

#1: North view from the confluence

(visited by MASAO Takayanagi and TOMOHIRO Kaneko)

Japanese Narrative

09-Jan-2005 -- The last confluence remaining on the landmass of Japan is to be found at land’s end, Shiretoko. The area around Mount Onnebetsu where this confluence exists is where Shiretoko is the most primordial and is where the most nature still remains. To get to the confluence from National Route 334 one must walk more than 7 kilometers through deep snow and bitter cold. Instead of attempting a full blown attack, from National Route 334 packing a heavy load, we chose to use a 3-day rush tactics approach carrying a minimum equipment load. With everything ready I waited for the day of the climb.

January 8th, 2005
I entered the mountain at 7 am in the morning from Opekebu forest road off of Route 334. The drift ice had not yet packed up onto the shore so I was able to begin the climb while listening to sounds made by the waves of the Sea of Okhotsk. The road hadn’t been plowed so even with snow shoes I still sank in up to about my knees. I reached the biggest ridge that extends all the way from the forest road to the confluence trail blazing as if I was a Russell snow plow. I passed P252 and P341 with the scenery being only conifers and the progress slow because of all the steep ups and downs. Furthermore, route finding was difficult. In short, I ran out of energy about 300 meters before reaching the great lake at about 600 meters elevation and turned around at 2:30 pm. On the return trip the ridge seemed even longer and made me feel disgusted. The sun set before I could get back so I brought out a flashlight and continued on down the path. I finally made it back at 6 pm.

January 9th, 2005
This morning Mr. Tomohiro Kaneko, a younger alumnus from the Alpine Club of Meiji University, who lives here in Hokkaido in Betsukai which is near Nemuro, will be joining me. We set off from the National Route together with the sun rise at 6:15 am. Fortunately, there wasn’t any new snow last night and the wind wasn’t very strong so there were traces of the trail I blazed yesterday. We made it to the furthest point I reached yesterday in three and a half hours. From here plant life starts disappearing rapidly and we can see a great frozen lake right under our eyes. It’s hard to imagine that in the summer brown bears swagger around here like they own the world, all kinds of birds are singing and plants are in various stages of blossoming. The closer to the ridge line the stronger the wind gets. At an altitude of about 750 meters, if one gets on the ridge line, the wind is like a screaming banshee. The completely white mountain is awe-inspiring. Mount Rausu can be seen far off to the left. Is the confluence we seek in back of the northwesterly ridge we see? We get more anxious as we walk along the brow of the ridge and see that the GPS shows that we are getting closer to the confluence meter by meter. However, the final 200 meters to the confluence were the longest. In contrast with our racing feelings we were able to progress but slowly. The snow was unsettled and there were steep inclines. Also, thorny shrubs impaired our hands. There was also a difference in elevation of more than 50 meters and danger of falling or avalanches so we proceeded carefully.

But finally, at 12:20 pm, the only confluence in Japan that nobody had climbed ceased to exist. Our goal was the nothing special (continuously shaded) incline on the north side separate from Mount Onnebetsu’s northwest ridge. Without any conscious thought, a famous sentence written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (author of The Little Prince) popped into my head. “Important things can not be seen by the eyes.”

When some action, even if it may appear pointless, gets a purpose then it changes to a fine dream. So, we were able to grasp, an important thing, even if it could not be seem.

We were careful coming down off the mountain, whipping our tired bodies on and reached the National Route at 4:30 pm in the gathering darkness. The 2-day trip in search for the confluence was over. Afterwards we went to the city of Utoro and went to a hot spring spa to bathe away our tiredness. We then went to Shari which is the sight-seeing base hub for Shiretoko and had some ramen before saying good-bye.

Japanese Narrative

09-Jan-2005 -- 日本の陸地に残された最後の交点が地の果て「知床」にあった。その知床においてもっとも原始性があって自然が豊かに残っているのがこの交点が存在する遠音別岳周辺である。 国道334号線から交点までは深い雪と厳しい寒さの中を7キロ以上歩かなければならない。重荷を背負って歩くよりも軽装で国道からのラッシュアタックを選択し、3日間の登山計画を立て、準備万端で決行の日を待った。

8-JAN-2005 朝7:00に国道334号線のオペケブ林道入口から単独で入山する。まだ流氷は着岸しておらず、オホーツク海の波の音を聞きながら登り始める。除雪はされていないのでスノーシューで膝ぐらいまで潜る。林道途中から交点まで伸びる長大な尾根に取り付き、ひたすらラッセルをする。P252、P341を越え、針葉樹ばかりの変わらない景色の中を進むがアップダウンが多くなかなか進まない。しかもルートファインデイングが難しい。結局、標高600m付近にある巨大な湖の手前300mのところで力尽き、14時半に引き返す。帰りもこの尾根は長く、嫌気がさす。途中で日が暮れ、ヘッドランプを点けて、やっとのことで18:00に国道に辿り着く。

9-JAN-2005 朝、大学山岳部の後輩であった北海道の根室に近い別海に住む金子知広と合流する。日の出とともに国道を6:15に出発。昨日の夜は幸いにして降雪もなく、風もあまりなかったのでトレースが残っており、3時間半で昨日の最高到達点まで行く。ここから樹木がまばらになっていき、眼下には巨大な湖が凍結しているのが見えてくる。夏にはヒグマが闊歩し、さまざまな鳥達が歌い、植物が咲き乱れるのであろうか。だんだんと稜線が近づいてくるにつれて風が強くなる。標高750m付近で稜線に上がると烈風が吹きすさぶ。真っ白な山々が神々しい。はるか左手には羅臼岳が望むことが出来る。目指す交点は見えている北西尾根の裏側か。稜線の縁を進んでいくにつれてGPSの交点までの距離が1mずつ減っていくのをみると気分が高まる。しかし、交点まであと200mが遠かった。はやる気持ちとは裏腹になかなか進まない。なじんでいない雪に急斜面。そして、潅木が行く手を阻む。標高差にして50m以上の下降があり、滑落や雪崩の危険性があるため慎重に進む。

そしてついに12:20。日本の陸地に残された未到達の交点は存在しなくなった。遠音別岳北西尾根から外れた日の当たらない北側のなんてことのない斜面が僕らのゴールだった。僕らが捜し求めていたものは目の前にあった。思わずサンテグジュペリの「星の王子様」の一節が頭に浮かぶ。「大切なものは目には見えないんだよ」と。この一見無駄な行為も目的を持った時点でそれは立派な夢と変わる。そして僕らは、見えない大切なものをつかむことが出来た。

下山は慎重に行動し、疲れた体に鞭を打って、ほとんど夜の帳が降りかかった16:30すぎ、国道に着き、2日間に渡る交点探しの旅は終わった。このあとはウトロに出て温泉に入り、疲れを癒した。知床の観光拠点である斜里まで戻り、ラーメンを食べ、解散する。


 All pictures
#1: North view from the confluence
#2: West view from the confluence
#3: South view from the confluence
#4: East view from the confluence
#5: Looking at Onnebetsu-dake
#6: The lake which froze under its view is overlooked.
#7: The confluence is very close
#8: MASAO(behind) & TOMOHIRO(front) at the confluence
#9: GPS at the confluence
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)