Yakeyama – Coastal volcano

Yakeyama is an active volcano located in Niigata prefecture near the coastal town of Itoigawa. It last had a significant eruption in 1997 into 1998 but in the 887AD an eurption occurred so large that the pyroclastic flows made it all the way to the Sea of Japan. Yakeyama also has an impressive relief when looking north from the Hakuba mountains which is the main reason I wanted to climb it.

Robert and I decided the weather window looked okay for an ascent up to the summit of Yakeyama. Parking at Sasakura onsen, we ascended up the uncleared mountain road up to an ascending plateau which was bounded by a lava-tube ravine on each side.

Robert ascending Yakeyama summer road

The low clouds luckily turned out to be more valley fog which hang around all day down low but we managed to climb through it, up and into the sunshine with only a few zero visibility ski touring moments of throwing ski poles in front to see some definition.

Robert above the clouds
Robert in sunlight with mountains

Once above the clouds the mellow platuae leads you naturally to Yakeyama.

Robert with Yakeyama in the background
Joel ascending towards Yakeyama

We ascended up what would be one of the more exciting ski lines that you could ski on the mountain, right up the front-side (north side) of the mountain. Unfortunately, the recent rain obviously made it to 2400m as the visible rain runnels were apparent right to the summit and with only a few cm around the conditions were firm. Crampons were great for me but Robert doesn’t have a pair so I had to kick / scrape / stomp good steps for large portions of the climb.

Robert ascending Yakeyama

Making it the main crater of the mountain, we still had to ascend the snow and rock covered slope to the far side of the crater rim to the highest point.

Yaeyama crater and summit

And of course, we made it to the summit.

Joel on the summit of Yakeyama
Robert on the summit ridge with Hakuba mountains behind

On the west side of the summit ridge there is the main fumarole which has a constant stream of gas being emitted. If the clouds lifted the Sea of Japan would be clearly visible just there. But you could see it out beyond the clouds below the horizon.

Yakeyama summit fumarole

With nowhere else to go, we had to ski down what can only be described as loud ski quality. Scraping our way down the steep section to the more mellow slopes were the few cm of snow would make for some decent skiing. Unfortunately, the valley clouds were rising and just as we made it to some decent ski quality snow, the clouds meant zero visibility and a ski down our skin track to ensure not getting lost or stuck in one of the lava tubes.

Robert skiing into the clouds
Robert skiing into the clouds

Once under the cloud layer we quickly made our way back down to the carpark and had a nice soak at Sasakura onsen.