During the previous evening I suggested- let’s climb mount Meakan. Mt. Akan is consist of two mountains namely Oakan (‘Male’ Akan) and Meakan (‘Female’ Akan). Meakan is the highest peak of Mt. Akan with the height of 1.5 km. It is an active volcano and still raises smoke which often leads a restriction to enter the mountain. Unlike the Asahi and the Kurodake volcano, this volcano had relatively poor and contradictory information regarding the climbing and the trail to the summit. The more posts we read, the less we knew what to do. We found out that there are different opinions regarding the best trail (out of three possibilities) one should follow. People also held different thoughts concerning the side from which it will be better to start from. Even the level of difficulty of the trail was capture by the climbers in many ways. Some wrote that it is very challenging ,others wrote that the climb down is very difficult and there were those who said that every beginner can climb easily.
On top of it there was the also question of bears. Being the land of bears it is known that during the first part of the climb through the forest one might encounter a bear. I was reluctant to think about this possibility and we decided to rent in the morning an anti bear spray – just to be on the safe side. At 08:30 a.m we were at the shop checking a bear spray just to find out that it is locked with a strong plastic handcuff. The polite salesperson suggested that if a bear will appear we will cut the handcuff with scissors. We got the idea and decided to give up the spray and count on our bell. With this decision we headed towards Meakan Spa, parked the car and registered in the logbook at the head of the trail. A sign of warning in Japanese with a picture of a volcano welcomed us.
We started our way through the wood, our bell ringing happily. The trail was green and beautiful but steep and covered with tree roots. The forest received us silently and we noticed that we were the only climbers apart from an older Japanese man. We kept climbing, cursing ourselves for coming without poles. After a very tiring hour we arrived to the level of the smaller trees. Here the sun was beating down on us as we kept climbing, following the red ribbons hanging from the branches . The narrow pass through the pine trees took forty minutes. At this stage we were tired to death and the summit seemed as far as could be. In contrast with the green color suddenly the vegetation thins and the mountain was totally bare . From now there were only rocks and slippery rockfall and boulders. We stopped and looked around- the view was stunning- Lake Onneto looked like a terrific blue eye between the endless green forests. Quite exhausted we kept climbing, following the yellow marks on the rocks. As more boulders came on our way we pushed on – panting, sweating, asking ourselves why we do this….
and then, finally after an hour, we were on the crater rim. We followed the trail to our left and had a short climb to the high point summit. Here we were looking at a divine view of the surrounding mountains !!!. At the back of the crater was the conical peak of Akan-fuji, way in the distance were the Hidaka mountains. A hint of sulfur in the air, a very strong noise- like an airplane fleet and the huge caldera with the multi color land. First we saw the red pool inside the caldera -a red eye. we climbed a few very slippery meters to the top of the summit and there it was- just below us -a blue pond, round and perfect and stunningly beautiful. A group of climbers, most of them Japanese, were taking pictures. We joined them and felt excitement and happiness. Above all we felt the joy of being together on a live, beating mountain .
Happy and tired we headed down. From the summit, one can continue along the rim of the crater towards Onetto Lake. We looked at the trail as it drops to a saddle at the foot of Akan-fuji and knew that it will be too much for us. We preferred to climb down the way we already know . So here we were again going through boulders, pine trees, high forest full of roots…we definitely preferred climbing down and felt that it was easier for both of us. As we came back to the forest we remembered the warnings and made sure that our bell will ring. An afternoon hiking through here without a bear bell is definitely an invitation to an accident .Two hours and 15 minutes and we were near the starting point. We wrote our names in the logbook, noting the hour of return. First thing we washed our faces and took our hats and shoes off. We felt very alive and agreed that this was an amazing day. After all we climbed about 3.3 km up and made the same way down . Our feeling was that this trail suits intermediate level hikers .
We would advise to go to the mountain with good climbing shoes, poles and lot’s of water. Even more important is to check in the morning whether there are any alerts regarding the activity of the mountain and the weather.