Following on from Stefanfs previous report from Mount Asahidake, I was delighted to pay a visit today to Mount Kurodake - another peak in Hokkaido's Daisetsuzan range - to see how the autumn colors had developed in the ten day interval. Starting from the hot spring town of Sounkyo Onsen at the foot of the mountain, I took a ropeway, then chairlift up to a height of around 1,500 meters and hiked the remaining distance to the summit.
Due to its height, Kurodakefs foliage shows considerable variation from base to summit, with the forest at the bottom still appearing quite green and summery at the time of my visit. These colors began to gradually give way to yellows, browns and the odd speck of red at around the halfway point, just a little way past the ropeway upper station.
With this being the last week of September, I had been hoping to see much more vibrant colors as I approached the final ridge, but here the colors were disappointingly muted and brown. Many of the nanakamado shrubs - the main source of autumn colors in the high elevations of Mount Kurodake - appeared quite scorched upon closer inspection, suggesting damage from this yearfs unusually long and hot summer.
The highpoint of my day came as I reached the very top, revealing the open expanse of the Daisetsuzan interior and several of its other peaks. Here, many patches of pretty chinguruma flowers had turned a deep red, setting off the surrounding yellows and browns.
Overall then, the colors on the mountain remained quite muted, with little of the brilliance seen in previous years. Autumn colors will continue to work their way down the mountainside over the coming weeks and will probably reach Sounkyo at the bottom of the valley around mid to late October. So far, it is only the nakamado shrubs that have clearly been impacted by the heat - hopefully the trees further down the mountain slope were less badly affected.