Mont-Bell Sea To Summit in Hokkaido

Tags: seatosummit, race, hokkaido

During the week-end of June 23th I could participate to the Sea To Summit race in Hokkaido organized by Mont-Bell.

A Sea to Summit race by MontBell is a multi-sport event combining kayak then bicycle to finish with a hike to the top of a mountain.
You can participate as a team or has an individual.

Packing the bike at best [I don't own a hard bike case]

Don't we have a cute airport in Yonago ?

There are 4 races like this in Japan and one takes place in Tottori from Kaike to Mount Daisen. Mont-Bell happens to be also one of the sponsor of The International Ecotourism Conference 2013 in Tottori that will take place in October [see my previous post]. There's a special connection between this company and the prefecture and especially Daisen where there is a Mont-Bell shop. Every year a team from Kaike/Daisen is sent to participate to some of the Sea to Summit events whether in Hokkaido or the one near Osaka for example.This year as part of our promotion job I was lucky enough to be sent with the team to Hokkaido.

(With my colleagues sporting the "International Ecotourism Conference 2013 in Tottori" jersey, and working at promoting the event.)

As for the race my part was to do the bike hill climb part followed by the mountain hike. My colleagues did the kayak (a 2 seats kayak) and one of them took part also in the hike to the top. The rules are not super strict like in a triathlon, as a team we had one magnetic card that we could give to each other, the fastest bringing the card to the top

(Saturday : lecture about the ecosystem in Hokkaido and speech by Mont-Bell founder, Isamu Tatsuno)

(Prizes for the after race lotto!)

(Mont-Bell is starting to sell bicycles also, entry models only for now)

Also that was my first time in Hokkaido so I was really excited. I had visited Okinawa when participating to the Tour of Okinawa in 2007, and now Hokkaido, so I've seen Japan from its southern prefecture to the northern one! [I still have a lot to visit in between though :-)]
Pre race meal : on the evening thanks to our hosts we were treated with awesome local food

Snow Crab

(Race day : team mates preparing their canoe-kayak, I mounted my bike at the hotel the day before, that a bit of a pain… I prefer to ride it…)

(All kind of canoe-kayaks were there! Kind of funny to see the differences in material and shapes for a same race)

(We were greeted with a pre-race speech by the ambassador of Latvia who was also participating as a team with a cyclist, he already did it as an individual last year.)

(My teammate uniform! MukiPanda is the official character of Daisen if you wonder)

(And here we go! [Shishido Kai in the back-right, actor and photographer and supporter of the event])

(Trying to spot them on their way back)

So about the "race" my teammates managed quite well their kayak part especially when you consider their "uniform" :-) It was more a Lake to Summit race here in fact as the sea is too far from the Daisetsu mount for such an event.

(Then it was my turn for the 15k of hill climb and the hike to the top)

I thought the elevation was quite hard as we drove it by car the day before but it was easier than I expected and was feeling well with a nice temperature, what a huge difference comparing to Tottori (and most of Japan) where it is really tough in summer. So Hokkaido was a blessing!

Unfortunately there were quite few participants compare to the edition that takes place in Daisen, only about 50/60 people… A little bit "samishii" as we say in Japanese (that can mean "alone" and/or "sad"). Well for sure Hokkaido is not the easiest part of Japan to go to, most of people need to take a plane to go over there, so yeah it is a bit pricey just for a couple of days.

(Last meters)

(I got the second time on bike !)
Here is the Strava record (not a strong KOM from myself, can be beaten easily if you are around ;-)

One thing about the race is that it was not a group start, but more like a time trial race; each minute or so a team started. So we could not really know our rank position at any moment.
One thing funny is I arrived before my support car carrying my hiking wear. Anyway the time was stopped after the bike part because we had to take the Asahidake rope-way to join the start of the hike first.

(Just a short break to wear a bit more appropriately for the hike)

So in fact I could have taken more rest before to start the final part but I was ok and preferred to start as soon as possible. I am not really a hiker but I did climb Fuji San twice and also Mount Daisen thrice. So I had an idea of what to expect.

(But surprise surprise : snow! but thankfully just at the start)

I walked at pace but I was not sure of how long it would take so at the same time I was trying to save energy. At first I was not so tired from the bike. Easier transition than during triathlon for sure.

Quickly the staff on course were cheering me and telling me I was the 1st. Well yeah I was the first to be there but not necessarily the fastest one as some teams took more rest after the bike for example.

The view was splendid and as I was carrying my Nikon I could take some good shots, a good excuse for a short rest too :-)

After 50 minutes I could see I was not so far from the top but I also saw a participant getting closer and it was funny cause it was …  a kid! well ok maybe a young teenager. He was a good hiker and I did not fight when he passed me and I am pretty sure he was not speeding that much :-) We were close of the top and we arrive almost together there, me being like 20m behind.

But as I said we were not necessarily the fastest teams. We had to wait every one to arrive to know the results.

Yep me too I transform myself into Daisen MukiPanda. As it was a bit cold up there it felt comfortable :-)

Weather at the top was…fresh, maybe around 5 Degrees Celcius. Soon after my teammate arrived so we could take pics together. I've been told we were really lucky as the view was clear which is not so common. Previous editions were under rain and much colder… Good for us, and it let me a great memory of the area for a first visit! I definitely want to go again and take more time to visit Hokkaido.

(Huge respect for the Mont-Bell staff who stayed all the day at the top. Thank you guys!)

About the final result our team finished 3rd really close of the second team which was lead by none-less than the Ambassador of Latvia! First team was not that far too.

On a personal matter wether by team or individual I had the best time for bike+hike combined. It makes me want to participate as an individual some day, especially that I've been given a sea-kayak recently so I'll be able to train for this part too! (I will post more about that too some time).

Some participants are loyal to these Sea To Summit and a retired gentleman and his wife from Tottori did all the way by car to Kyoto and then took a boat to Hokkaido (a 20 hours cruise)! Wow that's devotion to outdoor sport! Way to go Okumura Sama

(Group hiking for a friend of them who passed away last winter if I understood well... A sad tale from the mountain...)

On my way down shooting random climbers

After the race we all joined together for a closing ceremony and a lottery to get some presents! As we were quite few I think everyone got back home with something! Thank you Mont-Bell :-)

(MukiPanda from Daisen also brought some presents to a lucky participant.)

Big prize was nothing less than.. a kayak! Mont-Bell boss and founder is a huge proponent of kayak having done himself some impressive stuff. I've been introduced to him the day before and he is for sure not the typical "Shacho" [Boss]. He turned his passion (mountain) into a lucrative business and seems to keep a low profile and fairly simple life, this is inspiring.

As for the lottery I was lucky (again!) as I won a road bike helmet from Kabuto. A perfect timing as my Selev helmet bought 10 years ago (!) was falling apart… It was actually a team prize but my colleagues let it to me. Mina San Arigato!

(Family picture!)

(A couple of shot from the car, I have not seen any traditional Japanese houses in the area (Asahikawa) probably not the most appropriate with the winter. That makes a quite different Japan.)

And as everything in Japan this ended with a local beer :-)

As I said I will definitely try to visit again Hokkaido probably also on a summer time. Also now I want to participate to Daisen Sea to Summit but that will wait next year as I'll be working on 2013 edition which takes place on the same week-end as the International Ecotourism Conference.


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