Rankoshi Gravel Grinding – Konbu-dake Shoulder Loop

Posted on Jul 25, 2019
39 0

Posted on Jul 25, 2019

39 0

km

Distance

km

Time

km

Ascent

km

Highest point

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Difficulty

km

Paved

GPX

KML

TOPO

This route scales the lower flanks of the iconic Konbu-dake (昆布岳, 1045m), a true shark-fin peak that punctuates the Niseko skyline to the southwest of the main Hirafu area. The route itself is a super-awesome grass and gravel loop that appears to be well maintained, has enough up and down to pump the adrenaline glands and is very accessible to the Niseko resort areas. Highlight of the trip is an imposing, crumbling old mountain lodge about half way up the climb. A fun half day out and proof positive that there's fantastic mountain biking in the hills of the region.

Last updated Oct 31, 2019

GPX route file download

KML route file download

Topographical Map

Route Map

Need to know details

Location
General notes

Route markers

This route is not marked but it was reasonably obvious given the road itself had seen a mower through it recently. I suggest taking the GPS track on a device of some sort. There are a number of side roads that will be worth exploring for those with plenty of time and official topomaps on their smartphone – even then, not all roads will be marked.

Route Timing
Physical maps

Explore the official Japan topomaps online for the area around Konbu-dake here. Follow these instructions to print out the area you would like as a hardcopy.

Route safety

This route is pretty safe in that there should be no traffic on any of the gravel roads and limited traffic when you are on pavement completing the loop; there is a footpath that you can ride alongside the main road too. There are no big drops alongside anywhere on the route and there is plenty of protective vegetation if you do take an off. Be mindful of the fast downhill sections. It is all fairly low altitude (<700m) but this being Hokkaido, there is the potential for poor weather turning to snow in the spring and autumn. While you’re never more than about 5km as the crow-flies from civilization, this route is remote and you will find cell coverage spotty at times. Carrying a Spot/inReach makes good sense, especially if going solo. Make sure to let someone know where you plan to ride, and consider registering your plans using Mt-Compass – you can see our guide here.

It’s very unlikely the route is snow-cleared in winter. There is no obvious civilization up there, but that said, the track had been cleared of vegetation by a mower for summer. We will report back come winter time.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Konbu-dake
Other resources
Onsen nearby
Windy.com weather forecast for Konbu-dake

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Route Trip Notes

This route was a bit of a dice roll. I’d poured over it on Google Earth, on the GSI maps and using Open Cycle Map; it looked like it’d go, but, given that Hokkaido vegetation grows pretty dense I wouldn’t know until I got there. It’s a loop and so it was 50:50 as to which way I went. In the end the clockwise option that I took was by far the best because you end up going down through a muddy-boggy-creek rather than up.

The route starts about 7km up Route 32 which connects Kombu (昆布) to Okishi (大岸) on the coast of Uchiura Bay (内浦湾). You’ll be on gravel almost immediately and the most steep climbing of the whole loop comes in the first few km. There’s a small cabin, that looks habitable, on the left at around 3.4km and then about 4 corners later is one of the highlights of the trip, a cathedral like mountain lodge that is slowly returning to nature.

The lodge is a good 25m long and probably 6 meters high. Steep roofed with angular eves. It’s been well designed to shed snow as best it can, but out here in the Hokkaido Wilds, any unkempt building will suffer the same fate. I wasn’t game enough to explore the building on my own; it will be explored on future expeditions for sure. It’s well on it’s way to collapse to please approach with the utmost of care. If I had to date it I’d say it was probably abandoned in the late 1990s. The building is not on the topo map but there’s a nearby radio mast (marked on the GSI map), street lights and other amenities that indicate that it was probably a popular place back in the day.

The lodge building, along with several other structures and significant earth works are visible on the ~1976 series ortho-photo from GSI.

If you’ve got any information on this history of this lodge or the area then we’d absolutely love to know about it in the comments below.

Carrying on up the track there are roads that branch of both left and right. These all deserve some future exploration with one of them potentially running East all the way across to Makkari-mura (真狩村) at the foot of Yōtei-zan (羊蹄山). There’s a chain across the track at this point but the road beyond was still well maintained and the entire loop had been mowed or trimmed in recent weeks. Big thanks to the Rankoshi Town (蘭越町) administration for this and long may it carry-on. My property tax Yen hard at work!

The gradient plateaus at about the 8km mark as you weave and wend your way across the ridge that runs down from Mt Konbu itself. A sharp right hand corner at at 10.3km marks the start of the downhill proper and you should be able to run almost pedaling free for the next 4 or 5km. The track through here is mainly grass and moss so it’s very pretty but probably also a bit treacherous if you jump on the brakes too hard.

All along the road there are what appear to be for-sale signs for plots of land. Again, vintage unknown but they look in reasonably good order so if you’re in the market for a little slice of paradise…? 

I hear the skiing and snowmobiling is good too.

You too can own your own little slice of paradise in the middle of no-where

At the 12km mark you’ll find that a lovely mountain spring has spring and decided to make it’s course directly down the road. Expect to get filthy through here. The road moves away from the stream and then at about 15km there’s an obvious side road into a stream crossing on the left. I chose to wash by bike, my shoes and my-self at this point. From here it’s an easy roll on down to Route 32 (the obvious sealed road) where you’ll turn right and ride back down to the car.

50% Road… 50% Creek
Dirty
Clean

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Rankoshi Gravel Grinding – Konbu-dake Shoulder Loop Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

D

25

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

D

0

Hazards

D

Navigation

D

Totals

25/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.