Soranuma-dake Snowshoe Hike (South East Route)

空沼岳

Posted on Nov 16, 2020
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Posted on Nov 16, 2020

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Reading time: 3 min
12.5km

Distance

7 hours

Time

686m

Ascent

1251m

Highest point

7/10

Difficulty

Best season icon (Hokkaido Wilds)
Jan-April

Best season

The popular mountain of Soranuma-dake 空沼岳 (1251m) has a number of picturesque small lakes, or tarns, dotted on its upper slopes, though there is no trail to the one that gives the mountain its name, Soranuma 空沼. The summer trade route up the mountain climbs from the northeast via Bankei-numa 万計沼 tarn and its huts, but once winter arrives it is possible to explore the mountain from other directions on snowshoes. This route climbs up the wild southeast slopes and past the eponymous tarn to reach the summit on a long but satisfying winter day out.

We visited this route on Jan 24, 2016

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Soranuma-dake 空沼岳 lies southwest of Sapporo’s southern suburbs. This hike approaches from the southeast from a high point (Eniwa-toge Pass, 恵庭峠, 597m) of around 600m (here) along Route 453 towards Lake Shikotsu 支笏湖, around 20km south of Sapporo.

General notes

This is a winter only hike as there is no summer trail. The equipment, skills, navigational ability and level of experience required are a level well above the normal summer route. It is possible to do it on skis, but this would not be so enjoyable due to the undulating nature of the route and occasionally thick forest, the only skiing potential being at the very top on the slopes above the small tarn (lake) of Soranuma. A good pair of snowshoes makes for more efficient travel.

Hut

None

Route

There is no trail, though the route joins a forest road for a short distance and there may be occasional pink tape markers in the middle section. But it is safer to assume that there will be no visible markers and you will have to be confident in your map, compass and GPS skills to navigate. From the car parking area at the 597m shoulder cross the road and head a few meters back towards Sapporo to pick up the traces of a forest track heading west up the hillside. From here climb up to gain the ridge on your left up to a minor summit at 710m, then turn north to follow the ridge (possible cornice) to another minor top at 730m where it again turns west and then north once more to another top at 770m. From here go west for a few hundred meters to join a forest road by a curve mirror. This whole section should take about an hour and a half. Follow the forest road northwest for another 20 minutes or so until another forest road comes in from the right, shortly after crossing a bridge. From this junction head up the hillside on a roughly northwesterly heading. The topography is a little complicated around here so it would be wise to take an accurate compass bearing from the map and/or use the GPS. There may be the odd bit of red or pink tape tied to branches. Head up the hillside with occasional steep sections until at 1100m it levels out and you arrive at the small tarn (lake) of Soranuma 空沼 in an hour and a half. Cross the ice with care, or if it looks unsafe follow the shoreline then branch up the hillside aiming for a low point in the ridge above, then turn north and follow the ridge up to the summit, about an hour from the lake. Return the same way.

Route Timing
Up | 4.5hrs
Down | 2.5hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to the trailhead.

By car: 

From Sapporo head south along Route 453 for about 20km from the last suburbs to a minor pass at 597m, here, where the road makes a sharp curve to the right. On the left (east) side of the road there is a cleared parking space for a number of cars.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Soranuma-dake (空沼岳) – map no. NK 54-14-11-4

NOTE: The GSI 1/25000 topo map(s) above can be purchased for 350yen from Kinokuniya bookstore next to Sapporo Station or online (in Japanese).

route safety

This route is not for those with no experience of winter mountains. It requires the same safety equipment and skills as backcountry ski touring. It is not a route for a poor weather forecast as navigation could be tricky in the middle section in bad visibility. It is a long day out so make sure there is enough time. Be wary of cornices on the final ridge, and possibly on parts of narrower ridges on the first section.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Soranuma-dake

Onsen nearby

Unfortunately there are no onsen close by, though Marukoma Onsen (丸駒温泉, 1000 yen, location) can be reached by continuing along towards Lake Shikotsu. It closes to outside guests at 15.00 though. If heading back to Sapporo, then cutting across to Koganeyu Onsen (小金湯, location, 850yen) on Route 230 out to Jozankei is also feasible.

Extra Resources

In Japanese: 北海道雪山ガイド Hokkaido Yukiyama Gaido (Hokkaido Shimbunsha, 2015), pp.158-61.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Route blurb from the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide (2015), p. 154 (translated by Hokkaido Wilds)

There are a number of winter routes up Soranuma-dake, though the Bankei-sawa route that sticks closely to the summer hiking trail probably feels the safest. The fact that you can stay in a hut if things get tough inspires confidence. Another option that has been used for a long time is to head for the summit by climbing up beside the stream gullies (sawa 沢) above Route 453 that goes to Lake Shikotsu. Since access to Kaneyama-sawa is forbidden by the mining company that lease the land, we here introduce a route that skirts around it.

Since Jeff is a confirmed ski bum to his very core, persuading him to come out on snowshoes is quite a task. I’d being eyeing this route in the Yukiyama Guide for a while now, and knowing a little about how convoluted the topography is on the upper slopes of Soranuma-dake I was convinced that snowshoes were the better option. Anyway, I finally managed to convince him and we headed out one early winter morning.

After a false start at the wrong trailhead (my fault, ahem) we were soon heading up through the empty forest in glorious sunshine. The undulating ridge doglegged back and forth but an eye on the compass ensured that we kept on track and we were soon at the forest road. After a short trudge we reached the junction with the Kaneyama forest road coming in from the east. A single set of fresh snowshoe tracks emerged from this road and headed off up the hillside. We checked the compass bearing and they were headed the way we wanted to go so we followed them up. The terrain was complicated with dips and hollows but the odd piece of tattered pink tape tied to a branch confirmed we were on some kind of route.

We climbed steadily up through the wintry forest. After a while we met the creator of the tracks, a young chap now on his way back down. After a brief chat we carried on to reach the tarn of Soranuma, where the trees opened up to give us a view of the summit ridge beyond.

As we struggled up through deep snow onto the ridge it began to cloud over, obscuring the views behind us back towards the mountains around Lake Shikotsu. The sun came and went as we headed up the final ridge to the summit, but we enjoyed a great view over to the north and west. It got colder as we sat and had our lunch, and when it clouded in completely and began to snow we decided it was time to head back down.

The snow was nowhere near heavy enough to erase our tracks so it was a simple matter to retrace our steps back down the hillside, enjoying the solitude. It felt a long way back though and by the time we finally reached the car the sun was setting. It had been a great day out – and Jeff had been very restrained and not complained once about not being on skis, apart from a few wistful glances at the deep powder on the slope above the tarn.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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