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.