Posted on Feb 3, 2021
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Posted on Feb 3, 2021

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Reading time: 5 min
11km

Distance

5.5 hours

Time

540m

Ascent

726m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Mar

Best season

Bekkari-dake 別狩岳 (726m) sits in the southern Mashike Range 増毛山地, commanding inspiring views across to the larger stalwarts of the range further north. The eastern slopes offer sublime skiing through well-spaced old-growth forest, all while keeping a magnificent view of those larger objectives. The approach is gorgeous flat-land skin along the Goban-gawa riverside. Expect native ezo deer and an abundance of birdlife. This seldom-traveled route is a perfect getaway into a slow-paced winter wonderland.

We visited this route on Jan 24, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Bekkari-dake (726m) sits at the southern end of the wild Mashike Range on the Japan Sea coast, about 1.5hrs drive north of Sapporo City. The peak marks the border between Ishikari City 石狩市 and Tobetsu Town 当別町. This route starts here, near a forestry road heading up the Goban-kawa 五番川 valley, off Route 451 connecting Takikawa City 滝川市 to Hamamasu Village 浜益村 on the coast. Curiously, there’s another Bekkari-dake 別狩岳 (666m) just 7km to the south along the ridge.

General notes

This is a classic deep backcountry Hokkaido ski tour in the sense that there’s a decent flat-land approach involved; 3km one-way for 6km total return on the flat. Unlike other long Hokkaido approaches, however, most of the flat-land approach is not on a forestry road. It’s a wide, remote-feeling valley floor teeming with wildlife, animal tracks, and birdlife. To make the trip worthwhile, however, you’ll want a lightweight touring setup, rather than downhill-oriented boots and skis. Don’t let the prospect of flat-land skinning put you off though – the skiing on the broad, eastern ridge is really quite spectacular, with fantastic views.

Hut

None

Route details

Park well to the side of the road, and start skinning west across the open field. This will funnel you onto the forestry road. After about 800m from Route 451, it’s tempting to start climbing up and away from the river. However, the road drops down towards the river, carrying on west, towards a bridge over the river. After crossing the bridge, it’s just under 2km of very pleasant skinning along the floor of the valley, with the river on your left. At just after 3km, when the river bends northwards, keep a lookout for a suitable snowbridge to cross the river. Don’t be tempted to start climbing too soon; the main eastern ridge ends in a nice mellow ramp down to the valley floor, negating the need for steep kickturns.

Once you gain the ridge, climb in earnest towards the 670m false peak. From the false peak there’s still 500m or so of exposed ridge to cross before getting to the summit proper. This also involves a slight drop to a minor col before the final climb to the summit. Return the way you came. We chose to remove skins at the summit proper, which required a short boot-pack back up to the 670m false peak on the return.

Route Timing
Up | 3.5hrs
Down | 2hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to this route.

By car: 

This route is accessible by car from Route 451 connecting the inland Takikawa City and Hamamasu on the Rumoi coast. There’s no parking area in the vicinity, so visitors to the area will be parking on the road, around here. The road is a well-maintained, frequently snow-ploughed two-lane road, but as always, make sure to park well to the left of the road so as to not obstruct traffic.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Yonbangawa (四番川) – map no. NK-54-13-7-4

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

Snow and route safety

While this is a relatively straight forward route, it does involve a long day out – make sure to start early in order to keep a margin of safety and time on your side. Also, despite the peak being relatively low altitude, it’s in close proximity to the wild Japan Sea coast. The valley floor is much more sheltered than the upper alpine areas, so make sure to carry appropriate layers.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Bekkari-dake
Onsen nearby

For a nice local onsen experience, try the Hamamasu Onsen 浜益温泉 (location, 500yen), about 20 minutes by car west towards the coast along Route 451. They have nice open-air pools (closed over winter, open in April).

Extra Resources

See the detailed write-up (in Japanese) in the Hokkaido Ski Touring Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド, p. 294-297.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore areas north of Sapporo together with a local certified guide, get in touch with either Wataru Nara or Takao Miyashita. They’re both born-and-bred Sapporo-based guides. They both cut their teeth on peaks including those in northern Hokkaido, have taken part in major international expeditions, and are senior figures in the local guiding and outdoor associations here in Hokkaido. See a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Route blurb from the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide (2015), p. 294 (translated by Hokkaido Wilds)

Bekkari-dake is a small mountain, but the skiing and the views are good. The peak is named after the Bekkari area of the Atsuta Ward in Ishikari City, but just 7km south of here there’s another mountain called Bekkari-dake. Here, we’re talking about the northern 726m peak. There’s a 3km flat land approach to the main ridge, and you’ll need to cross a river a couple of times. However, the slopes headed up to the summit are wide and mellow, with lots of downhill ski potential terrain higher up. The views are also great. Despite its low altitude, the peak can get hit with some very serious weather, so don’t take this mountain lightly.

The weather forecast for today had been for blue skies since a week ago. One whole Sunday, nothing but sun icon on Windy.com. This made today a fine candidate for a long wander in the hills. Considering the possibility for wildlife viewing during an otherwise potentially boring flat-land approach, Bekkari-dake made it to the top of the list.

We were once again in a rented 62kWh Nissan Leaf e+ 100% electric car. We got away from Sapporo before dawn, and before long, the outside temperature was showing as -25 degrees Celcius on the dash. I’d been keen to see the performance of an electric car at such temperatures, so today was our day.

See the full cold-weather review here: https://hokkaidowilds.org/winter-ev-series-part-2-driving-a-62kwh-nissan-leaf-at-25c

Long story short, it was fine. No problem. Up to 30% less range perhaps.

It was a cold start to the trip though. It’s not often the temperature is that cold at the trailhead. I was in my warmest mittens right from the start. My thighs burned with the cold. We made good time across the first half of the flat-land skin, and soon the sun was properly up and we could feel some warmth.

We were soon skinning along the side of the river. Just gorgeous and relaxing.

When we stopped for a break, we noticed just how cold it had been till this point. We were all frosty from our breath.

It wasn’t until we arrived at the eastern ridge and started climbing that we really started to heat up and removed some layers. We were happy to be climbing at last, and the slopes were looking like perfection for the downhill. Buttery snow, well-spaced trees.

As we climbed, the northern Mashike Range started coming into view. The rather inaccessible Gunbetsu-dake 群別岳 stood out particularly clearly against the blue sky.

As we climbed, a stiff breeze picked up. By the time we arrived at the false peak, it was a very stiff wind, requiring extra layers and ski goggles. Some careful traversing on the lee side of the ridge helped keep us out of the wind for a while, but eventually we had to get back up on the exposed ridge to access the summit.

Strangely, at the summit itself, it was calm, with hardly a breath of wind. 

But then the wind started up again, and had us cancelling our plans for a quick summit lunch, and putting on layers again. We ripped skins and made a hasty retreat off the summit. As expected, the descent was spectacular. The short bootpacking back up to the false peak was a bit of a bore, but apart from that, incredible. Skiing with sustained views of the Mashike Range in the distance is something special.

After the excitement of the descent, you’d think the 3km flat-land skin back to the car would have been a bore. But with the sun out, warmth, and a forest seemingly alive with wildlife, it was extremely pleasant.

There were two stand-out highlights of the skin back to the car. One was the deer running along the stream, of course. The other was the bittersweet evergreen vine that had availed itself of one poor tree, leaving it completely green despite the sub-freezing temperatures.

But the crowning curiosity was the mouse. A large, fluffy, cute little mouse. Haidee spotted it after seeing erratic little footprints in the snow.

I was quite sure it was dead. The erratic footprints witness to the final, tormented dying minutes of the creature’s life. Snow had started drifting around its lifeless body. I poked it to make sure.

No response.

“It might just be pretending to be dead,” proffered Haidee.

“Just resting, you think?” I replied, reminding me of one of my favourite Monty Python sketches of all time.

Certainly had beautiful plumage.

Back at the car, we realized we were only 15 minutes drive from Hamamasu village onsen. It would add a bit of driving onto the trip, but there was a 30kW fast charger at the Seicomart on the coast, so we’d at least not run out of juice.

It was a great choice to head to Hamamasu, because the road there was nothing but breathtaking. Every now and then, the road would bend just perfectly to give us inspiring views of the northern Mashike mountains. For those committed to long days in the hills, this area of Hokkaido is a mecca for ski touring.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Bekkari-dake, or others nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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