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.
“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.