The previous night, I’d been in Noboribetsu, at the Noboribetsu Outdoor Meeting. Hokkaido Wilds gave a presentation about our PDF topomaps at the meeting. In attendance were 33 local Hokkaido guides, nature center staff, Ministry of the Environment officials, and local government people. They were from as far away as Kiritappu in eastern Hokkaido. Always great to share and get feedback on what we’re doing.
I stayed the night at the meeting venue – the Noboribetsu Nature Center – and got away at 6am, trying to get to Niseko by 8am. I’d left a pair of boots at Boot Solutions in Hirafu to get the shells adjusted, and the plan was to pick those up on the way to the Chisenupuri ski area parking lot. I’d bought the Dynafit TLT7‘s in February last year, and they’d been giving me grief. Just not enough width in the fore-foot. After three incremental boot-punches later, the good folk at Boot Solutions had them dialed though. I picked them up on the way through, and long story short, they fit like the comfiest slippers now.
This was a rare solo trip for me. I was, essentially, going home to Sapporo from Noboribetsu via Niseko, so it was essentially just a stop in on the way home…with a four hour mountain climb thrown in for good measure. It was a Thursday, and when I arrived at the parking lot, there were only a few cars parked up. It was unclear if I was going to be completely alone on the mountain, or if these were the cars of others already skinning up towards the peak.
I geared up and set off on my way towards the public use up-track that Hokkaido Backcountry Club has made available, on the looker’s far left of the Chisenupuri Catskiing Area. It was, as before, very well marked. Hats off to the Hokkaido Backcountry Club.
NOTE – I only just noticed this, but one-time cat-lifts up the ski area are 2,000yen (once a day, at 8am), according to the sign. Not a terrible deal at all if you want to save up to 1hr on the trip up the mountain. For strong, fit climbers, the skin up the uptrack will only take just over 30 minutes though, so your mileage on your 2000yen investment may differ.
The skin up the far western side of the ski area is quite pleasant. Generally, skiers will also descend down in this area too – non-paying guests are asked to stay off the main ski area, but this western slither of terrain has plenty to keep people entertained on the final 10 minutes or so of the descent off Chisenupuri.
I was skiing on the 18th of January 2020 – one of the latest starts to the season that Hokkaido has seen in a long time (but certainly not the latest ever). So, I was spending some time weaving my way through brush and sasa bamboo grass. On a normal year, most of this would have been covered by now.
The one thing that Hokkaido had not been lacking, however, was great surface conditions – with almost boring predictability, the snow was light, dry, and powdery.
On the way up, I followed the public uptrack to its terminus at the upper lift station. From there, Chisenupuri was in clear view. There didn’t seem to be anyone else climbing it at that point. I dropped down into the gully and began the ascent up onto the small plateau. I was following a faint, day-old skin track, which made the going relatively fast. One step off the skin track resulted in an automatic 20-30% increase in resistance and work. Late start to the season it may be…but it’s still tough work breaking trail in Hokkaido.
From the plateau at about 850m, it was time to start heading up the south-southeast ‘ridge’ to the summit. It wasn’t much of a ridge, more like a long shallow hump up to the summit. The visibility chopped and changed, alternating between thick cloud and clear skies. Part way up the ridge I came across three Swiss skiers, who had ascended via the east, along the road. I carried on past, trying to get to the summit before the weather completely closed in.
When I got to the summit, it was blowing a gale and there was no view to speak of, apart from the lonely summit pole.
The three Swiss skiers brought a moment of clarity with them though, about 10 minutes after I arrived at the summit.
On the descent, the snow was OK…but the visibility not so much. With next to no contrast, I was picking my way down the slope carefully. Half way down the slope, it was tough going – despite there being about 30cm of fresh snow, underneath was rock-hard tracked up snow. Not a great combination when contrast was so low.
The descent down the western side of the Chisenupuri ski area was, as usual, rip-roaring fun. It’s a good-angled traverse-like decent through well spaced trees. A bit more snow would have made things even more fun.
A few days after this trip up Chisenupuri, I skied the nearby Shakunage-dake and Nito-nupuri. Visibility was much better, so I managed to get the following shots of Chisenupuri’s south, eastern, and western faces.