It was late spring, and the options for backcountry skiing around Sapporo were fading fast. Daikoku-yama had always been on my radar, however, because it is the very first route in the awesome Hokkaido Backcountry Ski Guidebook (Hokkaido Yuki-yama Guide). It was already well outside the recommended ‘best season’ (mid-December till March), but we decided to give it a go anyway.
Haidee and I arrived at the trailhead half an hour before Gerry and Tim. It was a glorious spring day, so we started off before them.
The first half hour or so of skinning was on old skin tracks up, over, and around lumpy, convoluted terrain.
Not all of the snow bridges were still covered. We’d love to see this area during the depth of the winter season.
As we were making our leisurely way along the skin track taking lots of breaks, Gerry and Tim caught up with us. “What an awesome day,” beamed Gerry.
If it had been deep winter, with the stream still covered with snow, we’d probably have spent more time zig-zagging across the stream, staying on the flatter terrain. Being late spring, however, we ended up staying on the right of the creek. It was a steep traverse in places, but manageable.
Before long, we emerged into the wide open base are of the bowl directly below the Daikoku-yama summit. We were taken aback by the debris of a large, bowl-wide full-depth avalanche that had more or less stripped the bowl of snow. This scuppered our plans of skiing anywhere near the bowl, so we took the ultra-conservative option of ascending via the left-hand ridge.
The ridge was steep and a bit cramped at times, but manageable on skis. Gerry had the upper hand in her snowshoes.
Once we were at the summit ridge, huge views across the Akaigawa caldera greeted us.
The snow was average, but we didn’t care. It was a spring-perfection day.
We tried our best to make the most of the descent. None of us were game to drop too low into the bowl – the large avalanche debris looked recent, and we didn’t want to risk setting anything off. So we stuck to the ridge we came up, getting some long sweeping turns on the northern side of it when we could.
From the base of the bowl, it was a rip-roaring roller-coaster ride along our up-track back to the cars.