Posted on Nov 19, 2019
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Posted on Nov 19, 2019

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32 0
Reading time: 4 min
6.6km

Distance

4 hours

Time

560m

Ascent

725m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Dec-Mar

Best season

Daikoku-yama (大黒山, 725m) is the highest point on the Akaigawa Caldera Rim near Yoichi City in southern Hokkaido. In addition to a great north-facing open slope, it offers inspiring views to the south towards Yotei-zan and the Akaigawa caldera. There's no summer hiking trail to the summit, so winter is the time to visit. If you're looking for a peak with a good base of snow early in the season, this is one of the best in the area - Daikoku-yama has good skiing from around the second week of December.

We visited this route on Mar 30, 2019

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Daikoku-yama (location) is on the northern side of the Akaigawa caldera rim, near Yoichi City about an hour by car northwest of Sapporo City. This ski touring route starts at the end of the snow-clearing on the Nikki side of the caldera, here.

General notes

With some of the earliest timing for a good base of snow, Daikoku-yama is well known as an early-season playground for backcountry skiers in the Sapporo area. The Hokkaido Yukiyama Backcountry Skiing Guidebook recommends from around the first or second week of December for good skiing. This is also a relatively easy peak, suitable for first-timers with an experienced buddy.

This route is also within relatively easy public-transport access from Kutchan/Niseko. The main Hakodate JR train line runs through the Nikki Valley, so this route joins the Inaho-mine and Gin-zan routes as having good potential for car-less Niseko-based people looking to escape the resort madness.

  • Parking: There’s only very limited space for parking at the trailhead, perhaps enough room for a few cars. Be prepared to spend 15 minutes or so carving out your own spot to the side of the road.
Hut

None

Route details

This route is not marked, but navigation is relatively straight forward. As a rule, keep to the right of the stream and you should arrive at the base of the small basin area in about 1.5 hours or so. It can be a steep traverse through relatively tight-packed trees at times, but distances are relatively short. Take care in the basin area – the upper reaches are rocky underneath, with very few anchors to keep the snow in place. Indeed, when we were there in early spring, the entire basin area had already avalanched considerably. Best to keep to ridges to make the final climb to the summit. On the descent, you’ve got about 250m of drop – perfect for a few laps. Just keep aware of the central, possibly unstable area of the basin. The return is via your uptrack along the stream.

Route Timing
Up | 3hrs
Down | 1hrs

Transport

Public transport:

If you don’t mind a 3.5km (1hr) walk, then this route is accessible from JR Nikki Station on the main line from Sapporo or Kutchan. Here’s the route from the station to the trailhead: https://goo.gl/maps/sk38ADVkk73hpQfR9.

By car: 

As mentioned above, there’s room for a few cars at the end of the snow clearing around here. This is a farm access road, so park as far to the side of the road as humanly possible, and/or carve an extra 30cm or so of parking space out to make it easier for locals to pass by.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Niki (二木) – map no. NI-53-20-11-2

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

The main point of concern on this route is the unstable slope on the upper section of the central part of the basin. Arguably this would offer the best skiing, but caution is required – this is known for being an avalanche-prone slope.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Daikoku-yama
Onsen nearby

It’s a bit of a drive, but the Akaigawa Caldera Onsen (赤井川カルデラ温泉・保養センター, location, 400yen) is a great place to soak the weary legs. It’s about a 25 minute drive from the trailhead (route here).

Extra Resources

This route is the very first in the fantastic Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide, a Japanese-language backcountry ski touring guidebook for Hokkaido (see it on Amazon.co.jp here). See pages 82-85.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other Niseko areas together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Jun Horie. He’s a Niseko-resident guide with seven years experience advanced-level ski instructing in Austria (he speaks German as well as English and Japanese). He has also guided in New Zealand and has previously led guiding operations in Hokkaido before going independent. 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 (2005), p. 82 (translated by Hokkaido Wilds)

Daikoku-yama is the highest peak on the Akaigawa caldera rim. The peak stands out if viewing from the Akaigawa side, but there’s no summer route to the peak. The slopes on the Akaigawa side are thick with trees, but on the Niki Town side, the slopes open up at the head of the gully, allowing for excellent skiing. It’s a mountain that’s great for skiing despite it’s low height.

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.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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