The forecast for the weekend was bleak. The previous few days had seen heavy snow and high winds. There were reports of sporadic natural avalanche activity in central Hokkaido. All together, this meant any skiing today would have to be very conservative regarding aspect and angle. Furthermore, Haidee had to stay indoors for the day with a couple of online meetings.
So I decided on a conservative but long solo mission up Dairoku-yama. I knew from the outset it would be much, much more of a walk than a ski. It was a peak I’d been interested in since last season’s Mae-furano-dake hut trip though. According to reports I’d seen online, this approach from the west seemed to be the more regularly taken winter route.
Knowing it’d be a long day, I set off from our accommodation at the new Fenix Furano apartments at 4:30am, aiming to get to the trailhead at 5am.
When I set off from the trailhead, it was still dark, only the cow minders up and working.
In the morning murk, I didn’t see that I could head along the left side of the fence near the river, so ended up skinning along the right side of the fence, between the fence and the river. The going was relatively fast, with not too much new soft snow.
Soon, however, I linked up with the forestry management road, and as I continued deeper into the forest, the snow underfoot got deeper.
After about 45 minutes of progress, I came across some forestry machinery, and four snowmobiles covered by tarps. The firm snowmobile track I’d been following stopped here, and for the next five hours or so, I’d be breaking trail through calf-deep snow on my own. After a long week at a desk at work, it was a great way to blow out the cobwebs.
As it often the case with solo trips, photos from the day were a bit lacking. Snowy forests. For seven hours. The meditative repetition of one foot in front of the other is always soothing for me though, and it’s always nice to go at my own pace.
It wasn’t unexpected, but I knew as I was climbing that the descent was going to be fairly lack-luster. I did exactly one kick-turn in the 4.5 hours to the saddle at about 1100m. It was just all very mellow. With snow as deep as this, I knew fairly early on the downhill would be courtesy of the skin-track I was setting. I focused on keeping it as straight as possible as I climbed.
The final steeper 300m or so of elevation from the saddle to the summit was a mix of nice powder, thin wind-slab on nice powder, and wind-scoured sastrugi.
I made it to within about 50 vertical meters below the summit before pulling the plug. With a worsening weather forecast for the day, very challenging underfoot conditions, and low visibility, I made the conservative decision to head down while underfoot conditions were at least marginally favourable.
Once down from the steeper summit slope, and past the only-just-steep-enough forestry management road, the rip back down the skin track was fast and fun. In the back of my mind I hoped no one else was stupid enough to hike up this mountain on a weekday with no views, as they’d undoubtedly be following my skin track.
The fun downhill lasted only back to the river. From there, it was a mix of vigorous poling and shuffling along the very mellow decline of the forestry road. I was happy to see that someone had come for the snowmobiles at around the 476m point, where I’d seen them previously. This meant I had a nice firm snowmobile track to skate along all the way back to the car.
Overall it was a pity there’d been no views, but I felt like I’d made the most of an otherwise marginal day weather-wise.