We’d arrived at the hut the previous day (story here). We knew the weather forecast was for very blustery weather today, so we decided we’d try to explore some of the northern side of the stream behind the hut. Jake had been tenkara fishing in the area in summer, so knew that we could at least get down to the stream near the Fudo-no-taki. So after a hearty breakfast cooked on the wood stove at the hut, we headed off in that direction.
It was a quick skin along the summer trail. Leaving our skins on, we slithered down the very steep summer trail to the stream. Jake was ecstatic to see the waterfall in winter, partially frozen over.
The head-scratcher from here was how we were to get from the small ravine up onto the main ridge. At first, we attempted a steep skin and then bootpack up a clear chute on the left, directly after the waterfall. I was confident it could be tackled on skis with a number of precise kickturns. Others were confident it was better tackled as a bootpack. Consensus reigned, and from about 1/5 of the way up, we attached skis to our packs and started bootpacking. The problem was that below a crusty snow layer was groin-deep faceted snow – it wouldn’t compress into any sort of step on each step up. At the bottom of the faceted snow was frozen, rock-hard dirt.
With me in the lead, we made it about 2/5 of the way up before I’d had enough. Hand-holds were running out, and there was no purchase for my feet. We retreated down.
We skirted downstream along the creek, and finally found our way up – a tricky lunge-step across a small gap onto a ledge, and then up onto the face of the slope proper.
Overall, it was a messy, scrambly, fun problem to solve. We were all glad to have it behind us once we were on the slope. After the time spent scratching about on the ravine floor, it felt like we were flying up the slope, one foot in front of the other, cutting a quick skin track through the soft snow. And soft it was. Perfectly dry and soft snow had fallen – this was going to be a joy to ski down.
No sooner had we got to the first prominent knob along the ridge than we came out of the lee of the wind. It was a howling easterly. We quickly ripped skins and embarked on the first lap of the face we’d skinned up, through the trees. We were over the moon that the snow was good, and the vegetation was not too dense. Classic Hokkaido tree skiing at its best. Jake was in his element, converting the slope into his own terrain park.
We did a long climbing traverse to our uptrack, and followed it back up to the 1200m knob. From there, we high-tailed it back down the ridge, enjoying great tree skiing most of the way down. As we approached the creek, we were increasingly dodging windfall from previous years’ summer typhoons.
Getting down the lunge-step crux was challenging. I went first, and happily resigned myself to falling to the left into a pile of soft snow. The others managed to get across without such uncoordinated outcomes.
The final clamber up the summer trail connecting the waterfall with the summer trail proper was a mess. I managed to get up on skis, combining some tight kickturns with some considerable side-stepping. Hiro on his skis disappeared somewhere further around, and appeared soon after at the top, seemingly having had no troubles getting there. Tim successfully bootpacked his way up. This left poor Jake with a thoroughly scuffed up slope to contend with – he finally dragged himself up, bootpacking, after about 10 minutes of very concerted effort.
From there we all headed back to the hut for another cosy night eating and resting till the next morning, where we made our attempt on Maefurano-dake.