Posted on Feb 21, 2020
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16 7

Posted on Feb 21, 2020

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16 7
Reading time: 3 min
5km

Distance

3 hours

Time

588m

Ascent

1240m

Highest point

4/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Apr

Best season

Hina-dake (雛岳, 1240m) is one of the smaller sub-peaks at the southern end of the Hakkōda Mountains (八甲田山系) in Aomori prefecture (青森県). With good access, parking, and of course consistent-angle tree skiing, this relatively diminutive peak is perfect for a quick morning or afternoon lap. The peak will give skiers good views of the southern end of the Hakkoda massif, but on blustery days, the relatively sheltered tree-skiing will be more than satisfying, even without bagging the peak.

We visited this route on Jan 26, 2020

Photos by Rob Thomson.

Last updated Feb 25, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Hina-dake sits as a relatively solitary minor peak at the southeastern end of the Hakkoda-san massif, in central Aomori Prefecture at the northern end of Japan’s main island of Honshu. This route up the mountain starts from the Matabe-chaya Tea House (又兵衛の茶屋, location, closed in winter).

General notes

The Hakkoda-san (Mt. Hakkoda) massif is a conglomerate of multiple volcanic peaks in central Aomori Prefecture, northern Honshu. Aomori is the northern-most prefecture of the broad Tohoku region of northern Japan – Tohoku comprises of Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Fukushima, Miyagi, and Yamagata Prefectures. The northern-most three prefectures – Aomori, Akita, and Iwate – get apocalyptic amounts of snow in the winter. Snowfall numbers here easily outstrip those of Hokkaido, further north. While the season tends to be a little shorter than up in Hokkaido, the snow is light, deep, and dry. It is truly the last frontier of backcountry skiing in Japan.

Hakkoda is a large mountain area, with plenty of aspects to choose from depending on the day’s wind direction. This particular peak is a very minor one as far as ‘official’ ski touring routes go in Hakkoda – it doesn’t feature on the Hakkoda-san Ski Touring Map (see below). But for those looking for a true non-lift-assisted backcountry route which will hold up well even in otherwise blustery weather, this is a great option. This route up Hina-dake follows the broad northeast ridge (北東尾根).

  • Hakkoda-san Ski Touring Map: Here’s the full PDF version of the official Hakkoda-san ski touring map, developed and provided by the Hakkoda-san Promotion Committee.
    • GeoPDF version: Hokkaido Wilds has converted the original PDF version of the Hakkoda-san backcountry ski touring map into a GeoPDF – see it here. Use it in the free Avenza Maps app to double-check your location on your smartphone in real time.
Hut

None

Route details

This route is not marked. The route follows the broad northeast ridge (北東尾根) up the mountain. From the the Matabe-chaya Tea House, head west-southwest away from Route 40, across a flat, short 600m section of forest. In time, the route starts climbing, where eventually skiers will be zig-zagging up the slope for the remainder of the route. If shooting for the summit, skiers will be funneled up the northeast ridge towards Umazura-iwa (馬面岩), a prominent rock on the northeast ridge. It’s just under 2 hours from the trailhead to Umazura-iwa, and another ten or so minutes from there to the summit. On the descent, the world – or should that be ridge – is your oyster. Being a rather broad ridge, getting more broad as the skier descends, the northeast ridge holds up well to multiple skiers, more or less guaranteeing fresh tracks for everyone.

Route Timing
Up | 2hrs
Down | 1hrs

Transport

Public transport:

This route is not accessible by public transport.

By car: 

There is good road access to the Matabe-chaya Tea House (又兵衛の茶屋, location, closed in winter), which constitutes the start of the route. There’s good parking out front too. Note that many of the roads around Hakkoda-san tend to close over winter, either completely or from 6pm till 7:30am. This webpage (which Google Translates well) has the winter road closures depicted. We found that Google Maps was not reliable for road closure (and thus journey routing) information.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Tashirotai (田代平) – map no. NK-54-23-4-2
Official Topo Map 2: Hakkodasan (八甲田山) – map no. NK-54-24-1-1

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

Note that this route is well and truly the backcountry – it is not patrolled, there’s no avalanche control, and the route is not marked. Skiers need to be experienced, prepared to navigate on their own, and self-sufficient (see general notes about Hakkoda on PowderHounds here). The final short upper slope beyond the treeline on this route is no longer anchored by trees – take the normal precautions to check snow stability (HT: Simon). Note also when it is snowing hard, uptracks may end up buried very quickly – take care not to get lost on the descent back to the tea house.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Hina-dake
Onsen nearby

The closest onsen to the route is the gloriously rustic Michinoku-fukazawa Onsen (みちのく深沢温泉, location, 400yen), about 5km northwest along Route 40 from the trailhead. Note that as of January 2020, the more well-known Hakkoda Onsen (八甲田温泉, location) is closed for repairs, with no forseeable re-opening.

Extra Resources
  • See a video of skiing Hina-dake by GoNorth on Youtube, here.
  • There are a number of trip reports and how-to’s for Hina-dake in Japanese (see the Google Search here).

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other areas of Tohoku together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Kenichi. He’s JMGA certified, and spends a large chunk of his year guiding clients on mountaineering trips around the world. He’s Honshu based though, and guides clients from around the world to prime locations on the island, including Tohoku.

Also try contacting the Hakkoda Guide Club – they have a lodge and a great team of local guides.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Mount Hinadake (雛岳, Hina-dake) 1240 m is one of the smaller sub-peaks of the The Hakkōda Mountains (八甲田山系) in Aomori prefecture (青森県). The Hakkōda range is a large stratovolcanic complex with numerous sub peaks. This makes it ideal for exploring in varied weather conditions as you’ll almost always be able to find something suitable and away from the prevailing wind. Aomori is a windy and snowy place!

Our crew had spent the morning safari-skiing off the top of the Hakkōda ropeway down to our accommodation at the Michinokufukazawa onsen (みちのく深沢温泉). The afternoon ski needed to be more of an straight up & down ski lap so we’d be done in time to make the return drive into Aomori city for hot-chicken, sour gummies and an automated teller machine.  Several of the roads around Hakkoda close overnight and we didn’t want to be locked out from being able to drive back to the ryokan.

Hakkoda Hina-dake Ski Touring Route (Aomori, Japan)

We were late to the party, of course, and as we arrived there were several vehicles just leaving including a few ‘Y’ plated (US military service person) cars. We ran into several ‘local’ groups of American skiers based at the Misawa Air base (三沢飛行場) in the course of our trip, but, Hakkoda does still remain at least a bit undiscovered and off the usual beaten track for foreign skiers.

The (surprisingly long) lift line at the ropeway had a distinctly Japanese crowd and included plenty of telemark skiers. Don’t let your friends who are uncultured beyond a ski-week-in-Niseko get away with saying that “Japanese don’t ski off-piste”.

Unlike the parking trials and tribulations we tend to face back in Hokkaido, we found a fantastic well cleared parking area just off the road. There were  a couple of well packed skin tracks heading off into the forest and we picked the one on lookers right to go in and then returned out the lookers left track.

It was only a short walk before we began climbing quite steeply up the side of the peak. It had been well used that day and so, while there was a great skin track to ease our ascent, we’d be skiing sloppy-seconds on the way back down. The vegetation, once again, consisted of well spaced  trees; ideal!

This would be another great spot for easy access and relatively safe storm skiing when the weather kicks in. The NE aspect will be somewhat protected too.

Hakkoda Hina-dake Ski Touring Route (Aomori, Japan)
Hakkoda Hina-daHakkoda Hina-dake Ski Touring Route (Aomori, Japan)ke Ski Touring Route (Aomori, Japan)
Hakkoda Hina-dake Ski Touring Route (Aomori, Japan)
Hakkoda Hina-dake Ski Touring Route (Aomori, Japan)
Hakkoda Hina-dake Ski Touring Route (Aomori, Japan)

We climbed to about 950m at which point the wide slope started to turn into smaller ridges and gullies. With the light of the day starting to fade with ripped skins and meandered back down. The skiing was reasonable and we’d happily come back again. It’s another 300 or so meters to the peak and that’s probably worth bagging if you’re here in spring conditions.

Hakkoda Hina-dake Ski Touring Route (Aomori, Japan)

As with each ski touring, cycle touring, and hiking route guide published on hokkaidowilds.org, should you choose to follow the information on this page, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road/track closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow leave-no-trace procedures. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this information, associated GPS track (GPX, KML and maps), and all information was prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. hokkaidowilds.org, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following the information contained in this post.

hokkaidowilds.orgに掲載されるすべてのスキールート、自転車ツーリングルート、ハイキングルートと同様に、本ページに掲載される情報を利用し行動する場合、必ず自己責任で利用することを条件とします。出発する前に現地の天候や状況、通行止め情報などを確認しましょう。行動中は、公有地/私有地に関係なく必ず現地の利用条件を守るようにし、適切な安全装置や、コンパスや地図などのナビゲーション道具を身に着けてください。いうまでもありませんが、自然に与える人間の影響を少なくし、ゴミの持ち帰りをはじめ環境を傷をつけない(Leave No Trace)ようなアウトドア行動にしましょう。本サイトに掲載される情報はあくまで計画を立てるための一つの情報源に過ぎなく、行為者の先んじて払ってしかるべき正当な注意義務及び努力と合わせて利用することを条件とします。本ページのGPSトラック(GPXとKMLと地図)を含む情報は提供者のできる限り正確な調べにより提供しているものの、その情報の正確性や、提供者の行動判断は、hokkaidowilds.orgは一切の責任を負いかねなく保証できません。また、本ページに掲載される情報を利用することによるいかなる怪我、器物損壊等、その他事件 ・事故等においてhokkaidowilds.orgや本サイトの関係者は一切の責任を負いかねます。

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

7 thoughts on “Hakkoda Hina-dake Ski Touring”

  1. Instead of spilling the beans on local spots (how does that even “make the northern Japan outdoors a safer and more sustainable place”?), why not educate non-Japanese visitors on Japanese social norms and expectations of behavior? Then point them to the dozen tour guide services, local lodging and help them interface with those. Eventually, maybe they will be worthy to know about local gems, and truly appreciate them and their settings. (Can’t help but think of Indiana Jones who, like a good colonialist, breaks into sealed sacred places and steals holy treasures because hey! he can! and there’s a market to back him up!)

    I don’t think you’re on “the right track.” I think you need to reevaluate your motivations and take a hard look at why you hold up an exploitative industry—which cares nothing for nature, balance, safety (not to be confused with liability) or sustainability—as your excuse for your activities. Maybe find a way to engage the industry itself and help make it better. Again, you don’t do that by uncovering local spots and sending who-knows-how-many powderhounds out into the woods.

    1. Thanks again for the feedback Simon. We do try to educate visitors to the site about all sorts of things (see the ‘Education‘ section here). As you’ll see there, we don’t just post route overviews on the site – filling in the gaps regarding a large range of issues is a big priority of ours. I wonder if you missed the post on ski touring etiquette? Here it is: https://hokkaidowilds.org/hokkaido-ski-touring-etiquette. If there’s something we’ve missed in there, please feel free to leave a comment and we’ll try our best to add it in.

      We do point site visitors to local tour guide services. You’ll see we have included a link to the Hakkoda Guide Club in the ‘Guide Options’ section of the Hina-dake route overview. If there’s a local guiding operation that you think should be included in this section, please let us know. On an upcoming Hakkoda Onsen ski touring route post (due to be posted this week), we’ll be including details about the great Michinoku Fukazawa Onsen minshuku we stayed at while in Hakkoda.

      You wrote “maybe find a way to engage the industry itself and help make it better.” We do just this. If you have a moment, please take a look at our one-year report (you can see it here in English and Japanese). You’ll see in the ‘Other Notable Happenings’ section (https://hokkaidowilds.org/first-year-report-english#others) that we work with local tourism associations, NGOs, the Ministry of Environment, and others to engage the industry surrounding access and sustainability of the outdoors here in Japan (primarily in Hokkaido at present). In particular please take note of our involvement in the Hokkaido Outdoor Forum – an annual gathering of Hokkaido outdoor guides, retailers, local government representatives, NGOs etc. At last year’s forum there were over 300 participants, and we shared our thoughts on the influx of foreign visitors to Hokkaido (see our Facebook post here), and how to build mutual understanding.

      Please note that Hokkaido Wilds as a website has only existed for just over one year – we’re still growing and developing in the ways we interface with industry. We’re striving to live up to our genuine passion for “nature, balance, safety, and sustainability”. That’s why we pour a huge amount of our spare time into producing good-quality English-language geoPDF topomaps, explain how to poop in the outdoors in highly-trafficked areas, collating and translating search and rescue incidents, publish in-depth information about PLBs and two-way radios in Japan, indigenous histories of the outdoor areas we recreate in, encourage people to notify police of their backcountry intentions, be prepared with digital and offline maps and more (note that those links there link back to the content we’ve published about those things).

      The question, of course, is how do you get people to consume all of this important information? Many people probably just use Hokkaido Wilds to grab a GPS route file and be done with it – although anecdotal evidence suggests this is not the case. This is the perennial question for anyone who publishes information online. I hope you’ll agree, however, that we’re doing our darnedest to get that information out there – in addition to providing the information to help people enjoy the outdoors up here in northern Japan safely and responsibly.

      One thing that I would love to get your feedback on is whether – in your view – Hina-dake has particularly special status in Aomori? That is to say, we published the Sukayu Onsen/O-dake route the other day, we plan to publish the Hakkoda Onsen route this week, and then two established routes on Iwaki-san (Daikoku-sawa and Saihoji-mori) next week. In your view, are these as well as other established routes also off-limits to sites like ours? The prominent featuring of these routes in published guidebooks (such as the gorgeous 山スキールート212, 山スキー百山 and 東北の山スキー特選ガイド) suggests not, but I would love to hear your view on this.

      Many thanks again Simon – this is all important stuff to chew over as the dynamics (and demographics) of the Japan backcountry changes.

      PS – I do want to re-iterate that we don’t make money off Hokkaido Wilds (see our financials in our one-year report, here), and all our resources are available for re-use for free (see details here).

    2. Thanks for your ongoing feedback Simon.

      I’ll add a few extra thoughts:

      We have a great relationship with the Japanese language guide sites up in Hokkaido. HokkaiCamp is a great resource and covers many more ski routes and canoe routes than we’ve managed to date. We only write-up routes that we’ve actually gotten out and done ourselves and if we’ve used primary resources such as Japanese language guide-books or websites we make sure that we reference them. Is your concern only with English language content?

      With the growing numbers of visitors to Japan from other North Asian and South-East Asian countries we’re trying to undertake educational activities to suit these regions as well. For example, I presented a session on avalanche safety and backcountry etiquette at the Singapore Ski & Snowboard Meetup (yes there is one!) late last year and I’m hoping to do some more avalanche education with them this coming year. We’ve also thought about working to translate some of our key information such as our etiquette and safety posts into Chinese and Korean. Do you think that this would be a good idea? Is your concern only with English language content?

      We work hard to point people to local guiding services, local accommodation providers and other great local experiences. It helps that the vast majority of IFMGA guides operating in Japan are local JMGA guides as we do tend to prefer pointing to people with the internationally recognized guiding certifications. If your point on ‘exploitative industry’ relates to the rather ‘loose’ operation of ski guiding in Japan (and Hokkaido especially) then we certainly take your point and would tend to agree. Do you know some other guides who we could point people to in Aomori? Is there a local guide in Aomori who helped you on your journey to ‘worthy’?

      I’ve learnt to temper my tendency to ad-hominem-attacks-on-the-internet over the years, but, if your understanding of colonialism has been informed mainly by the Indiana Jones franchise then I can personally recommend John Toland’s very balanced discussion of Japan and her Empire in the years leading up to and during the Second World War. It’s here in English or across 5 volumes in Japanese. The audiobook’s also great; a touch over 40 hours of listening and great on the skin track.

  2. “The HOKKAIDO Wilds is an award-winning not-for-profit website that exists to inspire people to explore and enjoy HOKKAIDO’s extraordinary outdoors”. A website for Hokkaido about Hokkaido comes down to Aomori and writes detailed trip reports about quiet local hiking spots. Im sure you wont care too much that this spot will now become overcrowded, tracked out and hard to park at. Excellent work. Now please go back to Hokkaido.

    1. Hi John, thank you very much for airing your thoughts. Local insight is super important for us, regardless of what island a mountain is on. Hina-dake is actually closer as the crow flies to Sapporo (where Haidee and I live) and certainly closer to Rankoshi near Niseko (where Chris, the first author on this post is based) than Shiretoko-dake (知床岳) in eastern Hokkaido, so regardless of what island a mountain is on, we always appreciate feedback from people who live closer to the areas we feature on the site. You’re certainly lucky to live local there in Aomori – you’ve got a lot of nice mountains.

      Regarding the wording on the About Us page, you’re quite right – we’ve needed to update that for a while. Even before this recent Tohoku ski touring trip, we did a 7-day cycle tour around Aomori, so the site has not always been strictly about Hokkaido. It’s a site mainly about Hokkaido, but also areas that are easily accessed from Hokkaido (such as Tohoku via overnight ferry). To that end, we’ve very belatedly updated the About Us page. Terribly sorry for the confusion this and the naming of the site has caused.

      I do hope you manage to get up to Hokkaido some time. We realise that there are a few Hokkaido ski touring trailheads that are overcrowded, and it’s a big concern of ours and the extended ski touring community. You wrote “I’m sure you wont care too much that this spot will now become overcrowded, tracked out and hard to park at”, but this is a concern of ours, not only for Hina-dake, but for many other routes as Hokkaido and surrounding areas increasingly turn to inbound tourism to support a dwindling population and economy (see my reply to Simon’s comment below).

      Ski touring routes with parking issues in Hokkaido are in the minority, however – we’ve got 72 ski touring routes on the site, and perhaps only 6 or 7 have issues with parking. And a big part of those parking issues is simply because there is no cleared parking area, or the parking area is very small (maybe room for 5 or 6 cars). This is certainly the case at the Furano-dake (富良野岳) trailhead (see some recent discussion on that here). Therefore, we do encourage visitors to our site to park responsibly (e.g., the Shiribetsu-dake post). When we were at Hina-dake, we were amazed – so much parking space! As a local, you’re very lucky. Hina-dake’s parking area would be the envy of almost every Hokkaido ski touring route.

      Once again, thank you very much for taking the time to reach out with your concerns.

  3. You do understand that by publishing this you help make it less “undiscovered”, right? Leave the locals their spots. Go to APPI or Geto or Aomori Springs; they want tourists there. This place is a stomping ground for fathers and sons for generations. It’s hard enough showing up there as local gaijin without van-loads of “pow hounds” and “vertical counters” disrespecting the dynamics, nevermind tracking everything up in pursuit of a shred.

    Besides which, that top section avalanches easily and poses a significant risk if you don’t know the area weather, snowpack and patterns.

    1. Hi Simon, thank you very much for the feedback. Insight by locals such as yourself who live closer to routes than we do is invaluable. As mentioned in my reply to John’s comment, we’ve got route overviews for mountains in Hokkaido that are actually further away from where we live (Sapporo) as the crow flies than Hina-dake. So any local insight – regardless of which island the mountain is on – is really important.

      Thank you for the warning about the upper section of Hina-dake. Unfortunately weather prevented us from getting above the treeline – we’ve updated the Safety Notes section of the post to reflect your concerns. Once again, thank you for that.

      We do understand that by publishing information about any route makes a route more visible. However, we didn’t get the impression that this hill was a “local’s only” hill. That is, when we do our research about ski touring routes, we do the vast majority of our research in Japanese. A Google search for “雛岳 バックカントリー” (hina-dake backcountry) brings up a whole slew of very detailed trip reports and route overviews. One in particular specifically singing the praises of why Hina-dake is such a great place for backcountry skiing, with detailed maps, by a person living in Aomori Prefecture. So we figured it was a fairly well-known, 定番 (teiban, bread-and-butter) route in the Hakkoda mountains. So, perhaps Hina-dake has already made a bit of a transformation from what it used to be generations ago? On a bigger-picture level, you might want to take your objections to the Japan National Tourism Agency. See their Hakkoda promotional video here.

      We’re certainly not oblivious to the changing dynamics as skiers from outside Japan discover the great skiing and amazing vistas here in northern Japan. We’re active in the Japanese-language mountaineering scene here in Hokkaido, and do receive some pushback from some certain vocal individuals, but only online. They’re in the minority, however, and the vast majority of feedback is positive and welcoming. Local manners and customs are important, and fostering understanding from everyone is important, as inbound tourism becomes more and more a way of supporting a dwindling local population and economy – I’m sure you’re aware that the northern-most three prefectures of Honshu are the three most-quickly de-populating prefectures in all of Japan (see Stats Bureau of Japan, 2018). Outside of Sapporo City, Hokkaido as a prefecture is also experiencing a similar rate of decline – our stance at Hokkaido Wilds is that the increase in tourism here is, inherently, a good thing. It brings challenges – as tourism does anywhere in the world – but as far as outdoor facilities and services are concerned, in the long run it’s surely a good thing. It’s why we’ve set up the Hokkaido Wilds Foundation, in order to try to harness that increase in tourism to support local efforts to increase the sustainability of access to the outdoors here.

      Does all this make sense? Are we on the right track? Are we doing the right thing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      Once again, thank you for your insight, feedback, and time to share your thoughts. For a volunteer-run website like ours, trying to make the northern Japan outdoors a safer and more sustainable place, feedback like yours is invaluable.

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