Posted on Mar 4, 2021
Share on facebook
Share on reddit
Share on twitter
Share on google
0
ESENE
Posted on Mar 4, 2021
Share on facebook
Share on reddit
Share on twitter
Share on google
0
ESENE
3.4km

Distance

4 hours

Time

590m

Ascent

1252m

Highest point

6/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Feb-Mar

Best season

Situated at the southern end of the Daisetsuzan National Park, the tongue-twisting Higashinupukaushi-nupuri 東ヌプカウシヌプリ (1252m) makes for an easily accessed backcountry ski route on the edge of the Tokachi Plain. With nothing obstructing the view from the summit, expect epic views south across the expansive plains to the Pacific Ocean, as well as views across the eastern reaches of the Daisetsuzan range. Just north of the peak is Hokkaido's highest altitude lake, Lake Shikaribetsu 然別湖. Snow conditions are notoriously variable here, however, with relatively little snowfall in the area.

We visited this route on Feb 14, 2021

Last updated Apr 2, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Higashinupukaushi-nupuri is just southwest of Lake Shikaribetsu, to the north of Obihiro in southern central Hokkaido. This ski touring route up the mountain approaches the peak from the east, starting at the Shihoro Kogen Nupuka-no-sato, here.

General notes

In theory, this should be an all-time popular backcountry skiing route. It’s beautifully accessible, the ascent is relatively safe along a prominent ridge, and there are a few moderately wide gullies allowing skiers to choose their exposure on the descent. By the time weather systems hit this area of Hokkaido, however, they’ve generally dumped all their snow on Niseko and Furano, leaving only wisps of snow clouds to squeeze out a few more pitiful snow flurries before they dissipate completely across the expansive Tokachi plains. Even in mid-February, during one of Hokkaido’s better winters, we were punching through the snow to the undergrowth. With all that said, however, for keen ski tourers who happen to find themselves in the area to visit the gorgeous Lake Shikaribetsu or Lake Nukabira, we’d heartily recommend this route as a nice way to get a bird’s eye view of the Tokachi plains. Pick a nice clear day and enjoy.

  • The Nupukaushi-nupuri pair: There’s another Nupukaushi-nupuri mountain west of this eastern one. They’re both very distinctive conical-esque mountains, but aptly, the western one is called Nishinupukaushi-nupuri (West nupukaushi-nupuri). The one in this post is Higashinupukaushi-nupuri (East…). Running across the saddle between the two is the road leading to Lake Shikaribetsu. Note that the western Nishinupukaushi-nupuri has even less snow than the eastern one.
Hut
None
Route details

Given the topography of the area, it’s debatable whether one should start from the Nupuka-no-sato carpark, or further up the road. Starting from Nupuka-no-sato will require crossing the road at one point, but starting further up may complicate things on the descent – skiers may need to do a relatively flat traverse at the end. Starting at Nupuka-no-sato ensures an official parking spot, and it’s a consistent downhill all the way on the return. This is all to say that our advice is to start from Nupuka-no-sato. Ski uphill along side the road, and keep heading straight after the sharp bend, crossing the road. Cross the open field, heading due west. Enter the forest, and keep climbing due west along an increasingly narrowing ridge – broad at first, and then narrowing to a distinctive spur at around 1000m. From where the ridge narrows it’s quite steep in places, the ridge thick with thin trees. You’ll spend up to 50 minutes or so from here weaving your way up the ridge. Just below the summit is a cornice – the summit can usually be accessed at a low point at the northern (looker’s right) end of the cornice. The view from the summit is quite inspiring, across the Tokachi plain. A descent via the ascent route would not be impossible, but the thick trees would make any meaningful skiing impossible. Most skiers descent via the wide gully to the skier’s right of the ascent route. This gully is steep in places, and is no place to be in unstable snowpack conditions – make conservative decisions. At some point on the descent, at around 750m in altitude, cut across back to the uptrack and return to the carpark via the uptrack.

Route Timing
Up | 2.5hrs
Down | 0.5hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to this route.

By car:

There’s plenty of parking at the Nupuka-no-sato carpark. Note, however, that this car park may not be cleared promptly after heavy snowfall. It is possible to drive further up the road to the closed gate, but there’s a large sign asking people not to park in front of the gate, as snow clearing machinery uses this space as a turn-around.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Ogigahara (扇ヶ原) – map no. NK-54-2-13-4

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).

Aspect
The main aspect skiers are exposed to on the descent and/or ascent is East. Other aspects that may also be encountered while following the route outlined on this page include: Southeast, Northeast. Therefore, keep an eye on the weather forecast a few days ahead of your trip to monitor wind, snow, and temperature. Also, since this route is in the general vicinity of the Furano area, consider looking at the Furano Avalanche Center (on Facebook). They issue sporadic observations throughout the season which may give extra insight into avalanche conditions.

Snow and
route safety

The ascent portion of this route has relatively little exposure to avalanche activity, but the decent route along the gully most certainly does. While the area doesn’t see a huge amount of snow, special care should be taken to assess the snowpack.

Higashinupukaushi-nupuri Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

C

3

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

A

20

Navigation

D

0

Totals

59/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy).  More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Higashinupukaushi-nupuri
Onsen nearby

You’ll be close-ish to the Lake Shikaribetsu Onsen area, about 30 minutes drive from Nupuka-no-sato. The Shikaribetsu Kohan Onsen Hotel Fusui 然別湖畔温泉ホテル風水 (location, 1000yen) has outdoor baths with good views of the frozen snow-covered lake. The onsen is open to day visitors from noon till 5pm daily. If you’re up for an adventure, the Shikaribetsu Gorge wild onsen are a 45 minute drive + 15 minute snowshoe away (see full details on the pools here, and access insight here).

Extra Resources

HokkaiCamp.com has some photos of the route from 2017 which depict the route in much more favourable conditions, here.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other areas of Central Hokkaido together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Takao Miyashita. He’s a born-and-bred Hokkaido based guide. From a young age he cut his teeth on peaks around Tokachi-dake, Asahi-dake, Sandan-yama and others. He has multiple 6,000m-plus peak international expeditions under his belt (including a ski descent from 7,400m on Mt. Manaslu, Nepal). He is one of the leading senior figures in the local guiding and outdoor associations here in Hokkaido and Japan. 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

The only reason we were over here in the Tokachi region was to go on a momonga flying squirrel tour. But since we were in the area, we figured we’d check out some of the known ski touring options. The first we checked out was the lovely Karikachi-yama on our way over the Karikachi Pass.

Today, after spending the night in the hotel next to Lake Shikaribetsu, we nipped over to Higashinupukaushi-nupuri. It had been a lovely stay in Lake Shikaribetsu – the frozen lake ice festival was in full (albeit less tourist-packed) swing, and it was nice to see the lake in deep winter. The last time we were there was with two canoes and full camping gear.

We made the short 30 minute drive from Lake Shikaribetsu on the Sunday morning, and arrived in the Nupuka-no-sato area at around 9am. We first drove all the way to the end of the snow clearing, at the closed gate on Route 661, but it wasn’t very clear where we could park the car and be out of the way of traffic (not that there were many vehicles around). A close study of the topomap however suggested that it would actually be better to sacrifice 20m or so of elevation and just park in the large Nupuka-no-sato carpark.

It was a beautiful blue sky day. A bit hazy in the distance, but not a breath of wind.

Our objective stood clear in the distance.

Looking closely, we could clearly see a zigzagging uptrack to the right of the main gully, and two clear sets of downhill tracks in the gully itself. From the carpark, there were a couple of day-old skin tracks heading in the direction of the mountain. The place felt deserted, but we clearly weren’t the only ones to focus on Higashinupukaushi-nupuri this weekend.

We set off, and started to make our way towards the mountain across the flat-lands. The snow was typical Tokachi plains snow. Old. Barely-there. In places we were punching down into the long grass below. Around here, you come for the views and expansive grandeur, rather than the blower pow.

Between the carpark and the mountain we had to step over a couple of fences and step carefully over the road.

Once across the large field adjacent to the woods, we found ourselves in a pleasant old-growth forest. We were, after all, now in Daisetsuzan National Park. The snow was old and rotten though. There was hardly any resistance as we punched down through the 20cm or so of snow to the undergrowth below. We soon found the old uptrack, and finally had an easy ride up the eastern face to the narrow ridge at around 1000m. Haidee set a cracking pace, as I lagged behind with unusually heavy legs. It had been a long and tiring academic year of online lectures, and the body seemed to be feeling it.

The photos bear testament to the scant snow cover around here. This is mid-February. Despite the low snow though, Tokachi is always a refreshing place to ski tour. There’s a wide open vibe here. Blue skies. Cows. The fragrant stench of dung and fermented hay.

Before long, we were at the final narrow ridge to the summit. We wasted some breath here and then cursing the gallant folk from the previous day and their steep skin track. But at least it allowed us some reprieve from the unconsolidated snow on either side of said skin track.

On the southern aspect face of the main gully, the snow was heating up fast. We ventured out onto the southern aspects a couple of times to see what was going on, and managed to set off a couple of very small wet slides, perhaps about 5-10cm deep. The northern aspect of the east-facing fully looked much colder, however, so we’d at least have that as an option on the descent. Worse come to worst, we could always brave the thick-with-trees ascent route for the descent.

The summit came soon enough, and we basked in the wide open views. The haze of the day prevented us any views of the distant ocean. At the summit, there were plenty of snowshoe tracks, all coming from the western side of the mountain – that’s where the summer trail approaches the summit from.

Soon we had to face the descent.

It was survival skiing at its best.

Icy breakable crust on the northern aspect slopes of the gully, wet-slide-ish on the southern aspects, and a bit of both in between.

Adding to all that was the base-less corn. Corn snow is nice. But only when it has a base to support it. Here, any corn would happily dissipate into nothing and leave the skis sliding along sasa bamboo grass.

Takahashi-san from HokkaiCamp.com had skied this route in 2017, and remarked how lucky they were to encounter the route in decent conditions.

Looks like it wasn’t our lucky day. Which is a pity, because in good conditions, this gully would be spectacular skiing.

We managed to get down with only one mildly sprained ankle. Haidee took a fall (almost losing her ski in the process), and strained her foot. It would plague her for the next few weeks.

Strangely enough, this is a peak that I’d like to get back to some time. In better conditions. Revenge will be sweet….hopefully.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

See More Like this

Hokkaido Wilds Foundation

We’ve got affiliate links on HokkaidoWilds.org to help fund the Hokkaido Wilds foundation.

The Foundation gets a small commission on sales from affiliate links, but we only link to stuff we think is worth checking out for people keen on the outdoors in Hokkaido and Japan.

The Hokkaido Wilds Foundation is a fund where 100% of funds are donated to Hokkaido volunteer groups involved in sustainable, safe, and responsible access to the Hokkaido outdoors.

Learn more here

ADVANCED FILTERS

Filter by location

About Filters

REGION: The general mountain/geographical region the route is in.

BEST MONTH(S): Time of year a route is suited to visiting. Some pop all season, some are more limited.

DIFFICULTY: How strenuous a route is, and how technical it is. Full details here.

FREERIDE/SKITOUR: Very subjective, but is a route more-of-a-walk-than-a-ski or the other way around? Some routes are all about the screaming downhill (freeride), some are more about the hunt for a peak or nice forest (ski-tour). Some are in between. 

MAIN ASPECT: Which cardinal direction the primary consequential slope is facing, that you might encounter on the route. More details here.

ROUTE TAGS: An eclectic picking of other categories that routes might belong to.

SEARCH BY LOCATION: You can find routes near your current location – just click on the crosshairs (). You may need to give permission to HokkaidoWilds.org to know your GPS location (don’t worry, we won’t track you). Or, type in a destination, such as Niseko or Sapporo or Asahikawa etc.

Please let us know how we can make it easier to narrow down your search. Contact Rob at [email protected] with your suggestions.

Higashinupukaushi-nupuri Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

C

3

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

A

20

Navigation

D

0

Totals

59/100

GRADES range from A (very difficult) to D (easy). Hazards include exposure to avalanche and fall risk. More details here. Rating rubric adapted from Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook 北海道雪山ガイド.