Posted on Jan 24, 2016
105 7

Posted on Jan 24, 2016

105 7
Reading time: 3 min
6km

Distance

4 hours

Time

731m

Ascent

1748m

Highest point

7/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Dec-May

Best season

Mt. Sandan (三段山, 1,748m) is a classic staple for backcountry skiing in the Tokachi Ranges, and is renowned for its powder snow. The route starts and ends on an old ski area, so even the lower reaches on the downhill allow for fun tree-free runs. The route is accessed from the hopelessly amazing Hakuginso Lodge - a mountain lodge boasting to be the "mecca of powder" with everything you could possibly want: onsen hotsprings, a large communal kitchen, a large basement drying room, friendly staff, and only 2,750yen a night. On a clear day you'll be able to see across to the Furano Plains and Mashike Ranges.

Last updated Oct 24, 2018

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Mt. Sandan sits as advance guard to the mighty Mt. Tokachi, Mt. Kamifurano, and Mt. Furano in the Tokachi Ranges, part of the Diasetsu mountain range in central Hokkaido. The route starts from the excellent Hakuginso Lodge (details here), which is located here. Hakuginso Lodge is about a 40 minute drive northeast from central Furano.

General notes

This is one of those must-do peaks in the Tokachi Ranges, certainly before attempting to take on the higher-altitude Mt. Tokachi or other peaks further up in the ranges. It gives an excellent lay of the land from the summit, and should help anyone spending some time in the area to gather their bearings.

Hut

Hakuginso Lodge (full details here)

Hakuginso Lodge (吹上温泉保養センター白銀荘, 1,020m) is a beautiful lodge perfectly situated for access to a number of excellent ski touring and hiking routes in the Tokachi region of the Daisetsu National Park. As a base for backcountry ski touring, it is second to none. Accessible by car, and already at just over 1,000m in altitude, the lodge has some of the driest powder snow in Hokkaido on its doorstep. The onsen at the lodge and just down the road are also second to none. All this for a paltry 2,600yen (2,750yen in the winter) a night.

Read more about the Hakuginso Lodge here.

Route markers

This route is not marked.

Route Timing

Up | 3hrs
Down | 1hrs

Transport

Public transport:

From JR Kami-Furano Train Station, there is a bus, run by the Kami-Furano Town Bus company, that runs to the Hakuginso Lodge. You’ll want to catch the tokachidake-onsen-yuki (十勝岳温泉行き) bus from the train station and get off at the Hakuginso bus stop (白銀荘). As of March 2017, there were three buses per day going to the lodge (08:52, 12;49, 16:31) and three returning (10:01, 13:51, 17:40). The fare is around 500yen one way, and it takes around 30 minutes.

By car: 

Hakuginso Lodge (location) has ample parking in their carpark.

Physical maps

Official Topo Map: Tokachidake (十勝岳) – map no. NK-54-7-8-2
Official Topo Map 2: Shirogane Onsen (白金温泉) – map no. NK-54-7-8-1

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

As with any above-the-treeline winter routes in Hokkaido, this route is particularly susceptible to high winds and bone-chilling temperatures. At the lodge it is regularly below -15°C, so with windchill at Mt. Sandan’s peak, it will quite happily get to below -25°C. Don’t take this mountain lightly.

  • Notify the police of your backcountry plans online using Compass – instructions here.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Mt. Sandan

Onsen nearby

The Hakuginso Lodge is an onsen – a very nice one at that. They charge 600yen for day visitors. You can stay overnight for just under 3,000yen (see details here). 10 minutes walk down the road from the lodge is the natural, free, mixed-gender Fukiage Onsen (location). The Ryounkaku Onsen (location – 600yen per person – accessible by same bus that gets you to Hakuginso Lodge) has an incredible view, and they also offer lunch.

Extra Resources
  • See the write-up (in Japanese) in the Hokkaido Yuki-yama Guide (ISBN: 978-4894538047) on pp. 368-371.

Photo Gallery

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes
Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

This mountain gets its name from the fact that from the Mt. Tokachi Observatory (here), it looks like it has three steps (三段 = san-dan = three steps).However, if one includes the step amongst the trees, there’s actually a total of four steep sections on this mountain. Due to the altitude, if the conditions are right, it is possible to enjoy skiing on powder snow that feels as though you’re skiing on a cloud. Mind you, it’s best only to go beyond the treeline in good visibility conditions. On the climb up you can see Mt. Furano and Mt. Asahi-dake in the distance, and from the summit the view of mountains such as Mt. Kamihorokametoku is amazing. It is possible to drive to the trailhead at Hakugindo Lodge.

Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide (2015), p. 368.

Dirk looked at me with wide eyes. “You have your PhD defense on Monday, and you want to go ski touring in the weekend?” But how could I not. The boys from France would be nearby, and they were up for exploring. And what can be better to take one’s mind off a presentation than a solid weekend of backcountry skiing, in Hokkaido’s powder mecca? So we decided to head further afield this past weekend, to the Tokachi mountain range, a 2-hour drive east from the Sapporo area.

Haidee, Dirk and I had stayed in the amazing Hakuginso mountain lodge the night before. In my excitement to experience what the Hokkaido Yuki-yama guidebook (ISBN 978-4-89453-804-7) calls the ‘Holy place of powder snow’, I put my skis and skins on and went for a near-full-moon hike up from the lodge at around 9pm. The clear sky allowed the moon to light up the landscape perfectly, including the majestic Mt. Maetokachi. Vapor poured from its active craters.

On the Sunday morning, the boys from France (Mathieu, Vincent and Angelo) arrived in time for skins-on at 7am. It was still only just getting light. Overcast and with a light snow falling, it was a subdued start to the day. “Don’t worry,” Mathieu beamed. “At the top, voila!” He gestured with his hands clouds parting, giving us a massive view over the surrounding landscape. The weather forecast suggested his positive attitude was not misplaced. I was hopeful too.

The route up Mt. Sandan-yama starts on a long-defunct Japanese government-run skifield, just above the Hakuginso lodge. Haidee joined us on snowshoes for a few hundred meters before heading back to the lodge to do some PhD work. We said our farewells and veered west up a western branch of the skifield, up onto the main ridge that would take us up to the summit of Mt. Sandanyama.

It was still early, and it showed in our quiet trudge up the slope. We were all lost in our own thoughts, caught up in the simple bliss of putting one foot in front of the other, slowly peeling back the groggy morning fog of mind. Before long, however, we were out of the lee of the ridge, and were shaken awake by a stiff, biting cold wind that pinched at my cheeks. Already at 1,400m in altitude, I was approaching the highest I’d been on a backcountry trip in winter in Hokkaido. I pulled out a balaclava and yanked it on, and enjoyed a reprieve from the wind.

I’ve quickly found that ski-touring is a very meditative activity. I think it has something to do with the tracks that skis leave in the snow. In particular if I’m following in already-made tracks (I did a lot of this on this trip – thanks Mathieu and Vincent!), the slide-step-slide movement is rhythmic, slowly but surely making my towards the destination. All surrounded by a beautiful world of cold and white.

After what felt like minutes, but was actually just over two hours, we arrived at the top of Mt. Sandan-yama. And, true to Mathieu’s enthusiastic positivism, the skies cleared soon after. While the plains of Furano were still in cloud to the north, the majestic Mt. Tokachi and surrounding peaks to the south showed us their full glory. I felt small and insignificant. And so too did Mathieu, who sprinted along the ridge to the south of Sandan-yama’s peak, in order to see if there was a possible route from where we were up to the summit of Mt. Tokachi, as an extension to our current trip. “It is only 9am, and the weather is stable,” he argued.

Mathieu arrived back 10 minutes later, having deduced that there was likely to be a route, but it would be much further than we had food or pre-planning for. We scoffed down some food and made preparations for the descent back down the way we had come.

No sooner had we started our descent, however, than we realized that it would be a challenge. Massive icy clumps lay hidden under soft powder snow, as did low-lying pines. We all started off with gusto…But one by one we came foul of the invisible traps under the snow. No one was hurt, but it dampened the free-flying feeling of hurtling down the hill.

We descended most of the way down Mt. Sandan-yama, and it was only 10am. So the decision was made to traverse across a couple of gullies to a track heading up Mt. Maetokachi. With all the time in the world, we would try to make it two summits in one morning.

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.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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

7 thoughts on “Mt. Sandan-yama and Hakuginso Lodge”

    1. Not that I know of – that lodge sees plenty of foreign guests, so I’m pretty sure they are flexible. I’ve seen foreign guests in the onsen there with tattoos.

  1. Dear Rob,
    I stumbled upon your site and the better for it!! I’ve skied Japan several years and next year (Jan 2018) am doing a Journey Into Japan trip to Ashidake and Tokkachi mountains. Post trip (14 Feb 18) I intend to stay on in Hokkaido for another 2 weeks ski bumming around.

    Your trip reports have inspired me and great food for thought. Though being alone, I am well experienced in BC trips and well equipped so feel I could safely attemp some of them alone ie the OKUTEINE HARUKA traverse.

    Well done on so much great information and photos. Regards Matt Walsh, Melbourne, Australia

    1. Hi Matt,

      I’m thinking of staying at Tokachedake Onsen/Hakuginso Onsen just after new years until the 7th of Jan, might see you there!

  2. I love this blog post – awesome. We are in the throes of planning a three week trip to Central Hokkaido and we are hoping you might be happy to share some of your expereinces; tips for great places to tour etc. I followed the link to Robert Thomson’s Flickr page and the shots are great, really curious about the alpine hut – Yma-no-Ie Hut near Mt. Okuteine and will google that – anything you can share with us? Other blogs or posts? Guides? yes/no? Love to hear from you!

    1. Thanks Ian! The Yama-no-Ie hut officially requires booking at Hokkaido University, but you’d be totally fine without a booking. Blog post about that trip here: http://www.14degrees.org/hokkaido-ski-touring-mt-okuteine-yama-no-ie-hut-and-mt-tsuge-sapporo-japan/. This includes a route map (for back-country skiing; the summer route is different, I think). Not sure about guides. You could try Hokkaido Nature Tours – new company, but those guys are awesome (http://www.hokkaidonaturetours.com/).

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