It was May Day, and the snow was getting decidedly thin in the hills around Sapporo. There wasn’t much at the car park by the tunnel either, and we did briefly wonder if we were wasting our time. But it was a beautiful sunny day and after linking patches of snow through the sasa dwarf bamboo we came out onto the broad ridge, which still had plenty of snow cover. From here it was a very pleasant skin up through trees and on to more open terrain with beautiful views all around.
We left our skis at the start of the final narrow ridge. Jeff strode off confidently along the first few meters then promptly fell into a waist deep hole between the haimatsu dwarf pines. After he clambered out awkwardly we continued on, watching our footing a bit more carefully now. The snow was soft and there was no cornice, so no danger of slipping off the ridge itself. Soon we were enjoying the panorama from the summit – Lake Toya in one direction and Lake Shikotsu the other, with Yoteizan standing proudly to the northwest. Closer still the white pyramid of Tokushunbetsu-yama stood sentinel at the end of the connecting ridge, and we could make out three snowshoers on the saddle below.
Skiing down, however, was a definite anticlimax. The snow was soft, slushy and slow. With little gradient to aid progress it was even difficult to get turns in most of the way down. Near the bottom the sasa joined in the fun by grabbing at our skis and tipping us over. The final stretch to the car park involved a couple of hundred meters of fighting our way through tangled thickets of the dreaded stuff. Nevertheless, enjoying our post-exertion soak in the steaming outside bath at Horohoroso onsen, we agreed that despite the rubbish skiing it had definitely been worth it for the high country atmosphere and wonderful views.