Posted on Mar 23, 2023
0
Posted on Mar 23, 2023
0 0
8km

Distance

4 hours

Time

647m

Ascent

1323m

Highest point

6.5/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Jan-Feb

Best season

GPX

KML

TOPO

GSI

Karifuri-dake 狩振岳 (1323m) is an inconspicuously tall peak sitting to the southeast of the sprawling Tomamu ski resort in the northern Hidaka Range. Deep, gorgeous powder settles on the eastern aspects of this peak, in the lee of the prevailing north-westerlies. This route requires skiers to commit to climbing back up to the ridge to exit the zone, but the effort is more than worth it. Set a good uptrack, and skiers can pump out at least a few laps before making the exit. Expect old-growth forest and deeper-than-deep powder. For those adverse to climbing, there's also the option of catskiing nearby.

We visited this route on Feb 23, 2023

The crew: Timbah and Tim

Topomap

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Karifuri-dake sits about 9km southeast of the sprawling Tomamu ski resort in north of the Hidaka Range. This route ascends to the peak from the west, from the small farming settlement of Kami-tomamu.

General notes

If anyone has heard of Karifuri-dake, it will be in relation to Tomamu’s cat-skiing operation in the area. The cat-skiing operation accesses a different zone than the actual Karifuri-dake proper; they mainly access the east-aspect slopes below Soshubetsu-dake (双珠別岳, 1383m), about 2.5km southeast of the Karifuri-dake summit (Soshubetsu-dake is not named on Japan government maps). The cat-ski operation accesses the head of the Ruomanshisorapuchi River valley (around here) via a gated road (Kushinai Dai-ni Gate 串内第2ゲート, location). As such, the route described here does not encroach on that cat ski zone.

  • Parking: As mentioned below, the trailhead for this route is nestled deep in a quiet farming community. There’s no dedicated parking in the trailhead vicinity. Be wary, especially after heavy snowfall, that snowplows will need the entire width of the road – park judiciously, allowing space for traffic to pass and snowplows to turn around (avoid parking in front of large snow piles).
Hut
None
Route details

From the end of the snow-clearing around here, head southeast along a narrow snowed-in road. Follow this to its terminus – a large clearing – and then gain the ridge, crossing under high-tension power lines after a short climb through the forest. Keep following this ridge southeast, past the 1038m point, until you hit the 1233m peak. Note that this ascent ridge can be corniced on the climber’s left side, and somewhat wind-scoured on the climber’s right. Once on the summit ridge, you’ll drop a little from the 1233m peak as you cross the saddle and climb the final 100m or so to the Karifuri-dake peak proper at 1323m.

Transition and ski the first lap down the north aspect slope about 150m into the wide gully. Climb back to the northern ridge towards the 1209m peak. Note that the northern ridge here can be heavily corniced on the east side of the ridge. Drop the eastern aspect from the northern ridge for a very pleasant 300m or so of vertical drop down to the gully. If you’ve got it in you, re-use your uptrack for another lap, this time a little further north along the ridge.

The return to the trailhead requires climbing back up to near the Karifuri-dake summit, and essentially following your nose back to the saddle between the summit and the 1233m point on the map. Generally, the western aspects on Karifuri-dake can be dense with bush, particularly in the upper 200m or so around the treeline. Dropping down from the saddle in a descent/traverse northwest can open up some relatively open skiable pitches.

Route Timing
Up | 1.5hrs
Down | 0.5hrs

The timing here only applies to the ascent/descent to the summit from the trailhead. We happily spent 7 hours in the area, lapping to our hearts content, until our legs could no longer face the prospect of another climb.

Transport

Public transport:

There’s no public transport to this route.

By car:

This route has no dedicated parking. Furthermore, the trailhead is at the end of the snow-clearing in a quiet farming community – parking on the road, particularly after heavy snowfall (and before community snow-plows have come through), will get in the way of daily activities in the area. Be sensitive and considerate. This is a trailhead where you should assume you need to spend 20 minutes clearing snow to get your vehicle off the side of the road as much as possible. After heavy snowfall, avoid parking in front of convenient-looking cleared areas in front of large snow piles. These areas are not car parks – they’re areas where snowplows push snow when clearing roads.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Kamitomamu (上トマム) – map no. NK-54-8-6-2

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 . 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

This route requires skiers to traverse an alpine ridge, and the northeastern slopes require skiers to drop down into areas that require a hefty climb to get back out of in order to return to the trailhead. Ensure that everyone in your party has it in them to commit to another 300m+ vertical of deep-snow trail breaking after dropping down the eastern/northern aspects. Also note that once on the eastern/northern aspects below the summit, you’ll be relatively insulated/sheltered from the prevailing northwestern weather. Keep an eye on what the weather is doing near the ridges, as it can get very inhospitable very quickly for the return along the ridge.

Karifuri-dake NE Slopes Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

B

35

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

B

12

Totals

63/100

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 Karifuri-dake
Onsen nearby

If you’ve never been, the Tomamu resort Kirin no Yu 木林の湯 (location, 900yen), right in the guts of the bewilderingly colossal resort complex is very worth a visit. The outdoor baths look over a beautiful snowy-forest scene. They’re definitely the most incongruous onsen baths we’ve ever been to in Hokkaido. You walk past a full Olympic-sized swimming pool to get to them. And park next to lodges where visitors can pay thousands of dollars per night to stay. All of this in an area where the nearest convenience store is a 30-40 minute drive away. Tomamu is an enigma…

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other areas of the Hidaka Range together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Takao Miyashita. He’s a born-and-bred Hokkaido based guide, with IFMGA and JMGA certification. From a young age he cut his teeth on peaks in Hokkaido, including the rugged Hidaka Range. 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

John Morrell from Alpine Backcountry has a lodge at the foot of Karifuri-dake, so consider talking to him also if you’re keen to accompany a guide in the area. Tomamu resort offers cat skiing in the area also.

Support us

Like this content? Buy the HokkaidoWilds.org team a coffee. 50% of tips go to the Hokkaido Wilds Foundation.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

By Timbah Bell (photos by Rob Thomson)

I learned about Karifuri-dake’s existence just twelve hours before meeting at the trailhead. There weren’t any significant storms hitting Hokkaido for the emperor’s birthday (a February mid-week national holiday), so Tim, Rob, and I decided to plan a tour in my “backyard”, here near Shimukappu.

I’ve got a list of local mountains I want to explore, but I haven’t made much time to tour in the Shimukappu area since I arrived a year and a half ago. There’s usually a far-off mountain with a fresh dump beckoning to us. But, the forecast for a moderate breeze from the west meant a skiable lee slope with as much fresh snow as anywhere, which left us with a simple decision.

Plus, Rob blew my mind when he shared that Karifuri-dake is where Hoshino Resorts runs a cat skiing operation. Wait, whatttttt?!?!?! The existence of paying customers indicated an abundance of skiable slopes if we were game for the lengthy approach (we always are!). I was learning so much about the Shimukappu Township, and it was time to research the mountain myself. Rob had a GPS track for the tour, so I focused on reading up as much as I could about Karifuri-dake (in the limited time I had before the trip).

The first English resource my search turned up was a heli-skiing incident report from 2013 (PDF here | HokkaidoWilds.org backup). The pilot caught one of the helicopter’s landing skids on a small ground pine, lost control, and crashed. No one was injured and it was just the beginning of the entertaining reading. I then turned to John Morrell, a legendary Australian mountain guide who now runs a ski lodge in Tomamu. His arrival in the early 80s and his ski shop in Furano are often credited with opening Central Hokkaido to foreigners.

From JTSB Report
From JTSB Report

Rob had arrived to my place in Shimukappu that night, ahead of an early start the next morning. We had gotten caught up in the excitement of planning for the next day when we realized that it was past our bedtime. I started a fresh loaf in the bread maker for lunch (unwittingly, I tested Rob’s ability to sleep through a commotion), and we said good night.

After a smoothie breakfast and making banana-nut butter sandwiches for lunch, Rob and I went to the trailhead to meet Tim just after 7. The parking is limited and we’d be in the way if snow removal efforts were underway, so discussing that consumed us while we packed our bags and put our skins on.

The clouds were high and we had a beautiful view to the northwest of Tomamu Resort and Ochiai-dake; we kept moving, knowing that the forecast called for the breeze to increase and the clouds to move significantly lower throughout the day. Our route started us on a farm road through fields before transitioning to a forestry road as we climbed up the base of the mountain.

As we transitioned into the forest, we noticed there were many downed trees and it was a peaceful, mixed forest to be hiking through. Our approach to the mountain’s western aspect had us cross under a high-voltage transmission line before the slope increased as we gained the ridge and reached the summit. The track Rob had found on Yamareco.com followed the ridge north and skied the backside and the mountain’s northern and eastern aspect. We were interested in seeing the possible slopes and taking a run.

We chose our first spot to drop in and had a sweet 150ish-meter ski. It was good, albeit short.

We transitioned to climbing mode and broke trail through deep snow back up to the summit ridge for another run.

This time, we decided to continue down through a dense thicket of shirakaba to see if it was possible to get any good turns lower down. There was hooting and hollering as Rob broke through to a wide-open slope with towering, gnarled shirakaba. We got to the bottom, excited that we had discovered an almost equal length run to the first.

We skinned up for two more runs before deciding to call it. We were tired, but most importantly, Rob had an online meeting to get to at 5. Each of our runs had moved us farther north down the ridge, and we were thoroughly impressed by the widely spaced trees and the length of the runs. We looked forward to returning, but for today the clouds had socked in the summit, and the wind had picked up, making it the right time to get to the onsen and a motsunabe feast at my apartment.

We made our way back to just below the summit, ripped our skins, and traversed to where we could ski down the western aspect. The exit was nothing special in terms of skiing, but it’s always fun to be bouncing around snowy woods. We all agreed that Karifuri-dake had lots to enjoy for folks willing to put in the effort on the approach. At the trailhead we said bye to Tim and got back to my apartment in time for Rob’s meeting.

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Karifuri-dake, 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 rob@hokkaidowilds.org with your suggestions.

Karifuri-dake NE Slopes Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

B

35

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

B

12

Totals

63/100

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.