Haidee and I were on our way to a momonga flying squirrel tour in a few days time in Otofuke in the Tokachi plains. So this would be a perfect opportunity to check out a peak that had piqued my interest for a while. Not only because it shared a name with the beautiful Karikachi Pass, but also because it was a relatively short route, close to a main road.
So, we left Sapporo City early in the morning to give us plenty of time on the mountain. We arrived at the trailhead at 9am, just as two skiers were arriving back to the car park. They’d set off bright and early at 6am that morning. “The snow is OK,” one of them said. “We skied the south and eastern faces, and enjoyed it, but it’s a bit crusty in places.”
According to the two skiers, they were the only ones on the mountain, so nothing was too tracked up.
By the time we got away from the car at 9:30am, the day felt like it was warming up considerably.
By the time we’d hiked up through the lower forest to the 711m point, we were down to one layer. With no wind down here, it was all feeling quite like spring weather. From our vantage point on the northern ridge, it was still quite difficult to see where the chaps before us had skied. It all looked quite wooded.
We carried on up. One thing we noticed here was the abundance of moss on the trees. A bit peculiar to us, considering how cold this area must get.
As we climbed, it became clearer to us that there was some decent skiing awaiting, should we feel up to taking advantage of the slopes. Down to the east was a large open area. We’d at least have to skirt the upper portion of it on the descent, as the ascent along the ridge was quite tightly wooded.
The views from about half way up the steeper last-spurt climb to the summit were spectacular. The remnants of the Hidaka Range to the north, then the Daisetsuzan Range even further north than that. The Furano plains a bit to the west of that. As we climbed, more and more of the surrounding landscape came into view.
This is definitely a route to shoot for on a clear-sky day.
The summit was a compact affair, with enough room for a few people to swing skins and skis around. Haidee’s sticky new skins didn’t cooperate with her for a ski-mo style transition, but she got there in the end.
The descent was first a bit of a clattery scrape down the hard-packed summit ridge, and then we found ourselves at the top of the eastern face. The tracks from the chaps ahead of us carried on around to the southern face, but we were a bit pushed for time, as we had to get ourselves to Lake Shikaribetsu in the afternoon. I looked longingly at the eastern face, but we decided not to ski directly down it either, as it would have required digging a pit to test the snowpack, and also a skin back up and out. We settled on skirting along the top of it, and then down a more mellow section of the eastern side of the mountain before cutting northwest across to our skin track.
Once back at the skin track, the way back to the trailhead was just a matter of speeding along the skin track on the flats, and then enjoying the rest of the mellow downhill through the lower forest.
For a sub-3hr backcountry route (we took a leisurely 2hr 50min), this was great fun. An awesome way to break up a long drive from Sapporo to the Tokachi plain!