I had to be in Hakodate for work on the Saturday, so Haidee and I decided to make a weekend out of it. We left Sapporo on Friday afternoon, and checked into the wonderfully gorgeous Ginkon-yu Ryokan for the night. The secluded private onsen they have scattered around their sprawling property, accessed via a swingbridge over the river, are breathtaking.
Staying there for one night blew our entire budget for the weekend in one fell swoop, so on Saturday night we stayed in the van. It was comfy as usual. We parked up at the Shikabe Michi-no-eki. We were the only ones in the car park the entire night.
Sunday morning broke with crystal clear skies. Our objective for the day stood in contrast against the sky. Couldn’t have asked for better weather for our first climb up the iconic Komagatake.
Snow cover, at least from this vantage point far below the mountain, looked good.
We’d read on the internet that we weren’t allowed to park near the very end of the snow clearing on the trailhead access road. Sure enough, there was a small plowed parking area about 100m down from the gate. It was only 7:30am, but there was already a car parked there. Footprints went away from the car and up the road. We wouldn’t be the first hikers on the mountain today.
Mercifully, the air was very cold. This was a welcome change, as the previous few days had been warm. I was concerned that our hike up Komagatake might just be one great big slosh-fest. But things were looking good.
This was Haidee’s first ski tour after getting back from three weeks in New Zealand.
As we climbed up the snowed-in road, the multiple relics of roads here and there were incongruous. Nature was clearly taking something back. We’d later find out that this was one of the locations of a large-scale holiday home development during the 1960’s and 70’s. Most of it never came to anything. If there’s anything left of it now, it’s derelict buildings, and a quiet old holiday home village with a few occupied cabins here and there.
Haidee was setting a cracking pace, and before long we’d made it to the summer trailhead. By this time, we’d taken a few breaks, each time being overtaken by a couple of other skiers and boarders. We’d then overtake them as they were taking breaks.
“This is my first time ever doing backcountry,” a solo woman climber said to us.
I complimented her on her choice of weather and objective. Such a relaxing climb on skis!
Here and there, the craggy outcrop of the summit proper would show itself above the now thinning trees.
Just as Haidee was starting to make noises along the lines of ‘are we there yet?’ we emerged on top of the Uma-no-se ridge. A stiff cold wind was blowing across the plateau. We wandered a bit further towards the summit proper across the plateau (in defiance of the sign) before making a retreat back to the ridge.
We weren’t nearly equipped enough for any sort of summit attempt, so we decided to call it a day and try to enjoy the descent before things warmed up too much.
The descent was…variable.
Skiing the wide summer trail was nice in the sense that there weren’t any trees. But there was a season’s worth of tracks to contend with.
Skiing in the low trees either side of the summer trail was good here and there for some untracked turns on chalky spring snow. But the trees would always end up tight again.
And here and there, sharks were lurking.
But the views were good, and the skiing good enough to keep smiles on faces.
From the summer trailhead we were back onto the snowed-in summer access road. But even this was fast enough. Here and there we needed to skate a little, but the snow was still cold enough to keep things quick.
On the way back to Sapporo, we stopped and I took some snaps of Komagatake’s northern side. Probably best to assume most of this is only a thin white paint of snow.
Overall though, despite this peak not being anything like a Niseko Range 14m+ snowfall peak, I do feel the urge to visit Komagatake again in the winter. There’s something about it that makes it such a special place! Almost feels like Honshu. Sort of.