Kimobetsu-dake is one of our favourite hills around Sapporo, with its open summit and fine powder slopes. Many times we have stood on the top and looked north along the long ridge to Naka-dake and the humped white whaleback of Muine-yama. Jeff in particular had been wanting to do this traverse for years; it was only the transport logistics that had put us off. But somehow Jeff worked some domestic magic (I didn’t ask the price) and his wife kindly agreed to drop us off early at the trailhead and pick us up in the afternoon at the other end.
It was Easter Sunday, and a flawlessly beautiful spring day. The snow was firm and the skinning easy; the 560m ascent up to Senshakukochi seemed almost effortless. As the ridge opened out we reveled in the view of the postcard-picture-perfect snowy cone of Yotei-zan. We continued along the easy traverse through widely spaced birches, bypassed the cornice at Umanose, then pulled up onto the long summit ridge of Muine.
The drop off the south end of the summit ridge was initially a bit icy with occasional haimatsu dwarf pine branches poking through, so we slid down a short way before removing our skins. The descent to the broad saddle below provided some lovely steep swooping turns on good spring snow then a run out as far as possible before coming to a halt. The incline ahead of us to Naka-dake was gentle and the snow firm so we decided to walk up as the tip connector on one of Jeff’s skins looked like it was about to break. It was a bit of a plod but the rocky tor of Naka-dake made a perfect place for a spot of lunch in the sun.
The ridge from here gave an easy angled descent over some minor ups and downs. The terrain was open so it was easy to choose lines to get some good turns in and then traverse back across, and another easy short boot pack brought us to the intervening 1258m peak. At one point we came close to the cornice on the west side and through a break saw what looked like a steep and gnarly route down, though from our current viewpoint we could not tell if it ended in crags. A little further on we looked back and saw the whole slope and realized it could indeed be done. Next time.
Another good descent and a final boot pack led to Kimobetsu-dake. We looked back one last time over to Muine in the distance. Then we were back on familiar ground as we skied down to the trailhead, taking our time and savouring the last turns of the season on the perfect slope above the power line. All that remained was the last stretch back to the trailhead where our pick up was already waiting for us. Completing the traverse had been satisfying, the sun had shone all day and we’d only met two other people – a perfect way to finish the season.