Posted on Mar 25, 2021
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SEW
Posted on Mar 25, 2021
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SEW
5.8km

Distance

3 hours

Time

514m

Ascent

829m

Highest point

3.5/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Feb-Mar

Best season

Nikoro-yama 仁頃山 (829m) oozes with warm affection for this mountain, poured unreservedly on visitors by the local Nikoro-yama Friendship Society that maintains the trails. In winter, there's shovels hanging on hooks next to rest areas along the main trail, for people to keep the benches clear of snow. There's elderly people in gumboots, young people in trail-running shoes, and everything in between, keeping the trail well-trodden, even in the middle of winter. You may also be greeted at the summit by an igloo, replete with serve-yourself tea (boil your water using the supplied gas burners). It's hardly a freeride world tour destination, but there's plenty of trails to explore by ski for the intrepid ski tourer happy to keep speed in check on the way down.

We visited this route on Feb 23, 2021

Last updated Apr 2, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Nikoro-yama is about 15km northwest of central Kitami City in eastern Hokkaido. Most trailheads up the mountain start here, a few hundred meters west of the end of Tomisato Lake.

General notes

You’ll likely get a few raised eyebrows if you tell any locals you’re taking your skis up Nikoro-yama. The vast majority of visitors in winter don’t even use snowshoes. Given the area’s general lack of mountains of snow, and the sheer foot traffic the main trails get, this route is better suited to walking up in your hiking boots. But after a fresh dump of snow, the decent on skis can be a bit of fun. Just be extremely cautious of walkers on the trail. In general one can see fairly far ahead, but there are a few blind corners and narrow spots – pedestrians most certainly have the right of way, so keep speed well in check on the decent.

Hut
None
Route details

Start from the large carpark about 500m west of the end of Lake Tomisato. Assuming you’re taking the central, main maintenance access road to the summit, just follow this all the way to the summit, cutting corners where it makes sense to do so. About half way up, the hiking trail joins up from the right. You’ll know you’re very near the marked summit when you pass three large radio tower buildings. The summit is just west of these buildings, marked with a sign and a bell. Either carefully (and in a controlled manner) descent the way you came, or take one of the other less travelled marked routes. Did we mention you should always give way to pedestrians?

Route Timing
Up | 2hrs
Down | 0.5hrs

Expect just over two hours on the ascent, and about 30 minutes or less on the descent, depending on how busy the trail is. If the main central access road is busy on the way up, we’d recommend skiers consider taking one of the less traveled alternate routes on the descent.

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to this route.

By car:

There’s plenty of parking either right at the trailhead here, or about 700m east of the trailhead, here, next to the lake.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Hanazono (花園) – map no. NK-54-1-5-2

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 South. Other aspects that may also be encountered while following the route outlined on this page include: East, West. Therefore, keep an eye on the weather forecast a few days ahead of your trip to monitor wind, snow, and temperature. Unfortunately there are no avalanche information services for recreational backcountry users in this immediate area (but see the JAN reports and Furano Avalanche Center for sporadic observations eslewhere in Hokkaido).

Snow and
route safety

The main hazard on this route is pedestrians on the descent. Not many people ski up or down this mountain, so it’s really important to ensure you’re in control at all times, and skiing as slowly as possible past people on the descent – this is as much a courtesy as it is a safety consideration. Hikers may not appreciate skiers zipping past them at great speeds.

Nikoro-yama (Kitami City) Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

C

3

Hazards

D

0

Navigation

D

0

Totals

33/100

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 Nikoro-yama
Onsen nearby

You’ll have to return to Kitami City for a soak. Try Nonda-no-yu のんだの湯 (location, 500yen) – they have large outdoor baths.

Extra Resources

Nikoro-yama Friendship Association 仁頃山愛好会 has their own extremely regularly updated website, here. If you’re lucky enough, the webmaster may be on hand to snap a couple of pictures and document your visit.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other areas of Eastern Hokkaido or Shiretoko together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Takao Miyashita. He’s a born-and-bred Hokkaido-based guide. From a young age he cut his teeth on peaks including those in far eastern Hokkaido. 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

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

We were out east visiting Gerry, and had already ticked off a couple of well-known established ski touring routes on the edge of the Akan-Mashu National Park. Today we had to make the short 2 hour drive to Aibetsu to take part in a first aid course. But we had the whole morning to kill. We were all keen for a ski somewhere, but it had to be near Kitami City. The weather wasn’t great either, so we were looking for something low altitude and non-committing.

The solution came in the form of the hopelessly local Nikoro-yama.

According to Yamareco.com, thousands of people climb Nikoro-yama in the winter every year. But only a few do it on skis and/or snowboards. But the fact that a few do, sometimes, do it on skis, was enough for us to give it a go too.

It all felt a bit overkill to be lugging full alpine ski touring gear – including beacons and emergency gear in our backcountry packs – up a mountain where we were passing locals in gym shoes, a water bottle in their hand, and a jacket tied around their waist.

As we passed one elderly gentleman, he said in a surprised tone, “wow, that’s quite some gear you’ve got!”

About 20 minutes into the hike up, I decided we needed a bit more of a challenge, so we took a steep ‘shortcut’ to cut off some of the switchbacks in the road we were on. It was a struggle for some in the team, so we abandoned this idea part way up, escaping to the relative ease of the road.

As we approached the summit, the weather came in, and we got snow flurries and low clouds. While this put a damper on the view, it didn’t diminish the amazing hospitality of the mountain association that manages the trails.

“I built this igloo,” an elderly gentleman announced with pride at the summit. “What do you want? Tea or sweetened rice milk?”

He was quite insistent that we have hot drink before heading down. We could hardly refuse.

The descent down the central access road was manageable. The snow was ever so slightly breakable crust, which put a damper on things slightly. Given the amount of snow that falls in this area though, really we were happy with what we got. 

Back at the trailhead, the webmaster for the official Nikoro-yama website happened to be there, snapping pictures of everyone and anyone who came down the trail. He let us know a few days later that he’d made mention of our escapades on the mountain – check it out here.

All in all a great way to spend an otherwise average-weather morning in Kitami!

Comments | Queries | Reports

Done this route to Nikoro-yama, or others nearby? Thinking of doing it? Please post any feedback, reports, or queries here. Thanks!

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Nikoro-yama (Kitami City) Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

C

3

Hazards

D

0

Navigation

D

0

Totals

33/100

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.