The Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide still had a few routes we’d not been to in the Niseko area, so I rounded up some friends to check out a couple more on Saturday and Sunday. First up was the beginner-friendly Nishikonbu-dake. My online research had told me that while it was possible to go all the way to the summit of Konbu-dake from Nishikonbu-dake, that would be a solid 7-hour journey, replete with the last section on foot, possibly with crampons. We decided to leave that for another time.
Arriving at the trailhead, there were already four cars parked up. Two were parked haphazardly in a small snow-cleared parking area, and another two parked hard up against the snow verge. Being the responsible ski-touring Hokkaido residents that we are, we got our shovels out and carved out about another 1.5m or so into the snow bank, in order to get our (or, more specifically, Chris’s) wider-than-most adventure wagon off the side of the road as much as possible.
We were surprised to see so many people at the trailhead. One of the occupants of one of the other cars seemed surprised to see us there too. “Why are you here at such a minor mountain?” the middle-aged woman asked whimsically.
“It’s in the guidebook,” I answered. Another reason we were here rather than elsewhere, was because a recent avalanche bulletin for the Niseko region had suggested high avalanche danger. This route, with its very low-angle terrain, was a good choice for such a day.
We clambered up onto the snowfield and got on our way. “Definitely a walk on skis,” we remarked as we looked towards the forest far in the distance across the field. It was a gently ascending field, so it looked like it would be a fun, straight-line ski on the way down.
Soon we arrived at the forested slopes. We overtook an older couple on skis, and we could see a snowshoer in the distance making his way up the field. This was a Saturday, but this did seem to be a popular route.
It didn’t feel like very much time at all before we were at the summit. Great expansive views stretched to the south across the coast. Unfortunately Konbu-dake was shrouded in thick cloud. One of these days we vowed to make the 3-hour or so return trip to the Konbu-dake summit.
The ski down was a blast. It goes without saying that this route is not steep. It’s suited to long, soulful carving turns through trees. For the excitable, there are knobs and bumps to keep things exciting. Straight-lining it down the field is a blast. Skis become magic carpets, transporting the rider down the slope.
“I’d love to do that once over,” said Geraldine, visibly buzzing. “But that climb was long!”
She was right. The descent had been an easy blast, but the route was hardly suited to lapping – it was a long and gradual approach.