Posted on Mar 19, 2020
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Posted on Mar 19, 2020

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Reading time: 3 min
5.8km

Distance

2.5 hours

Time

437m

Ascent

804m

Highest point

4/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Feb-Apr

Best season

Nishikonbu-dake (西昆布岳, 804m) is a diminutive western foothill at the base of the iconic Konbu-dake (昆布岳, 1045m) south of Niseko. It's a beginner backcountry skier's dream, with a broad low-angle approach. Even from the summit, the downhill is mellow, but steep enough to have a good time. The summit allows skiers inspiring views across to Oshima Peninsula and the sea in Uchiura Bay.

We visited this route on Mar 07, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Nishikonbu-dake sits on Konbu-dake’s southwestern reaches in Toyoura Town in southern Hokkaido. It’s about 45 minutes drive south from the bustling Niseko resort area. The route starts from just below a prominent rise in Prefectural Road 914, here.

General notes

This route is as it is on the can – straight forward, relatively quick, and a great route for beginners. It’s not likely to have quite enough snow on the broad field on the approach until mid- to late-February, so this is a good route to leave till early March onwards. From Nishikonbu-dake, it’s possible to summit Konbu-dake. Most people will allow at least 3 hours return to Konbu-dake from Nishikonbu-dake. Most climbers will depot skis below the final approach, and make the final, narrow-ridge approach using crampons.

Hut

None

Route details

This route is not marked. Starting at the trailhead, clamber up the snowbank to the wide, featureless field. Proceed straight up the field for about 2km, and you’ll enter an old-growth white birch forest. The route continues up along the broad ridge, skirting below a prominent (but mostly harmless) cornice near the summit. From the summit, you’ll have views of Konbu-dake to the north east, and down to the sea. Return the way you came up.

Route Timing
Up | 2hrs
Down | 1hrs

This simple up-and-back route will likely take most people just under 2 hours on the ascent, and just under one hour on the descent.

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to the trailhead.

By car: 

At the trailhead, there’s a snow-cleared spot large enough for about three cars to park side by side – park as efficiently as possible to ensure as many cars are parked off the road as possible. If this small area is full, you’ll need to spend about 15 minutes to clear an extra 1-2m in the snow off the side of the road, in order to park parallel with the road – try to get your vehicle as far to the left as possible.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Shiribeshitachigawa (後志立川) – map no. NK-54-20-8-4

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).

Snow and route safety

The main broad ridge can be disorienting in low visibility conditions. Make sure you’ve got a GPS-enabled device (such as your smartphone with a navigation app).

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Nishikonbu-dake
Onsen nearby

The onsen of choice will depend on where you’re driving to after the trip. If headed back so Sapporo on the expressway, consider dropping in to the Toyoura Onsen on the coast to the south (豊浦温泉, location, 600yen). They have a restaurant attached – their best-seller is deep fried scallops. If headed back to Niseko (or Sapporo via Nakayama Pass), try Makkari Onsen (真狩温泉, location, 500yen). Makkari Onsen also has a restaurant attached.

Extra Resources

See the write-up (in Japanese) on p. 258-261 in the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide.

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other Niseko areas together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Jun Horie. He’s a Niseko-resident guide with seven years experience advanced-level ski instructing in Austria (he speaks German as well as English and Japanese). He has also guided in New Zealand and has previously led guiding operations in Hokkaido before going independent.

Photo Gallery

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Route blurb from the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide (2015), p. 258 (translated by Hokkaido Wilds)

Situated along a sheltered southwestern ridge of Konbu-dake, Nishikonbu-dake isn’t prone to strong winter winds. This means there are plenty of good-weather opportunities to climb it. It’s also a great hill for getting panoramic views of the volcanic Uchiura Bay and the peaks of southern Hokkaido. The route is short, so time spent on the mountain is also short. However, the ridge is wide and doesn’t have many defining features. When unsure where to go, make sure to use a GPS to make sure you’re on the right track.

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.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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