Nitonupuri Southeast Face

ニトヌプリ | Nidom-nupuri

Posted on May 8, 2022
0
SES
Posted on May 8, 2022
0 0
SES
3.5km

Distance

3 hours

Time

416m

Ascent

1076m

Highest point

5/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Dec-Mar

Best season

The southeast face of Nitonupuri ニトヌプリ (1080m) is a steeper, more complex zone than most on this popular Niseko backcountry peak. Mounds, natural kickers, and inviting drops await those who make the longer, steeper trek along the deep southeast gully. As with any mission to the twin peaks of Nitonupuri, the views from the false peak (1076m) here are inspiring. Chisenupuri's eastern faces beg for attention, as does the volcanic peaks of Iwaonupuri and Niseko Annupuri.

We visited this route on Feb 11, 2022

The crew: HaideeSaokaTim, Madoka, Alex, Tom.

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Nitonupuri sits in the heart of the Niseko range, between the obvious conical peak of Chisenupuri to the west, and Iwaonupuri to the east.  It is probably the busiest of the region’s ski touring spots, and the trailhead will usually be obvious for the number of cars parked there on any given morning. The trailhead is at the Yusato Gate the which closes route 66 for winter; about 800m drive up the road from Chisenupuri village.

General notes

This SE aspect of Nitonupuri is one of the less-visited aspects on this very popular backcountry peak in the Niseko Range. This may be due to the steep-sided gully that constitutes access to the SE face. The terrain on this face is also a little more complex than the SE and W aspects of the peak. Knolls, bumps, small bluffs, and a compact valley floor all make for much less inviting prospects in all but the most stable of snowpack conditions. Approach this route with the utmost care and caution.

Hut
None
Route details

Start at the end of the snow clearing on Route 66, and from the road clamber up the 2-3m high snow walls to the snow above you. Head northeast for 200m along the snowed in Route 66 before veering right (east southeast) along the deep gully below Nitonupuri’s southern face. This is classic terrain-trap sort of topography, so would be a bad place to be in anything but the most stable snowpack conditions. Either take a long climbing traverse up to the southerly ‘nose,’ or keep skinning above the gorge floor ESE towards the base of the SE face proper. You’ll hit the treeline quite soon, at around 950m, and from there skiers will be exposed to the elements. This SE side of Nitonupuri’s treeless peak is subject to more wind-loading than other aspects, so particular care should be taken above the treeline.

From the false summit, bask in the views of the Japan Sea, Chisenupuri to the west, Iwaonupuri and Niseko Annupuri to the east. A conservative descent would see skiers ski close to the southern nose. A more dynamic run can be had by dropping down the steep SE face. From the false peak, this SE run is first in the alpine, then beyond a small plateau, there is excellent, playful skiing to be had with some small drops and jumps on the way down to the valley floor.

On the return to the trailhead, maintain a high traverse – keep out of the gully floor. There’s a waterfall part way down, and particularly in early season, there will be holes and/or very weak snow bridges over the stream where a skier could easily be swallowed up.

Route Timing
Up | 2hrs
Down | 1hrs

This route timing assumes a basic up-and-back trip, with no lapping. Add on another hour or so if lapping the SE slope.

Transport

Public transport:

This route is not accessible by public transport.

By car:

There is a small area at the end of the snowclearing around here, where four or five cars can fit without having to park on the side of the road along Route 66. If this small area is already full, you may see others parked on the side of the road, hard up against the snowbanks on the left side of Route 66. Technically, this is illegal for a number of reasons – parking within the lane, parking too close to an intersection, etc. It can also effectively reduce Route 66 to one lane, causing traffic headaches. While we haven’t heard of vehicles being towed, please obey any signs posted, and always make as much effort as possible to not obstruct traffic. As backcountry user numbers continue to increase, we hope to see a feasible solution. In the meantime, however, it’s up to users to make good decisions and be careful not to cause inconvenience to others.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Niseko Annupuri (ニセコアンヌプリ) – map no. NK-54-20-7-2

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 Southeast. Other aspects that may also be encountered while following the route outlined on this page include: South. Therefore, keep an eye on the weather forecast a few days ahead of your trip to monitor wind, snow, and temperature. Also, since this route is in the general vicinity of the Shiribeshi area, consider looking at the Japan Avalanche Network avalanche bulletins (updated Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays at 8am) or the daily Niseko Avalanche Information website. These may give extra insight into avalanche conditions in the greater area around the route.

Snow and
route safety

Nitonupuri is a heavily trafficked ski touring area. This may lead you to a false sense of safety/security. The area includes plenty of steep avalanche prone terrain and we’ve had days when we’ve turned around based on the snow stability.

  • The downhill ski terrain is steep, particularly on this southeast aspect; it is absolutely avalanche terrain, with considerable terrain traps in gully floors. Check the forecast and familiarize yourself with the snowpack conditions for the aspect you intend to ski.
  • It is a busy area; be aware of backcountry users above and below you at all times. By following the recommended routes you’ll have good spatial separation between skiing and skinning.
  • See our tips for keeping safe while ski touring in Hokkaido here.
  • Notify the police of your backcountry plans online using Compassinstructions here.

Nitonupuri Southeast Face Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

B

12

Navigation

D

0

Totals

48/100

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 Nitonupuri
Onsen nearby

There are two obvious Onsen options for this run. Goshiki Onsen 五色温泉 (location, 800yen, 10am till 7pm) is a gorgeously rustic natural onsen a few km drive up the road (route 58) from the trailhead. It is a must visit onsen for the region, with 100% pure hot spring water, flowing into outdoor baths surrounded by meters of snow. Yukichichibu Onsen 雪秩父温泉 (location, 700yen, noon till 7pm, closed Tuesdays) on the way back to Hirafu (800m down route 66) is also a good natural onsen option, with a larger outdoor bath area. Yukichichibu also has an attached restaurant (11am till 2pm). Yukichichibu is a very sulphurous onsen and so you do tend to stink for a bit afterwards.

Extra Resources

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. 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

The weather forecast was stellar, so we hit Nitonupuri early with the intention to ski two main aspects – the southeast and the west face.

As we started up the southeast face, however, it was clear that this face was not going to be ideal today. It had been baked the day before, and it was going to get baked today too.

The trailhead was, predictably, a hubub of activity. A large group had arrived just ahead of us, so we were waiting in the cold shadow of the hills for our turn to clamber up the steep snow walls.

We managed to get on our way ahead of them though. It also felt good to veer off the beaten trail to the northeast too – we’d be breaking our own trail up this seldom-visited aspect.

But oh was the snow baked. Crusty. It had been very warm the day before.

The air today was cold though, so it was uncertain whether the sun would warm it enough to get rid of the crust. At the same time we were hoping it wouldn’t get too warm either…

We persevered at a long traversing climb to wrap around onto the SE face. Predictably the surface conditions were less than appealing. The views though, were stellar.

And they only got better the higher we climbed. Having not spent much time on this side of Nitonupuri, it was a refreshing vantage point on the eastern end of the Niseko Range.

When we got to the summit, we found we were not the only ones planning to ski the SE side of the peak. A group of four snowboarders had hiked up the SW side of the mountain, and dropped into the SE.

The false summit was as I had remembered it from a couple of years back. Crusty and gnarled from a winter’s worth of storms.

We didn’t immediately drop back down the SE face. Instead, we lapped the west face a couple of times first. The snow was definitely better on that aspect on this day!

On our return from lapping the west face, however, we decided to ski the SE. The snow was terrible, but at least we got a feel for the terrain.

There were many more terrain features on this aspect than I’ve seen elsewhere in the Niseko Range. Small drops, mounds, natural kickers. If that’s your thing, and the snow is stable and good, I can imagine this being quite the playgrounds. Steep too.

Alex was on her splitboard, so we took a very high traverse on the exit along the gully wall to the trailhead. This was fairly challenging, but there was only one spot where we got too flat for the boarder. Otherwise, it was a fairly straight forward exit.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Nitonupuri Southeast Face Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

D

0

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

B

12

Navigation

D

0

Totals

48/100

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.