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.