Nitonupuri West Face

ニトヌプリ | Nidom-nupuri

Posted on Mar 21, 2022
0
WNW
Posted on Mar 21, 2022
0 0
WNW
4.5km

Distance

3 hours

Time

450m

Ascent

1076m

Highest point

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

Best season

The broad West Face of Nitonupuri ニトヌプリ (1080m) offers a lot of lapping real-estate on this popular Niseko backcountry peak. With northwest aspects also on offer, there are plenty of options to fine-tune access to powder turns even later into the season. Access to the West Face is a little longer than the in-your-face SW aspects, but the extra effort is justly rewarded. Views from the false peak (1076m) are also stellar on a good day. Gaze upon the eastern aspects of Chisenupuri, the Japan Sea to the northwest, the volcanic plateau summit of Iwaonupuri, and Niseko Annupuri further to the east.

We visited this route on Feb 11, 2022

The crew: Haidee, Saoka, Tim, 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.  Nitonupuri can also be accessed as part of a longer tour from Chisenupuri village itself (see Chisenupuri South Face).

General notes

This western face of Nitonupuri joins the SW aspects as some of this peak’s busiest zones. In general, with the booming popularity of backcountry skiing, every region has a spot that’s an order of magnitude busier than everywhere else. Think Grizzly Gulch in the Wasatch or Loveland Pass in Colorado. Nitonupuri is the Niseko Region’s busiest ski touring spot, and for good reason. It’s easily accessible, has a very short skin-in before climbing, and provides quality skiing on steep pitch slopes. That said, even on a busy day, it’s usually easy enough to find some un-skied snow to enjoy on Nitonupuri, particularly on the western aspects.

The quality of the skin tracks tends to be quite variable though. The most pleasant routes set a long traverse to the north, well away from the main downhill runs, before switching back and they will often make the transition spot with just a single kick-turn. The least pleasant skin tracks switchback-a-palooza their way straight up the SE aspect and involve much kicking and cussing. Don’t get suckered into following some other muggles poorly set skin-track.

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 along the snowed in Route 66 for about 700m before veering north into the woods. Head due north for another 700m, climbing gently before starting the 300m-vertical climb to the false summit in earnest, due east. From the trailhead to the false summit it’s usually about 2 hours. There’s usually little need to hit the actual summit about 400m north of the false summit, but this can be satisfying on a clear day.

The skiing from the false summit to the treeline at 1000m can be average. Expect nice pockets of good snow interspersed with icy tips of bush sticking out of the snow. Below the treeline, however, the skiing is excellent on all aspects of the western face – WNW, W, and WSW. While the prevailing wind in the area is NW in winter, the wooded west face here is relatively protected by the bulk of Chisenupuri to the NW.

Route Timing
Up | 2hrs
Down | 1hrs

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 West. Other aspects that may also be encountered while following the route outlined on this page include: Northwest. 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; it is absolutely avalanche terrain. 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 youll 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 West 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

This 2021/2022 season felt like a study into the aspects of Nitonupuri. Earlier in the season we’d sked the SW aspects and southern aspects, and absolutely loved it. Today the weather was stellar, and we were keen to check out the other aspects Nitonupuri offered.

Contrary to the route guide above, we climbed Nitonupuri from the southeast (route guide coming). It was a concerningly warm day for February, following a warm day the day before. The whole southeastern face appeared to be baked to a crisp. If we were lucky it might soften just enough to make it half-way decent skiing on the descent, but this ascent up the southeastern side made us even more keen on checking in on the western side.

We soon gained the false summit under windless, perfect skies – a rarity in February.

Furtively, I skied off the summit, somewhat apprehensive about what we’d find with the surface conditions. Beyond all expectations, however, this WNW slope from the summit was fantastic. I set up lower down and called the crew down.

Having launched himself off a number of natural jumps, Tim was beaming when he caught up with me.

“We should just lap this all day!” he exclaimed.

On the back of a clear-sky, cold night, we were essentially skiing on a thick layer of soft, delicate hoar frost, on top of good quality powder. The good turns continued into the well-spaced woods below.

It was hardly even a debate over whether we’d lap this slope. We transitioned quickly and started the 30 minute trek back up to the treeline.

On the way up, I tried not to focus too much on my envy of those skiing the eastern face of Chisenpuri just west of our position. Those were some big lines in perfect weather.

My second ski down the west face of Nitonupuri was just as exhilarating as the first.

Unfortunately, however, I was a little too quick in my drop in. A large guide-led group was already at the treeline when we arrived, in various stages of transition. I whipped my skins off quickly and sped down the face to get into position so I could photograph our party coming down. Just as I left the treeline plateau however, I spotted the guide to my left. The large group was to my right. Apparently I left a sour taste in the group’s mouths, as the rest of my party got an earful from the guests – the guide had been setting up himself to get shots of the group skiing fresh tracks, apparently.

In the confusion of two large groups dueling it out for their slice of the west face acreage, my party ended up skiing the WSW ridge to the south of the west face. They figured the tour party must have been fixing to ski the juicy west face slope.

In the end, once they’d all made their transition, the tour group also inexplicably skied the ridgeline.

In hindsight I probably should have waited the 20 minutes or so till the large group had skied off.

I could only be left pondering the complexities of Nitonpuri on a bluebird day. Surely the moral of the lesson is to get there early to avoid the madding crowds.

We were still keen to at least try skiing the southeast aspect today. So after regrouping, we climbed back up out of the west face on our nicely laid skin track back up to the false summit.

It was now 2pm, and the baked southeast face was starting to crust over again. We survival-skied our way back to the cars – more on the southeast aspect in another post.

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 West 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.