Posted on Apr 2, 2021
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SWNESN
Posted on Apr 2, 2021
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SWNESN
14km

Distance

9 hours

Time

975m

Ascent

1331m

Highest point

8/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Mar-Apr

Best season

Ochacha-dake 御茶々岳 (1331m) is a high peak in the Yubari range (夕張山地), commanding inspiring views of Ashibetsu-dake 芦別岳 (1726m) directly to the south, and the Daisetsuzan Range to the east. This route assumes you're staying at the rustic Yufure-goya Hut ユーフレ小屋. You'll travel through a gorgeous valley, approaching Ochacha-dake from the southeast. This valley offers some playful and interesting skiing on the descent back to the hut. Getting to the hut is the difficult part. The route along the Yufure River gorge involves multiple river crossings and dangerous high traverses. Arguably, this Ochacha-dake diversion is best coupled with an attempt on Ashibetsu-dake for a fine overnight spring adventure.

We visited this route on Mar 28, 2021

Last updated Apr 6, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Ochacha-dake is directly north of Ashibetsu-dake in the central Yubari Range near Furano, central Hokkaido. The route starts here, at the start of the forestry road heading up the Yufure River gorge.

General notes

This is by far one of the most convoluted ways to get to the summit of Ochacha-dake. Most sane people would access the summit via Juhachisen-gawa 十八線川, one valley to the north. Via Juhachisen-gawa, there’s no river crossings, no sketchy high traverses above the river, much lower exposure to avalanche…but! There’s no hut along the way via Juhachisen-gawa. And the Yufure-goya Hut is, for some, worth the adventure in getting there. Rustic would be putting it nicely. The hut does, however, make for a remote base for exploring this relatively compact but varied area surrounding Ashibetsu-dake, the Yufure Hontani Gorge, and Ochacha-dake.

The hut is essentially at the bottom of a very picturesque valley heading up to the 1196m col, and this valley is a dream to ski back down. Just watch out for large wet slide avalanches in the warming months of spring.

Hut
Yufure-goya Hut (full details here)

It’s said that over 70 years ago a hermit by the name of Taro Kaku built the Yufure-goya, and spent his days living there year-round. The extraordinarily well-built stone hut has received a new roof since Taro Kaku’s days, but almost everything else is original – solid concrete and stacked river-stone walls, massive roof beams, and gorgeous wood-framed windows. In winter, the hut is extremely remote. Getting there requires either a 3 hour arduous ski in (including river crossings), or a 4 hour hike up and over a saddle, with a 500m descent down to the hut. For those who make the journey, they’ll be rewarded by prime access to some of Hokkaido’s most secluded, steep, and remote skiing terrain.

Route details

Start from the forestry road entrance to the Yufure River gorge around here, and enjoy a blissful 1km of easy travel before the utter mayhem of the Yufure River gorge begins. There is no right way to get to the hut. It’s about 3.5km along the gorge from the trailhead, and that’s about all the information that will help you. Make it up as you go along. Arguably, the safest way to approach the gorge is to accept you’ll be walking across and/or in the river, and adapt your footwear accordingly. Depending on the snow conditions, the final 1km or so may involve some steep traversing high above the river – take care not to fall. The location of the hut quite miraculous – it’s a wonderful little clearing and flat plateau. We’d recommend dropping in for a break. Retrace your steps from the hut about 200m, and start up the valley heading northwest towards the 1196m saddle. The valley is clear at first, but then widens into a convoluted mass of small spurs and gullies. Keep heading uphill while taking opportunities to cross to spurs to the climber’s right when possible. The saddle is framed by cornices, so find the opening between them to access the ridge-top. On top of the saddle, you’ll have impressive views south towards Fufu-iwa (Meoto-iwa 夫婦岩 1429m). The final 30 minute grunt up to the summit plateau can be steep, but eventually you’ll find yourself atop another line of cornices. Follow this north for 100m or so where they disappear and it’s possible to head across the plateau to the summit. Return the way you came, taking full advantage of the playful topography down the valley towards the hut.

Route Timing
Up | 6hrs
Down | 4hrs

Route timings from the trailhead to the hut and then the hut back to the trailhead will vary wildly depending on snow conditions. Expect up to 3, perhaps 4 hours on the ascent, if you’re unlucky. By some stroke of luck it might only take you 2 hours.

Transport

Public transport:

The JR Yamabe Station 山部駅 (location) is a 40 minute walk (3.5km) from the Ashibetsu Trailhead (see the route here). Yamabe Station is a 14-minute train ride from Furano Station.

By car:

The Yamabe Shizen Park 山部自然公園 (location) has a very large carpark, cleared from late March onwards. If attempting the route before the Yamabe Shizen Park carpark is cleared, make sure to park well off the road, so as to not obstruct traffic or snow-clearing, and be sensitive to locals’ wishes regarding parking, if approached. Parking in deep winter for the various Ashibetsu-dake trailheads is somewhat of a bottle-neck at present, with very little options in the months of Dec-Feb.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Nunobedake (布部岳) – map no. NK-54-8-9-3

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 Southwest. Other aspects that may also be encountered while following the route outlined on this page include: Northeast, South, North. 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 Furano area, consider looking at the Furano Avalanche Center (on Facebook). They issue sporadic observations throughout the season which may give extra insight into avalanche conditions.

Snow and
route safety

This route sits well within the Avalanche Terrain Exposure Scale‘s Complex rating – “exposure to multiple overlapping avalanche paths [and] minimal options to reduce exposure [to avalanche risk]”. Travel through the deep valley on the ascent to the hut, as well as the lower part of the wider valley above the hut involves exposure to considerable run-out paths of avalanche from higher up on the valley walls. This route is best suited to spring, so try to coincide the ascent portions of the days with early morning when temperatures are still cold, and avoid periods of rapid warming.

Ochacha-dake via Yufure-goya Hut Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

A

40

Time ascending

A

10

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

B

12

Navigation

C

6

Totals

78/100

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 Ochacha-dake
Onsen nearby

If there’s just one thing that the immediate Furano area lacks, it’s good natural onsen. Drive 40 minutes up to the Tokachi Onsen area, and you’ll be in heaven – our pick is Hakuginso’s massive outdoor onsen complex. But if you’re headed back to Furano, try out the pokey but cute Hotel Naturwald Furano ホテルナトゥールヴァルト富良野 (location, 600yen), right next to the Furano ski area.

Extra Resources

Guide Options

If you’d like to ski this route and/or explore other areas of Central Hokkaido together with a local certified guide, get in touch with Takao Miyashita. He’s a born-and-bred Hokkaido based guide. From a young age he cut his teeth on peaks around Tokachi-dake, Asahi-dake, Sandan-yama and others. He has multiple 6,000m-plus peak international expeditions under his belt (including a ski descent from 7,400m on Mt. Manaslu, Nepal). He is one of the leading senior figures in the local guiding and outdoor associations here in Hokkaido and Japan. See a full list of English-speaking Hokkaido Mountain Guides Association (HMGA) guides on the HMGA website here

Another guide to consider is Ryan from Furano Adventure Tours. He’s arguably one of the most knowledgeable non-Japanese guides when it comes to the Yubari Range and greater Furano area. Also consider getting in touch with him if you’re keen to connect with a guide to help you make the most of your time in the backcountry in Furano.

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

“Even assuming it will take us up to three hours from the hut back to the car, we’ll still have just under two hours of daylight left,” we mused, as we considered the option to climb up Ochacha-dake on the second day of our foray into the Ashibetsu-dake area.

But was the detour to Ochacha-dake worth the police call-out? For us, selfishly the answer would be yes. The views and the skiing above the hut were amazing. But sorry to Haidee for not letting her know we’d be later out of the hills than planned. And sorry to the Furano police for the drive up to the trailhead….

But I get ahead of myself. The day before, we’d lugged out overnight gear half way up Ashibetsu-dake, deposited it at the point we’d drop down to the hut, summited, and then skied down to the hut. It was an unforgettable day with perfect weather for it.

We got off to a fairly relaxed start from the hut. It was about 8:30am when we finally clipped into the skis and made our way up the picturesque valley towards the Ocahacha-dake saddle. True to the weather forecast’s word, it was hot. We were down to our t-shirts not soon after the first few kick-turns.

This did nothing for our nervousness about the avalanche conditions. Already we could see recent debris that had run down from the high couloirs above the valley. We picked our way up the valley carefully, trying to keep on islands of safe(er) terrain.

As we climbed towards the saddle, it was hard to reconcile the topography and views with what we’ve come to expect from Hokkaido. This was not mellow terrain. All around us, we were surrounded by jagged, craggy, steep cliffs and chutes. This was all very refreshing.

After picking our way to the climber’s right, across mellow gullies and spurs, we found our gap in the cornices on the saddle, and reveled in the inspiring views south towards Fufu-iwa 夫婦岩. I struggle to remember anywhere else in Hokkaido where a photo I’ve taken in Hokkaido has been so thoroughly framed by pure rock and cliff.

The steep ridge climb up to the Ochacha-dake plateau was a bit of a twiggy mess, with tight trees to contend with. But it was less of a struggle than it has initially looked like it would be, from below. Hiro, with his super wide telemark skis and grippiest-skins-on-the-planet, did his trademark straight-up-the-mountain trick, and essentially made it up with hardly a kick-turn.

The access to the plateau had us scratching our heads for a few moments, as we were greeted by some tall cornices. About 100m north along the ridge, however, there was a glorious sand-dune-like slope. The juxtaposition with the craggy mountains to the south was uncanny.

At the summit, we stood transfixed at the entirety of Ashibetsu-dake’s north face. The top portions of a few of the couloirs were in full view. We had to double-check that we were still indeed in Hokkaido.

On the descent, we opted to ski down a steep roller off the plateau, just east of the saddle-ridge we’d climbed up. The surface of the snow was warm and slushy. Everything around here was well and truly heating up.

To our dismay, the upper portion of the valley descent to the hut was a mess of slow, warm snow. Tree shadows were fast. Then BAM. The snow would kick on the brakes. Curiously, the snow was better lower down…perhaps just less direct sun exposure.

Back at the hut, we were a bit shocked to find the time to be almost 1pm. I’d already lit the fire for a lunch-time fry-up though, so we spent the next one hour gorging on all the extra food we still had in the hut – bacon, some beef and pork, mushrooms, and two large bags of veges. A lunch of champions…and we’d need it for the adventurous descent from the hut that awaited.

As for the descent from the hut…take a look at the full write-up on the Ashibetsu-dake post, here.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Ochacha-dake via Yufure-goya Hut Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

A

40

Time ascending

A

10

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

B

12

Navigation

C

6

Totals

78/100

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.