Posted on Apr 28, 2021
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Posted on Apr 28, 2021
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21km

Distance

9.5 hours

Time

1690m

Ascent

2012m

Highest point

8.5/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Mar-May

Best season

The winter route up Oputateshike-yama オプタテシケ山 (2012m) is a rare southeastern-aspect ski tour deep into the Daisetsuzan National Park. Skiers' nine hours of toil will be rewarded with about 1000m of quality downhill on the return. With the vast majority of daytrip accessible peaks in the Daisetsuzan Range approaching from the northwest, however, Oputateshike-yama's charm comes from its fresh perspective on the Daisetsuzan massif. Above the treeline, skiers are treated to expansive views along the southeastern side of the range, including Tokachi-dake, Tomuraushi-yama to the north, and Bieifuji to the south. This route is most popular in the long spring days, but the trailhead is accessible all year round.

We visited this route on Apr 24, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Oputateshike-yama is a major but often overlooked peak sitting alone towards the northeastern end of the Tokachi Range, in the greater Daisetuzan mountain range. This standard route up to the peak starts very low on the southeastern flanks, here at a small dam. The trailhead is at the end of the snowclearing on a rough gravel road, off the main Route 718 towards Tomuraushi Onsen トムラウシ温泉.

General notes

With a solid 5km of forestry-road walking, plus another 3km before one hits the treeline, this is not a route for the faint of heart, particularly in the deeper winter months. This pilgrimage is made worth it, however, by the sheer novelty of the perspective one gets on the Daisetsuzan Range. Feasible winter south/east approaches to the range are rare, even more so if one actually wants some decent skiing. This route rewards the approach with some excellent skiing, and plenty of options to get more technical by venturing into the Bakuretsu-sawa 爆裂沢 gorge.

  • Best time of year: Arguably the least strenuous option is to leave this trip till April when the snow is firmer under foot, and the days are longer. That said, this area holds very good powder snow throughout the season, so for those happy with a well-before-dawn start, February or March is also doable.
  • Snow conditions: This eastern side of Oputateshike-yama is surprisingly sheltered from the prevailing northwester winds that can strip Tokachi-dake bare, so snow conditions can be very good. That said, a 2000m peak in Hokkaido will always suffer from rime and concrete wind-pack nearer the summit, so pack boot crampons just in case.
  • Accommodation in the area: If you’re arriving late the day preceding your visit, consider staying at either Tomuraushi Onsen hotsprings トムラウシ温泉 (from 8,800yen per person with two meals) or a more budget self-catering option in Tomuraushi settlement – Yama-no-Koryukan Tomura Cottages (see details below, from around 2,000yen per person).
Hut
Yama-no-Koryukan Tomura Cottages (full details here)

The cottages at the Yama-no-Koryukan Tomura 山の交流館とむら are gorgeous, modern, well-built log cabins, sitting next to the Tomuraushi village post office/cafe. The cottages themselves are not in the mountains, but they’re well located as a budget self-catered option for hikers, backcountry skiers, and bike-packers seeking accommodation relatively close to easter trailheads into the Daisetsuzan National Park. The cafe next door serves delicious light meals with local ingredients including local venison. They sleep 6 people, and at around 15,000yen per night per cottage, they’re best split between a group.

Route details

Park up at the end of the snow clearing, making sure not to park in front of the gate to the dam facility. Follow the snowed in road for 5km to a weather station at around 820m. At this point you may think you’re half way there, but in reality, you’ve still got over 1200m vertical to climb. Once you hit the treeline at around 1200m, you’ll look up and the summit will feel close. It’s not. Parties taking their time will still have around three hours of zig-zagging ahead of them in order to reach the summit. At some point, climbers may find they’ll need to switch to boot crampons for the final approach to the summit. In the final 100m or so vertical to the summit, it’s steep enough that a fall will entail a rather long slide in the right conditions, so we recommend carrying some form of self-arrest equipment just in case it’s needed. For this bread-and-butter route, we recommend descending down the open face you climbed up.

Route Timing
Up | 6.5hrs
Down | 3hrs

We’ve seen reports of times of anywhere between 8 to 11 hours for the return trip. Fitness, snow conditions, how much snow-free road walking is required, etc etc will all affect how long this trip takes. We recommend starting at or before daybreak in the spring, and well before daybreak in winter – the initial 5km is fairly brain-dead road walking, so spending the initial 2 hours skinning by headlamp is perfectly feasible.

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to this route.

By car:

This route is surprisingly accessible by car from Sapporo City – about 2hrs on the expressway towards Obihiro, then another 1.5hrs heading up into the national park towards Tomuraushi Onsen via Route 718. Just after crossing the Pontomuraushi River (here), turn left onto the gravel road heading east. Follow this badly potholed road for about 4.5km and turn right up towards the small dam and end of snow clearing, here. Don’t park in front of the gate to the dam facility. After Golden Week (early May), it may be possible to drive even further up the road, cutting out some walking.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Oputateshikeyama (オプタテシケ山) – map no. NK-54-7-4-3

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 Southeast. 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 area is extremely remote by Hokkaido standards, with the only major city Obihiro almost 2hrs drive away from the trailhead. We strongly recommend carrying some sort of satellite messenger with SOS function (such as a Garmin inReach – see our notes about PLBs here) in case of emergency. Also, while the peak is ‘only’ just over 2000m, deep winter conditions are extremely cold here. Bring the appropriate gear, expecting temperatures down to as low as -30°C.

Oputateshike-yama Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

A

40

Time ascending

A

10

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

B

12

Navigation

B

12

Totals

84/100

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 Oputateshike-yama
Onsen nearby

The trailhead is only a 30 minute drive to one of our hands-down favourite onsen in Hokkaido – Tomuraushi Onsen トムラウシ温泉 (location, 600yen). The outdoor pools are right next to a roaring alpine river, and the hot mineral water itself is something special. They have a small shop selling basic foodstuffs like instant ramen, but the attached restaurant is for overnight guests only. There’s also a campground just up the road, closed in winter.

Extra Resources
No extra English resources that we know of. If you know of any, please let us know in the comments.

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

Yamano-Makochan's Video Report
Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

We’d been plodding along the gravel road for a couple of hours, and Saoka made the mistake of asking how far we were along the route.

“What?! We’re not even half way?!” she exclaimed.

I made a point of not looking at my smartphone. It was, indeed, a long way. Certainly one of the longer daytrips we’ve done in Hokkaido. 

We’d already postponed the trip from last weekend due to a terrible weather forecast, so we were hoping that this weekend would be our chance to stand at the top of Oputateshike. I was quietly concerned about how long it might take us though. If the upper sections were icy, we’d be using our crampons, and the less confident skiers in the group would struggle. Adding to this concern was the weather forecast. Windy.com had the weather slowly deteriorating throughout the day, with eventual rain in the late afternoon. Would we see any views? The forecast was for warm weather though, which helped allay my concerns about the icy summit approach. I made sure everyone had their boot crampons sized to their boots before we set off from the trailhead though, just in case.

The night before, Haidee, Saoka and I had left Sapporo at 6:30pm, and arrived at the cheap and cheerful Miyagi Ryokan 宮城旅館 at 9pm in Shintoku-cho. I was in bed sleeping 15 minutes later. Gerry had driven from Kitami City on the other side of Hokkaido that afternoon, and had already made it to the trailhead, set up to sleep in her van for the night.

We left the ryokan at 4:00am, and arrived at the trailhead at just after 5am. Gerry was already up and brushing her teeth. A couple of other cars were there too, with tents pitched outside.

Once we were all geared up, we set off on our skis, surprised to see plenty of snow still on the road. 

And then the road turned a corner, and it was all dirt. We would have patches of snow here and there, but it was still early in the day, so we just opted to keep walking, as we weren’t sinking in at all. 

Here and there we saw bear tracks. We weren’t the only large mammals roaming the forest today.

It was a long walk, but the forest was gorgeous, and we enjoyed chatting along the way. Spring was clearly kicking into gear.

Eventually, we were consistently walking on snow. Hard snow, but snow nonetheless. So after over an hour of walking, we finally switched to skis. And it was warm. I was down to a t-shirt.

Before long, we started to get glimpses of our objective.

Oputateshike looked rather intimidating. The final push to the summit looked very steep. And it was still a long way off.

From the end of the gravel road, we were now making our way across the dizzying forested plateau at the base of the mountain. The topography here was confusing, with shallow volcanic gullies and spurs, leading us astray. 

But then suddenly, there she was again. Suddenly feeling much closer.

The feeling of being closer to the peak was pure illusion though, of course. From that point it would take us another four hours or more to get to the peak.

The views just got better and better though. Grand views along the range to Tomuraushi-yama トムラウシ山, Tokachidake 十勝岳, Biei-dake 美瑛岳 and others. 

Tokachi-dake’s billowng smoke was blanketing the landscape south of us with a smokey haze.

As we ascended, I could hardly believe the good coincidence with the warm weather. All the way up, we were able to find warm surface snow to set a good secure skin track in. Gerry managed to get to within 15m of the summit without ski crampons. Even better, the weather held for us, allowing us decent views the whole way up.

The wind was coming from the northwest, so we were relatively well sheltered from the wind too. Poking my head out from the shelter of the lee of the wind near the summit, I got the full brunt of wind so strong it was difficult to stand at times.

The descent was perfection in slope, but not quite perfection in snow. It had warmed considerably, and the snow had not quite made it to the large-facet, fast corn stage. It felt like the brakes were on most of the way down the steeper upper slopes. With a variety of skiing abilities in the group, we took our time on the descent.

The descent fast skiing lasted for about 1000m or so of vertical. Then it was back to the gravel road. There was enough of a gradient most of the way to keep a fast skate on, but then of course came the gravel. 3km of gravel road walking in ski boots at the end of an 8hr mission. It has been a while since I’ve felt so worked at the end of a ski trip.

The original plan for after the skiing was to head over to the Shikaribetsu Gorge area to camp, and then check out the wild onsen in the area the next day. By the time we arrived back at the trailhead however, it was close to 4pm. Had we had more time, we would have kept to the plan, but there was one ace up our sleeves in the form of cabins in the small settlement of Tomuraushi. 

We opted to book in to one of the cabins for the night, enjoy a nice onsen at Tomuraushi Onsen, and head over to Shikaribetsu Gorge the next day as planned. A perfect end to a super enjoyable and unique trip on the southeastern side of the Tokachi Range.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Oputateshike-yama Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

A

40

Time ascending

A

10

Technicality

Altitude

A

10

Hazards

B

12

Navigation

B

12

Totals

84/100

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.