Posted on Jan 18, 2023
0
NNE
Posted on Jan 18, 2023
0
NNE
13.5km

Distance

6 hours

Time

1100m

Ascent

1212m

Highest point

7/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Mar-Apr

Best season

The Northern Ridge route up Raiden-yama 雷電山 (1212m) in the far western end of the Niseko Range is a gloriously-backdropped spring climb. With the Japan Sea shimmering below, its one of the more dramatic ski tours in the entire Niseko region. There is excellent spring skiing to be had here, and the views east along the range are second to none. Raiden's flat, featureless summit proper is hardly worth writing home about, but the vast snow fields approaching it are. Ticking off this classic Niseko Range massif should be on all Hokkaido spring skiers' hit lists.

We visited this route on Apr 16, 2022

Skiers: Haidee and Saoka

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Raiden-yama is the final major peak on the Niseko Range before the range plunges into the Japan Sea at the western terminus of the range, situated in southwestern Hokkaido. This route ascends the mountain from its northern side. In late spring, it’s possible to drive all the way to past the Narugami Falls, to a gravel clearing (location). Otherwise, this route begins at the Iwanai Regional Garbage Disposal Facility (location).

General notes

Raiden-yama’s summit is flat. It’s nondescript and doesn’t conjure up notions of heroism or grandeur. A summit is a summit, one might argue, worthy of another notch in one’s belt. But it’s the setting that really sets Raiden-yama apart. This sprawling massif floats in the great Iwanai Bay on the Japan Sea. For the majority of the way up this North Ridge, this grand watery scene is the skier’s backdrop. On the descent, it is what pulls the skier down across broad snow fields and gloriously skiable wide ridges. Despite its lackluster summit, Raiden-yama is every bit worth the effort, particularly on a still, warm spring day.

Winter ascents of Raiden-yama are less heard of. With so much easy access powder to be enjoyed elsewhere in the range, it’s only the hardy that will take on the rimed, windpacked snow of the exposed Raiden ridges. To be sure, there is good skiing to be had in its many bowls. But come spring, the Niseko Range touring season best starts with setting one’s eyes on this gorgeous mountain.

Hut
None
Route details

Head up towards the end of a non-descript gravel road, to around here. The road ends abruptly. From here, in early spring, it will be easy to traverse up onto the ridge proper. In late spring, it may be a fight through sasa bamboo grass up the embankment to the ridge. In reality, this is the crux of the entire route. The rest of the route is simply skiing uphill due south, arcing across the broad snow fields to the summit.

The descent is arguably trickier, and requires some careful checking of the map as one descends. It’s easy to get lured onto minor spurs and ridges, rather than the main ridge you climbed up. Taking the wrong ridge will eventually spit you out on the coast, but the Raiden-yama coast is a labyrinth of bluffs, tight woods, and scant snow cover. Stick to the northern ridge and you won’t go wrong.

Route Timing
Up | 4hrs
Down | 2hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to this route. A taxi from the Iwanai Bus Terminal to the Narukami Falls 鳴神の滝 vicinity (about 6km, 15 mins, location) would be about 2000yen one way. The Narukami Falls is officially closed to the public due to trail degradation (and is of course not accessible by foot in winter anway), so when speaking to the taxi driver, you may need to convince him or her that you do indeed want to go that way. Another point of reference for the taxi drivers is the Iwanai Garbage Incinerator facility 岩内地方清掃センター (iwanai chihou seisou senta, location).

By car:

There is limited parking for this route, and where you park will depend on when in the season you visit. In mid-winter, the road will only be cleared until the incinerator facility (location). In this case, make sure to park well to the side of the road, and don’t park right at the end of the snow-clearing (in order to allow room for the snowplows to turn around). If possible, consider clearing a few meters more off to the side of the road, in order to not take up too much room in the lane. In late spring, it’s possible to drive all the way to the small weir, here. This will save about 900m of walking.

Physical maps
Print: HokkaidoWilds.org 1:25,000 TOPOMAP+
Niseko Backcountry map: Buy on Amazon.co.jp | See companion site for more purchase options
Official Topo Map: Raidenmisaki (雷電岬) – map no. NK-54-20-11-1
Official Topo Map 2: Raidenyama (雷電山) – map no. NK-54-20-11-2

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 North. Other aspects that may also be encountered while following the route outlined on this page include: Northeast. 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

This route is extremely exposed to coastal weather – wind conditions in the alpine are often much different to down below at the trailhead here on the coast. This route also involves considerable travel across broad, featureless, plateau-like ridges. Navigation will be extremely tricky in low visibility conditions. Note also this is a long day out. Ensure your party is fit enough for the vertical gain and distance.

Raiden-yama North Ridge Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

A

40

Time ascending

B

6

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

B

12

Totals

70/100

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 Raiden-yama
Onsen nearby

Okaerinasai Onsen おかえりなさい温泉 (800yen, location), at the base of the Iwanai Resort area, has a gloriously hot natural onsen, both indoors and an outdoor bath. The onsen is open to day visitors from 10am – 9pm (10am – 3pm on Saturdays). The outdoor pool is open from 3pm. Other than the Iwanai Resort area, there is a relative dearth of onsen in the immediate Iwanai/Raiden area on this northern side of the range.

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

It was one of those rare days where Windy.com was forecasting hardly a whisp of wind on the Japan Sea coast at the end of the Niseko Range. It was a prime opportunity to ski the north ridge of Raiden-yama.

I’d descended much of the ridge previously, on an overnight traverse of the Niseko Range, but this would be the first time climbing up. It would also be the first time starting from the vicinity near Narugami-no-taki falls.

On that previous traverse, we’d had very still weather for the entire traverse…until we got to the summit of Raiden-yama. A northwesterly howled across the summit pleateau, ripping snow and ice from the ridges. I was glad we were descending with the wind at our backs.

The memory of that descent down the northern ridge was seared into my mind. A beautiful pitch, wide, dramatic views. 

It was going to be interesting to experience it in later spring conditions.

Haidee, Saoka and I arrived at the trailhead early. It was blue sky overhead, but the ground was frozen solid. We all had very cold fingers as we geared up.

The spring melt season was in full swing though, so for the first half hour of the trip we were fighting sasa bamboo grass to gain the ridge. Once on the ridge proper, it was smooth sailing.

Typical of the Raiden-yama coastal foothills, the lower reaches were relatively dense stands of new growth forest. As we ascended, however, it opened up.

The early morning snow underfoot was concrete. We hoped it would warm up during the day for our descent.

Iwanai Bay was like glass. The dormant Tomari Nuclear power plant stood out on the opposite side of the bay.

It didn’t take long to reach the treeline, and for the ridge to narrow. From here, the viewfinder on my camera made me feel like a kid in a candy shop. So many amazing perspectives on the land and sea below.

The ridge led us to the great snow plains of the Raiden plateau. This gently sloping area is all quite inspiring. Hopelessly windpacked in deep winter, it makes for perfect spring skiing conditions when things warm up.

This was followed soon after with the flat summit-proper of Raiden-yama. The summit sign was exposed nicely, as was the bulk of the entire Niseko Range and Yotei-zan.

I’d been eagerly looking forward to the descent. The snow on the upper portions of the route had a fine film of ice across it, with sherbert perfection underneath. Drawing us down the mountain was the view of the Japan Sea.

Predictably, the snow deteriorated somewhat as we entered the maze of thick trees at the bottom 20% of the ridge. Mercifully, it wasn’t sticky snow that would stop us in our tracks. But it was mixed with litter from trees, and then eventually, we were trying to dodge sasa bamboo grass, trying to avoid getting our skis snagged.

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Raiden-yama North Ridge Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

A

40

Time ascending

B

6

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

C

6

Navigation

B

12

Totals

70/100

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.