Yesterday we’d had a fairly easy day out on Nishikonbu-dake (route overview here). Today was a more involved affair, with what might be five hours on the mountain. We also had two extra members join in on the trip, so make our merry troupe five in total. We parked up near the end of the road and got on our way. By the looks of things, we would be the only ones on the mountain today.
As promised in the guidebook, the first half our or so was following a forestry road through a sparse area of plantation forest. This slowly but surely transformed into more wild stands of shirakaba white birch.
It was a Sunday, and the week preceding this had been warm. Well below zero overnight, but warm during the day. This had left a prominent suncrust on the snow on anything south-facing. Even at this early stage on the route, we knew we’d be in for some challenging skiing on the way down.
Soon enough the route started climbing in earnest. We were soon zig-zagging up a wide ridge with well-spaced trees. With good fresh snowfall, this entire ridge would be bliss for skiing.
We soon arrived at the base of the final short but steep approach to the summit of the Sankokunai peak. The snow seemed firm underfoot, and we made it up to the summit without any chiseling of cornices, as suggested in the guidebook. Just off the summit, we dug a large hole for all of us to hunker down in out of the wind for a quick lunch.
On the descent after lunch, we were all remarking about how amazing it would be if the snow was in better condition. The grabby breakable crust was making things tough going for us. On a normal mid-winter’s day – or indeed a full-blown spring day – the descent would have been incredible. We opted to ski the upper of the two large western spurs off the main ridge. It was bushy on the northwestern side of the spur, but there was decent enough skiing down the ridgeline.
Skiing the spur meant that we were now at the valley floor, and had a long, ever-so-slightly descending traverse to get back to our skintrack low on the main ridge. This would have been quick and easy, however unfortunately the snow was now the dreaded stoppu-yuki as they call it in Japanese – wet and slow. This slowed progress even as we joined with the main uptrack.
We limped back to the car, but we did so with great smiles on our faces, happy to have spent a good morning out on the mountain.