Posted on Feb 13, 2020
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Posted on Feb 13, 2020

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17 0
Reading time: 4 min
7.4km

Distance

3.5 hours

Time

481m

Ascent

1074m

Highest point

5/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Dec-Apr

Best season

Shakunage-dake (シャクナゲ岳, 1074m) is a gorgeous conical peak sitting to the west of the more well known Niseko Range peaks of Iwaonpuri and Chisenupuri. It's more of a commitment to get to the peak, involving a 30 minute skin across the broad col between Shakunage and Chisenupuri. Skiing can be enjoyed on all aspects from the peak, and the broad face down towards Naganuma Pond is also prime skiing terrain. When we visited, Chisenupuri was crawling with skiers, vying for the last remnants of untracked pow, whereas Shakunage and surrounding slopes were largely untouched. On a good day, skiers will often link up both Shakunage and Chisenupuri for a quality day out in the hills.

We visited this route on Jan 18, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Shakunage-dake is situated to the west of the popular Chisenupuri peak at the eastern end of the Niseko Range in southern Hokkaido. This route starts at the Chisenupuri ski area parking lot.

General notes

Shakunage is Japanese for Rhododendron. Apparently this peak was named Shakunage-dake (literally Mt. Rhododendron) because there was a colony of rhododendrons on the mountain. Most commonly approached via the public uptrack next to the Hokkaido Backcountry Club’s Chisenupuri ski field, this is a fine fair-weather peak with a couple of good options for downhill skiing in the surrounding area. The route outlined on this page is geared towards bagging the peak, but in stable conditions, the short drop from the ridge next to Venus Hill down to Naganuma Pond is also a great option.

Hut

None

Route markers

Begin from the Chisenupuri ski area car park and head straight towards the Hokkaido Backcountry Club‘s wooden catskiing base building. About 50m before the building is a sign and roped off public-use uptrack that the catskiing operation has kindly provided for skiers and hikers accessing Chisenupuri and the surrounding areas. Follow up this uptrack, following the ribbons marking the way along the western side of the ski area. After about 40 minutes, you’ll see the uptrack veer to the right. If the cornice above the gully just ahead is not large, it’s possible to carry on straight, more or less following the summer trail up to the plateau. If the cornice looks suspect, follow the uptrack markings to the derelict upper lift station, and access the plateau via a small dip just north-northeast of the lift station.

Once on the plateau, veer to the northwest, skirting the south and southwest flanks of Chisenupuri, towards the broad saddle between Chisenupuri and Venus Hill. Once on the saddle, push on to the west, veering left of Venus Hill. Snow conditions can be very firm underfoot on the eastern aspect of Shakunage-dake. Most skiers will approach the summit by wrapping around the northern and western faces. This route descends the way it came.

If time, conditions, and visibility are on your side, there can be good skiing to be had on the broad eastern-facing slope down towards Naganuma, and skiers will often pair this route up with a climb up the western face of Chisenupuri, to ski the southern Chisenupuri face on the descent. Add about 1.5 hours if adding Chisenupuri to the day’s route.

Route Timing
Up | 2.5hrs
Down | 1hrs

Transport

Public transport:

This route is not accessible by public transport. A taxi from central Hirafu will likely be about 6500yen one way to the Chisenupuri Ski Area.

By car: 

There is a large carpark at the Chisenupuri Ski Area carpark, but this can be full on busy weekends. Arrive early to avoid missing out on a parking spot.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Chisenupuri (チセヌプリ) – map no. NK-54-20-7-4

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).

Snow and route safety

The main point of concern on this route is the broad saddle between Chisenupuri and Shakunage-dake. In low visibility conditions, it would be easy to lose one’s orientation here without good navigation tools and experience. Also note that this route is very much the backcountry – it is not patrolled, and there is no avalanche control. All skiers should be proficient in navigating on their own, have their own avalanche rescue equipment, and be versed in its use. Also note that despite its relative low height of 1074m, like other mountains in Hokkaido, temperatures can plunge to -20°C with windchill – always err on the side of bringing that extra puffer jacket.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Shakunage-dake
Onsen nearby

The natural choice of post-ski onsen for this route is the gorgeous Yuki-chichibu Onsen (雪秩父温泉, location, 700yen). Famous for its outdoor baths and mud-infused waters, this is an onsen that should not be missed. They also have a restaurant, operating from 11:30am till 3pm each day.

Extra Resources

Boating: Hokkaido Canoe Touring Book by Tamata (1993) | The Book of Leisurely Hokkaido Rivers by Ishimoto (2009)

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.

Photo Gallery

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

Route Trip Notes

Route blurb from the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide (2015), p. 234 (translated by Rob Thomson)

It’s said this mountain got it’s name because there was a colony of rhododendrons (shakunage in Japanese) on the mountain. Somewhat diminutive in size, it’s a beautiful conical shaped mountain. Many people will climb Shakunage as a set with Chisenupuri, but even on its own, it’s a route with plenty of enjoyable variation. The route climbs beyond the treeline to a broad snow field, so route finding in low visibility conditions can be challenging. This is a peak that requires good map reading skills.

I was down from Nitonupuri at around 10:30am, so I made a quick getaway down the hill in the car to the Chisenupuri ski area car park. I managed to get into one of the last remaining spots on this busy blue-bird day weekend day. Had the carpark been full, I’d probably have parked up at the Yukichichibu Onsen carpark – I was planning to go there for a soak after Shakunage-dake after all.

The weather was only getting better. I headed for the Hokkaido Backcountry Club catskiing area base, and started up the public uptrack to the left of the ski area.

I’ve climbed this skin track at least five or six times now. It’s fairly fast and brain-dead. The white snow against a hopelessly blue sky was heart-wrenchingly beautiful though.

That bush though. Had this been a normal snow year, I wouldn’t have been having to weave so carefully through and around bush. This area had to be at least 2m shy of the normal base.

The blat up the side of the ski field took the normal 40 minutes. I followed along the summer trail marked on the map, directly up and onto the plateau. From here, I could see hordes of skiers climbing up Chisenupuri, zigzagging their way past tracked up slopes.

Where I was going, however, looked like it had one or two lone day-old tracks down the eastern face of it. No one was keen to make the extra 30 minute trek across the saddle to untracked snow, obviously. I was, however, following a skin track for most of the way across the plateau/saddle. Some skiers had obviously skied over this way to ski the slope above Naganuma Pond. I could see tracks on the slope, weaving their way through the still exposed bush. Another month and that slope would be in prime condition.

Up until the upper 20m or so of the Shakunage peak, the snow was soft, dry, and powdery. As soon as I made the final 10m or so to the summit, however, the wind was howling, and the soft snow had given way to wind-scoured ice.

I was foolishly slow in getting my outer wind-break layer on at the summit, so suffered on the descent. I also didn’t notice till I was at the bottom of the descent that my ski bases were iced up – no wonder the turns came so sluggishly. Looking back, I could see my hap-hazard line down the eastern side of Shakunage-dake. As a tesament to the strong wind at the summit, the upper 20m or so of my line were already being erased by the time I was at the bottom.

Next time, I’ll allow more time and ski the Naganuma Pond western slope – that looks to have much more of a vertical descent.

Once I was back at the plateau, with once again not a breath of wind, I sent the drone up for some aerial photography. What a perfect day for it.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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