This trip was inspired by wanting to see how practical it would be to walk from Tom’s cabin to the summit of Shakunage-dake. On paper, it made sense. The cabin was in the vague vicinity. How cool would it be to be able to ski tour from your cabin to a peak in the Niseko Range?
So the five of us set off, and covered the mostly flat distance to the Niimi Pass road fairly quickly.
Ben opted to meet us at the snow-clearing end, so he was there when we arrived, getting kitted up. It was a beautiful early spring day. Snow banks were still high – the spring melt was yet to start in earnest.
From the snow clearing end, we walked along the snowed-in road for a bit before climbing up onto the low ridge next to the road. The forest was already beautifully calm and quiet, with large old-growth trees, and stands of newer-growth thickets here and there. This part of the ridge was slightly undulating, and we noticed that once on the ridge, we were actually dropping ever so slightly.
We noted that we might want to find an alternative descent on the way back to the road-end.
We soon saw the first steep climb of the trip ahead of us. It was a short but sharp climb up to another flat ridge that would take us to the south face under Shakunage-dake’s summit.
The snow at this point was still fairly cold and chalky, but we knew this steep south-facing slope, down this low, would very soon warm up. We kept the pace on.
Once we were off the steep pitch and approaching the flat ridge, we were now hiking through gorgeous old-growth white birch forest.
It was hot. All-vents-open sort of hot. Spring had certainly sprung in Niseko.
All of a sudden, we crested the ridge and were greeted by majestic views of Yotei-zan, Niseko Annupuri, Chisenupuri, and Shakunage-dake. This was our first time approaching Shakunage-dake from this side, so the new perspective on familiar peaks in the area was refreshing.
We were now also able to get eyes on the south face of Shakunage-dake. With these spring conditions, it looked like we might get some early-season corn.
We hurried on our way to try to beat the heat.
We’d timed our climb up the south face in a way that the surface wasn’t bullet-proof, but it wasn’t soft either. We opted to switch to ski crampons sooner rather than later, and enjoyed the extra grip for a quick ascent to the summit.
Views from the summit were, predictably, incredible. A cold wind was blowing from the northwest, which we’d been sheltered from on our sweltering ascent from the south.
We soaked in the views as much as our windbreakers would allow, ripped skins, and hit the south face.
It wasn’t the care-free corn we’d hoped for, but it was still good skiing. A little later in the day it might have got a bit slow and sticky, so we were happy with what we got.
We dropped down the south face just enough so that we’d avoid too much ascending to get back to our approach ridge, and then made our way back to the steep pitch above the lower ascent ridge.
By now, this steep south face had been nuked by the sun. It was a very deep slosh-fest. Another few days or so of this, and it wouldn’t have been surprising if natural wet slides would happen.
Tim and Timbah sought out the steepest line they could find.
“This is epic,” beamed Tim as he emerged from the oven.
On the descent, we opted to drop down sooner rather than later onto the snowed-in Niimi Pass road, to avoid the slight uphill on the wide lower ridge. This made for another nice, if short, but steep, downhill at the end of the trip before hitting the road.
Cabin-to-summit-to-cabin mission accomplished!