Posted on Mar 24, 2020
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Posted on Mar 24, 2020

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Reading time: 5 min
8km

Distance

5 hours

Time

830m

Ascent

1063m

Highest point

5.5/10

Difficulty

Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Dec-Apr

Best season

Shamansha-dake (社満射岳, 1063m) is a veritable backcountry playground with some spectacular skiing on a number of aspects. It's a relatively efficient backcountry route too - from the trailhead skiers are very quickly gaining altitude on steep pitches though a forested ridge. Very little time is wasted on the short flat-land approach. On the way to the Shamansha-dake peak proper is the minor unmarked peak locally known as Takenoko-yama (タケノコ山, 1039m). From there, skiers have the choice to make the traverse to Shamansha-dake or make laps of the large double-gully west-facing bowl below Takenoko-yama. Either way, both peaks give great views across to Minami-furano and Lake Kanayama.

We visited this route on Mar 14, 2020

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Shamansha-dake is a minor peak in the northern Hidaka Range, about 50km south of the bustling ski town of Furano City in central Hokkaido. This northeastern ridge route to the summit starts at the end of the snow-clearing on a minor municipal in Minamifurano Town, here. When we visited this route, we were able to drive about 750m further along the road than this, to around here.

General notes

Buried in the guidebook, with a nondescript name, this was well and truly a low-expectation mountain. Added to our low expectations were our experiences the previous weekend, with sub-standard snow in Niseko (Raiden-yama’s Sankokunai). Shamansha-dake, however, laid waste to those low expectations, delivering some of the best skiing we’ve done this 2019/2020 season. Ascents were steep and efficient, the snow was gorgeously light and fluffy, and we loved the varied downhill slopes – both the north-facing back-bowl on the northern side of the saddle between Shamansha-dake and Takenoko-yama, and the large bowl directly to the east below Takenoko-yama.

Hut

Tsurugi-zan Trailhead Hut (full details here)

The Tsurugi-zan Trailhead Hut (剣山登山口山小屋) is a solid, barracks-like concrete-block hut situated right next to the Kenzan Shrine on the northeastern edge of the Hidaka mountain range. If your mountaineering plans involve any of the peaks on the eastern side of the Hidaka Range, then this makes for a good base for a couple of nights. Replete with mains electricity and lighting, the hut is directly accessible by car. There’s a big wood stove with wood provided. For all the services provided, the hut costs a whopping 0yen per night.

Route details

This route is not marked. Starting from the end of the snow-clearing (which may vary in its location), skin up towards the topomap 603m point. You’ll be on a faint forestry road to start, before veering off into the woods. You’ll cut across this forestry road again at around 550m or so. This first ascent portion on gradually ascending terrain might be a bit disorienting at first, as there’s no clear indication of a ridge – keep an eye on your GPS and bearings to make sure you’re on the right track.

Soon enough, the topography will become more ridge-like, and you’ll need to cut tight kickturns up the steepening ridge. At around 850m the forest on the ridge thins out dramatically. Carry on up the ridge to Takenoko-yama. From Takenokoyama skiers have the choice of carrying on to Shamansha-dake, or calling it a day and ripping down the spectacular eastern bowl back to the uptrack for a descent of around 400m. If carrying on to Shamansha-dake, you’ll descend to a saddle before climbing again slightly to the compact summit.

Our recommendation would be to carry on to the Shamansha-dake summit if weather allows, or at least just beyond the saddle. There is some excellent skiing to be had into the northern bowl through well-spaced trees. It’s possible to ski down into the gully to around 800m in altitude (starting at 1000m on the saddle). From there, skin back up the northwestern side of the gully to join back up with your northeastern ridge skin track. Head back up to the Takenoko-yama summit and make the final, thrilling descent down the eastern bowl.

Route Timing
Up | 2.5hrs
Down | 1.5hrs

We’ve slated this route at around 5 hours return, but this includes the ascent all the way to the Shamansha-dake summit, effectively two laps of the northern bowl, and the final descent down the eastern bowl. If just doing a quick jaunt to Takenoko-yama and skiing the eastern bowl, it’s unlikely to take more than 3-4 hours for a fit and strong group.

Transport

Public transport:

The sleepy little Ikutora JR train station (幾寅駅) on the Nemuro Line (根室本線) is accessible from Sapporo via Takikawa, but from Takikawa, Japan Rail runs a bus service – the Nemuro Line was damaged in the 2016 typhoons, and is probably never going to be repaired. Expect just over 2 hours to get from Takikawa train station to Minamifurano Town via this method. From Ikutora JR train station, it’s about 2km to the trailhead – about a 40 minute walk. Taxis will be hard to come by in Minamifurano Village.

By car: 

It’s difficult to say how much parking space will be available, as the snow-clearing seems to be relatively fluid. When we were there, the one-vehicle wide forestry road had been recently cleared to around here. We parked up in a spot that would likely only handle two vehicles before the road was blocked, so be prepared to return to the start of the forestry road (about 700m) and start skinning from there if you’re not the first to arrive. If the forestry road is not cleared, there may be space around here for about 8 vehicles to park. If parking is full, you may need to spend up to 15 minutes of vigorous shoveling to clear your own parking space (about half a car’s width is plenty) off the verge of the road. Make extra sure not to block residents’ driveways.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Ikutora (幾寅) – map no. NK-54-8-6-3

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).

Snow and route safety

Nothing overtly concerning to note, beyond making sure of the stability of snow on the bowls before skiing them.

Weather forecast

Windy.com weather forecast for Shamansha-dake
Onsen nearby

If headed back to Furano, try the dilapidated but relaxing Kanayama Lake Hoyo Center onsen (かなやま湖保養センター, location, 510yen) on the northern shore of Lake Kanayama. They’re open from 10am till 8:30pm. If headed further east over the Karikachi Pass (狩勝峠), then try the Tokachi Sahoro Resort onsen (十勝サホロリゾート, location, 1000yen) at the eastern foot of the pass. If headed to stay at the Tsurugi-zan Trailhead Hut, it’s worth making the extra 20 minute drive south along the Hidaka range to the Memuro Shin-Araishiyama Lodge (新嵐山山荘, location, 270yen). At only 270yen, their hot pools are a steal. They also have an attached restaurant with very reasonably priced meals (there’s also a ski area behind the lodge).

Extra Resources

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

Show Full Route Notes Close Route Notes

Route Trip Notes

Route blurb from the Hokkaido Yukiyama Guide (2015), p. 332 (translated by Hokkaido Wilds)

Shamansha-dake is the highest peak on the row of mountains to the south of Lake Kanayama. There’s no summer trail to the summit. From the summit, there views directly below of the frozen Lake Kanayama, covered in white snow. Beyond that is the expansive Furano plains, and in the distance you can see the Tokachi mountain range. To the east is the 1039m peak – locals call this Takenoko-yama. To the northeast of the peak is a spectacular open slope with amazing skiing. Many people visit this route just to ski that slope.

The idea was to try to put together an overnight trip, keeping things as cheap as possible – Geraldine has a long-term cycling trip coming up, so she was keen to keep funds liquid for that trip. We couldn’t travel far, as we had to leave Saturday morning, and get back by Sunday night, starting from Sapporo City. Being that tricky in-between season of mid-winter and spring skiing, we were also keen to try to find north-facing slopes, so as to up our chances of getting some of that late season March pow.

So I pored over the great Hokkaido Yukiyama Guidebook, and settled on two northern Hidaka range peaks of Shamansha-dake and Odasshu-yama. If we stayed in the basic but comfortable Tsurugi-zan Trailhead Hut, we’d be able to keep costs down (you can’t even donate if you wanted to at that hut). Plan sorted, we left Sapporo at 6am and were at the Shamansha-dake winter trailhead by 9am.

To our delight, the forestry road had been cleared recently. “The forestry road may or may not be cleared,” declared the guidebook. It was our lucky day – this cut out almost 1km of flat-land walking.

Once on the trail, we trudged along a relatively flat section of road and then forest. Slowly but surely, the angle of the ridge increased, and soon enough we were climbing in earnest. It was tough going in places. We were on gorgeous fresh snow, but this was sitting on a hard rain crust. As we skinned up the steep ridge, our downhill skis would occasionally slip out, breaking our stride.

After a solid 30 minutes of effort, however, we were rewarded with a sudden clearing of the trees. A wide, white ridge stretched out in front of us. We were gaining on the Takenoko-yama summit fast. The air was cold, but the sun was warm on our backs. Brief snowshowers would come and go. Looking back the way we came, we could see the Minamifurano Village in the distance.

Soon, the Takenoko-yama summit was well within our sights. The large cornice along the final approach to the summit was wide, and to my surprise, it was covered in soft snow. I’d been somewhat expecting hard packed snow, but this was easy going. The large eastern bowl below Takenoko-yama looked sublime.

Far below, we could see ice-fishing tents spread out on the frozen surface of Lake Kanayama.

We didn’t spend too much time on the top of Takenoko-yama, as we were keen to get all the way to the Shamansha-dake summit. The weather was great, and everyone was keen to ski the northern bowl on the way down. We kept our skins on, scratching and sliding our way down to the saddle.

The summit itself was hardly worth writing home about. It was a small, compact affair. Understated. There wasn’t even a summit sign. We took the obligatory photos, ripped skins, and got on our way.

The downhill from just above the saddle was even better than we’d expected. The north face had kept the snow in prime condition. It wasn’t deep per se, but gorgeously consistent. Was this some of our best skiing this season?

After the euphoric rush, the reality soon set in – we had to break trail through deep snow up a steep slope back to our ridge-line skin track. This was slow, hot work. After what felt like an hour of hard slog (but was in reality only about 40 minutes), we were back up at the summit of Takenoko-yama.

“Oh no!” cried Haidee. “My other mitten is missing.” She figured she’d dropped it near the bottom of the skin back up to the up-track. “Should we go back and get it?” she asked sheepishly.

The gallant Tim offered to head back down to get it. I was ambivalent, but decided to join him. We told the others to drop down to a sheltered spot off the summit and dig a hole to wait for us – we figured we’d be away for about 40 minutes.

In the end, we were only away for about 20 minutes. Soon after leaving the summit ridge, Tim and I decided just to ski the heck out of the tree-dotted slope we’d skinned up. “We can look for the glove on the return back up the skintrack,” I suggested.

As it happened, the glove was sitting near the skin track most of the way down the slope. We’d not only done a good deed in finding the glove, but we’d also got an extra lap in. The skin back up the track was quick and easy this time – at least it felt that way for me; I was the one breaking trail all the way on the previous ascent.

Waiting for us at the summit of Takenoko-yama was the much anticipated eastern bowl. In hindsight, we should have cut across to the skier’s left side of the bowl from the beginning, and skied the long, open, shallow gully on that side. Instead, we wasted the first 75m of vertical descent weaving through thick trees somewhere in the ‘island’ in the middle of the bowl. Eventually, I popped out onto the skier’s right gully, and was greeted with gloriously open, treeless perfection. It really felt like some of the best, most consistent skiing I’d done this season.

Even the short flat-ish blat back to the car was great fun.

One of the most fun ski touring routes I’ve done in Hokkaido, for sure.

As with each ski touring, cycle touring, and hiking route guide published on hokkaidowilds.org, should you choose to follow the information on this page, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road/track closures. While traveling, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow leave-no-trace procedures. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this information, associated GPS track (GPX, KML and maps), and all information was prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. hokkaidowilds.org, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individuals following the information contained in this post.

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Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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