Posted on Apr 20, 2021
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38 0
NWWN
Posted on Apr 20, 2021
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38 0
NWWN
6.8km

Distance

4.5 hours

Time

454m

Ascent

968m

Highest point

4/10
Difficulty
Snow Icon | Hokkaido Wilds
Feb-Mar

Best season

Shiraoi-dake's (白老岳, 968m) three impressive sharp peaks belie this relatively diminutive hill's size. Sitting just west of the westers-most reaches of the Shikotsu-ko Caldera, the knife-edge summit ridge gives spectacular views across to Tarumae-zan, Lake Shikotsu, and the Pacific Ocean. Just to the west of the peak is Minami-Shiraoidake (南白老岳, 945m), an impressive pyramid peak with very steep sides. While this routes is most popular among snowshoers due to the initial flat approach, it makes for a fine ski tour too. There's some playful downhill on the upper half of the route.

We visited this route on Mar 06, 2021

Route Map

Need to know details

Location

Shiraoi-dake sits just to the west of the Lake Shikotsu volcanic caldera in central-southern Hokkaido. The start of the ski route is here, just over 1.2km west beyond the Takifuke Tunnel (滝笛トンネル). There’s usually nowhere to part along the busy Route 453, however, so parking is about 200m further down the road, here.

General notes

This is a classic peak-hunt in the southern lakes region of Hokkaido, offering expansive views from the peak. The final approach is gorgeous too, with large stands of old growth trees. The initial half of the route is quite flat though, so on the descent, expect to be putting the skins back on. For those willing to bootpack, this area lends itself nicely to a fine loop of the steep, triangular Minamishiraoi-dake (南白老岳, 945m) to the southwest, Shiraoi-dake, and Kitashiraoi-dake (北白老岳, 945m) to the northeast. This route is popular among snowshoers, so you’ll likely have company on a fine weather weekend.

Hut
None
Route details

Park up at the larger car park about 150m west of the bridge on Route 453 near the trailhead. Route 453 is busy at the best of times with frequent truck traffic. Take care as you walk back up the road. Cross the bridge, and find a suitable spot to scramble up the snowbank. The first 15 minutes or so is a steep zig-zag up a steep slope to a logging road, but after crossing the logging road and heading a little further due south, the wide ridge flattens off considerably. After enduring the flatlands for 30 minutes, the route starts climbing again, gently towards the prominent knob at around 872m. Traversing around the side of the knob, rather than climbing it, allows for a smoother descent, so skirt around it to the col at 850m. At this point, you’ll have a grand-stand view of the pyramid-like Shiraoi-dake to the south, cloaked in gorgeous old white birch forest. The final 75m vertical to the summit can be very steep and icy at times, so don’t be afraid to depot the skis and bootpack the remaining short grunt to the summit. Enjoy the spectacular views across to Tarumae-zan 樽前山 (1041m) far to the east, and also the rather surprising steep southern slopes of Minamishiraoi-dake just a stone’s throw away. Return the way you came.

Route Timing
Up | 2.5hrs
Down | 1.5hrs

Transport

Public transport:

There is no public transport to this route.

By car:

Conveniently, this route is off Route 453 – the main route most visitors would travel on from Chitose Airport to Niseko. There’s room to park about 10 cars at a large snow-cleared area about 200m west of the trailhead, here.

Physical maps
Official Topo Map: Shiraoidake (白老岳) – map no. NK-54-14-16-2

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 Northwest. Other aspects that may also be encountered while following the route outlined on this page include: West, North. 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 weekly avalanche bulletins 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

Beyond the usual caveats regarding snow safety and cold weather preparedness, possibly the riskiest part of this route is the 200m walk along the shoulder of Route 453. There’s regular, fast moving traffic along this route, and they won’t be expecting people walking along the road. Take particular care in low visibility conditions.

Shiraoi-dake Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

C

3

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

D

0

Navigation

D

0

Totals

39/100

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 Shiraoi-dake
Onsen nearby

If heading back to Lake Shikotsu, there are a number of onsen to choose from in the village itself. Marukoma Onsen 丸駒温泉 (location, 1000yen) is a favourite of ours on Lake Shikotsu, but it’s on the opposite side of the lake. Note also the day-visitor hours for the onsen at Marukoma finish at 3pm.

Guide Options

If you’s like to ski this route and/or explore other hills south of Sapporo together with a local certified guide, get in touch with either Wataru Nara or Takao Miyashita. They’re both born-and-bred Sapporo-based guides. They both cut their teeth on peaks including those around Sapporo, have taken part in major international expeditions, and are senior figures in the local guiding and outdoor associations here in Hokkaido. 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

This was supposed to be a ‘throwaway’ trip. Something just ‘on the way’ to bigger and better things, as we drove south to Oshamambe-dake. The weather forecast wasn’t that great either.

“Let’s just go for a hike, and see how we get on,” was the general feeling.

But in the end, it was nothing of the sort. Shiraoi-dake was surprisingly spectactular. Hardly a free-ride route, but the views of Tarumae-zan, the Pacific Ocean, and the two lesser peaks of Minami- and Kita-Shiraoi-dake were awe-inspiring. Add to that the extra excitement of a little bit of bootpacking, and overall the trip was a very worthy endeavour.

The start of the trip was not exactly glamorous though. We parked up at a large clearing on the side of the road about 200m down the hill from the actual start point of the route, and had to schlep our gear along the side of the busy Route 453. As a welcome coincidence, road maintenance teams were working on the tunnel at the pass, so traffic was only being sent through in large chunks, giving us some traffic-free moments of silence as we walked along the shoulder.

Soon we were on our way though, into the increasing quiet of the woods. Well, it was quiet except for the crunch of breakable crust under our skis. I’d expected that this might be the case before we even got out of the car. It had been warm the preceding few days, with rain too. While this didn’t effect our climbing, it was clearly going to be challenging skiing on the way down.

As we’d expected, the first 40 minutes or so was quite flat. A few ups and downs here and there, but we could see why the route was popular among snowshoers, rather than skiers. 

Soon we started gaining altitude though, and before long we emerged out from the side of the 872m knoll, and were presented with a surprisingly exciting view of our objective – Shiraoi-dake. It was as if this knoll was the demarcation line between the realm of mortals and the realm of immortal nature. The peak looked far off still.

We’d climbed a little too far up the knoll, so had a short downhill to the saddle. We clumsily clattered our way down the breakable crust snow, and all managed to stay upright. At the saddle, we were finally on the final short approach to the summit.

We endured with skis most of the way up, but for the final short, narrow spur to the summit, we deposited the skis and carried on bootpacking.

For a trip ‘on the way’ to somewhere else, the summit really took us by surprise. The Pacific Ocean. Tarumae-zan. The impressive looking Minami-Shiraoi-dake. It was all just quite incredible.

The descent to the flatlands was hampered by the snow conditions, but otherwise would have been quite fun with better snow. There were some spots of thick trees, but for the most part the wooded ridge was covered in relatively well spaced trees. A very worthy trip, and highly recommended!

Comments | Queries | Reports

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

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Shiraoi-dake Difficulty Rating

Category

Grade

Points

Strenuousness

Vertical Gain

C

30

Time ascending

C

3

Technicality

Altitude

B

6

Hazards

D

0

Navigation

D

0

Totals

39/100

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.