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!