We knew the surface conditions were going to be very average. We were in a solid freeze-soften-refreeze cycle, and surface conditions around the Niseko area were generally bulletproof hardpack. But we’d never done this south face of Shiribetsu-dake before, and had nothing better to do, so we decided to go for a walk to check it out.
We all arrived at the Rusutsu Resort parking area, and were soon keen to get going and warm up on the skin track.
Predictably, the snow was bulletproof crust. It was still early in the day though, and we were hopeful this southern aspect would warm up just enough to soften up the surface a bit for the descent. Not too much warming though…on the southwestern side of the main southern bowl were colossal glide cracks and the remains of a massive full-depth avalanche.
We hugged the base of the thicket of trees on the looker’s right of the main bowl for a while before zigzagging our way to the relative safety of the ridge, through the dense stand of trees.
The going was relatively slow, and we had ski crampons on less than half way up the ridge. The surface varied between breakable and non-breakable crust. Ben dropped his glasses and had to ski down after them as they slid unencumbered down the slope. It felt marginally yard-sale-ish.
As the trees cleared a little along the heavily corniced ridgeline, we had amazing views south towards the main Rusutsu Resort area.
Keeping on keeping on, we finally found the ridgeline leveling out, and we made it to the flat summit of Shiribetsu-dake. A bitterly cold wind was blowing, so we quickly ripped skins and started our descent.
While the surface had not warmed up much at all, mercifully it was not breakable crust. Just nice-enough bulletproof hardpack that I was happy to have my skinny spring skis for. We skied the main southern bowl generally to the skier’s left of the bowl, avoiding the mess of glide cracks and avalanche debris of the skier’s right.
Just as we arrived back to the car park, the skies finally cleared and we were bathed in warmth. We headed to the Rusutsu Resort area with the intention to have an onsen, but were told it wasn’t open to day visitors until 2pm. It was 1pm, so we decided to skip it and just head down the road for lunch – at Ben’s recommendation we ended up at a pancake place with amazing fried chicken (go figure).